Ben Tindall (Class of 2013) Delivers Grandparents Day Address

At Grandparents Day on Friday, May 11, we were privileged to have Ben Tindall (Class of 2013) deliver the address to the grandparents. Below you will find a transcript of his talk. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Good morning! It’s truly an honor to be here and be able to share my experience with you.  The last time I stood behind this lectern was when I graduated high school so I hope my talk today is a bit more substantive given 5 more years of wisdom…

I was asked to speak to the value I see from my Waldorf education and to begin with, one very obvious impact it had on me is actually visible simply by virtue of my even standing up here in front of you right now.  When I was younger, I was incredibly shy.  I would go to great lengths to avoid speaking in front of larger groups at school, let alone up on a stage in front of a crowd.  But, as some of you may know, it is a tradition here for each grade to perform an annual play.  I remember one year in 4th grade when my class was performing a play about the Norse gods where not only did I choose a role with no lines, but a character from the land of the dead where I could even have my face completely covered, like I wasn’t even there.  However, as time went on I was given bigger and bigger roles (not always voluntarily) until I began to actually enjoy being on stage.  I know I will always be grateful for being pushed and encouraged to overcome what was at the time, one of my biggest fears.

Public speaking is just one tool in what I think of as sort of like a life toolbox.  When I think of my life, I want to have as many life tools as possible because not only do more tools mean more options, but living a life with variety is just more fun.  I see the defining part of my Waldorf education as the breadth of experience I was fortunate enough to gain during my time here.  To name just a few outside the ordinary, I cross country skied, blacksmithed over a forge, slept in a lean-to built of branches and leaves I built with my own hands, carved wooden chairs and sewed clothing, learned to ride a unicycle, made a topological survey using handmade inclinometers, and studied the properties of fractals. This is all a day in the life for a Waldorf student who goes through if not identical experiences, then equivalently broad and varied ones.

After high school, I went to Middlebury College, a small liberal arts college in Vermont.  When I arrived, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to study.  I switched my anticipated major from math to political science to economics, before I finally landed on philosophy and computer science.  I loved that combination because it was a compromise between the philosophical, big picture part of my brain and the part that likes clean, technical solutions.  Both of these subjects were ones I had very little experience with beforehand, but I never felt constrained about what my options should be or what I could do with my choice of studies, and I think that was due, at least in part, to an impression that Waldorf had given me that I didn’t need to know all or even most things up front to start something new.

When I was considering what to do after school, I also didn’t really have any clear direction what I wanted to do (you can see a theme here).  I ended up getting hired through a Middlebury alum at a small executive search firm in New York to do technology recruiting for financial institutions.  As you may guess from my philosophy background, I knew basically nothing about financial services.  My third day on the job I was thrown on the phone to interview the Chief Enterprise Architect for Well’s Fargo.  I was, VERY nervous.  I didn’t know what I was doing!  I was also wondering why this guy had time in his day to talk to a random 23 year old…shouldn’t this guy be busier?  Anyway, point being that I took the call and I…figured it out.  I used what I did know about listening, about people, about tech jargon, and made it work.  That first call wasn’t pretty, but I survived.

The important thing that Waldorf taught me wasn’t any one thing in particular, like how to interview an enterprise architect, but how to APPLY what I DO know in unfamiliar situations.   I believe that all of the “tools” Waldorf equipped me with make me more flexible, adaptable, and confident in a world that’s changing faster than it’s ever changed before.

I read an article a month or so ago which made me think a lot about my Waldorf background.  It’s called the “Indigo Era” and was written as an introduction to a journal called Global Perspectives that was started by a Russian billionaire named Mikhail Fridman.  In this article he argues that historically, the global economy has been largely controlled by access to natural resources.  Wealth derived from control of national borders and access to farmland, gold, trade routes, oil and gas.  But the world’s biggest company isn’t Exxon mobile anymore, it’s Apple, and Google and Facebook.  Companies who don’t control access to a natural resource, but who use materials that already exists in new and creative ways.  The people of the future who are able find solutions to global problems from political instability to global warming to economic inequality will be able to do so due to their imagination and ability to see possibilities and opportunities that haven’t been revealed yet.  I used to get so annoyed because no one would give me answers at this school.  We would do a science experiment and instead of giving us a textbook with the answer we would have to come up with our OWN explanation for what was happening.  It seems to me this is exactly the kind of thinking Mikhail Fridman is talking about. I share this story because it reminded me so much of the values I always heard growing up in this community.  And also because I thought you might take the word of someone who’s made $14 billion dollars saying this stuff more than that of a recent college grad.

I think a lot about the future, primarily because I think it’s exciting.  But one big reason for this excitement is because it seems like anything is possible.  I doubt I’ll still be doing the same thing in another 5 or even 3 years, or living in the same city, and I’m not sure what the next step I’ll take is.  That doesn’t bother me though, because I believe that I’ll know the right opportunity when I see it.  More importantly that I’ll have the skills and tools to make it happen.  Waldorf didn’t teach me how to do anything in particular, it gave me a set of building blocks which let me do anything.  Well, almost anything.. let’s be real, pretty sure my career as an NFL linebacker is probably not my best option at this point.

I’d like to end by wishing a happy mothers day in advance to my wonderful mom in the back, and a happy mothers day to all the other moms here in the audience as well.  I hope you enjoy the rest of the performances and have an amazing May day.

Ben Tindall, Class of 2013