There are many ways to describe Neil de Grasse Tyson. Astrophysicist. Popularizer of science. TV and radio host. Evangelist of space exploration. PETA booster. Oenophile. Director of the Hayden Planetarium. Latin ballroom dancing gold medalist. Prolific author and Twitterer. Honorary doctorate hoarder. Demoter of Pluto. Humanist. Realist. Atheist or agnostic? Badass.
Tyson should not be described, however, as Carl Sagan: the Sequel. Tyson, after all, was recruited by Sagan to attend Cornell, but passed him over for Harvard. In fact, Tyson has always marched to the beat of his own drum, and that has led him on his own unique journey from star wrestler at Bronx High School of Science to the science celebrity who was chosen by People as the sexiest astrophysicist alive.
What’s the Big Idea?
In an interview with Big Think, Tyson says he is often asked by fans and admirers the question “What can I do to be you?” Tyson tells us “the only aspect of me that’s ‘doable'” is to perhaps recreate his academic pedigree. But what is more important than piling up degrees, according to Tyson, is to create the opportunity for yourself to “do what you do best” in a way that “layers onto the formal training you received.”
In other words, don’t aim to be a version of someone else. The greatest people in our society, Tyson argues, are those who have been able to “carve niches that represent the unique expression of their combination of talent.”
Watch the video here:
What’s the Significance?
Tyson says he thinks about his good fortune every day. He has the opportunity to pursue what he finds interesting, and luckily for him the public finds value in some of the things he does best. Imagine, for instance, if Tyson happened to be incredibly talented at tiddlywinks, but didn’t really know much about the universe. His fame and fortune would be considerably diminished.
Your task, Tyson says, is to find opportunities that allow you to express your unique talents in ways that society will value and reward. If everyone had that opportunity, Tyson says, our society would be transformed overnight.
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