The Day I Met Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken and me, posing for the camera over a sushi dinner in Seattle. (photo credit — the author)

Several years ago, I had a magical experience, one that I nearly missed.

The end result was me sitting in a Seattle restaurant on a Thursday night next to Sir Ken Robinson, he of the famous TED Talk on how schools are squelching creativity in children with nearly 54 million views, he and I chatting casually as if we were close friends.

I later walked him to the elevator of the hotel where he was staying, whereupon he handed me his business card, having indicated he’d like to learn more about Puget Sound Community School (PSCS), the school I served as visionary, co-founder, and, for 24 years, Executive Director.

Now how did my evening end like that instead of me having just a typical Thursday, watching episodes of “The Office” and “30 Rock?”

Well, late that morning I learned that Sir Ken was right then being interviewed in the studio of a Seattle radio station. Surprised that I hadn’t known Sir Ken was in town, I discovered that he was speaking at an intimate gathering in Seattle that night and that the coordinating host for the event was a former PSCS parent.

My first reaction was, I’m embarrassed to admit, this inner dialogue:

“But I really was looking forward to a quiet night at home. I mean, what chance am I going to have to actually meet Sir Ken? And even if I do go to the event, which costs $50, I already am quite familiar with his message, as significant and important as it is. I doubt I’ll learn anything new.”

Not a lot of magic in that point of view.

Still, given that I did know the coordinator of the event and she might be able to swing an introduction, I decided to see if tickets were still available. I went online and found that ticket sales were closed and that the event was restricted to 100 people. I assumed it was sold out.

“There,” I said to myself, “I’ve done my due diligence. Clearly, tickets are no longer available. That’s my message. I’m not intended to go. Now what’s the plot on 30 Rock?”

Still not a lot of magic in that attitude.

Several minutes passed and I busied myself at my desk, responding to email, chatting with students, a typical Thursday morning. But my thoughts keep returning to: 
 — Sir Ken Robinson is in Seattle tonight. 
 — I know the person who is coordinating the event. 
 — Am I really more interested in television programs?

I decided to call to see if tickets were still available and looked up the number for Kim Ricketts Book Events, the company hosting Sir Ken, Kim being the former PSCS parent.

I called and a person answered this way, “Kim Ricketts Book Events, Kim speaking.”

I stammer, “Kim, Kim Ricketts, you’re answering your own phone on a day you bring Sir Ken Robinson to town?”

It turns out her receptionist had stepped away from the phone for a split second (a bathroom break, perhaps?) so Kim just happened to pick it up. And after I said who I was, it was mere seconds before both Melinda, my wife, and I were on the guest list and Kim had promised to introduce Sir Ken to us.

A lot of magic is flowing now.

I mean if Kim had not answered, I doubt the receptionist would have put me through to her, especially on such a busy day. And if I hadn’t talked to Kim myself, we would not have been put on the guest list, nor would Kim and I have reconnected, chatting a good 10 minutes about our families.

Anyway, to make a long story short, Kim was good to her word and introduced Melinda and me to Sir Ken before the event. He even referenced PSCS in his talk.

And then Kim orchestrated it for me to be sitting next to him in a fancy Seattle sushi restaurant for two hours, talking casually and about PSCS. It was from the restaurant that we walked to the hotel elevator, just the two of us.

I never did check to see what happened on “The Office” or “30 Rock.”

But I have contributed to the nearly 54 million views of this talk and suggest you do the same. As well as informative, it’s quite entertaining.

(I‘m the founding director of the Puget Sound Community School, an independent school in Seattle designed to help children build on their strengths and nurture their intrinsic motivation. I stepped down from this position in June after 24 years to find new opportunities that invigorate and excite me, most specifically through promoting acts of kindness. Learn more at Kind Living.)