Greg Forbes Siegman is easily distracted. Because of that, he sees things differently. And looking at things differently makes him very good at what he does.
What he does is bring people together. Then Siegman helps them learn to “spark ideas.” He has brought people together to form profit-making businesses, non-profit corporations, and global networks to help further important causes.
One of those connections brought him to Culver Academies to meet with The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur students and Humanities instructors. For the past seven years, Siegman has been friends with Ron Rubin ’68, whom he met at an entrepreneurial conference. Rubin encouraged him to visit Culver and meet with students and instructors. He said Rubin even gave him a “scavenger hunt” list of campus locations to find and photograph.
Siegman describes himself as an effectual thinker. That is a person who will “make five different stops on their way from living room to the kitchen” during a TV commercial. While the vast majority of people use causal reasoning, which is going directly from Point A to Point B, effectual thinkers see all the unexamined, open spaces and enjoy the walk, he said.
That is because effectual thinkers believe there may be ideas worth pursuing or people worth knowing along the way, he said.
Causal reasoners look at a grocery store shelf and see what is in stock. Effectual thinkers look at the same shelf and notice what could be there. And it will be the effectual thinkers who will end up filling the void on the shelf the causal reasoners never considered.
But harnessing the power of effectual thinking took time for Siegman. He told the instructors he was so “dazed and confused” during his first days as a teacher he turned his classroom over to someone he thought was a graduate student sitting in to observe his class. It didn’t take him long to realize that he had turned his class over to a 6-foot tall, 12-year-old boy who sat in the back so he wouldn’t block the other students’ views.
That story follows a pattern throughout Siegman’s life. He showed a childhood photo where he became so distracted he walked into a wall and broke his nose. It got to the point that his father, a retired Navy officer, made him wear a toy football helmet for protection. He crashed his car one day after receiving his license because he was distracted. His teachers sent notes home asking his parents to seek help.
But Siegman’s grandmother realized he wasn’t flawed. He simply thought differently. She taught him to harness his wandering mind to his advantage. Whenever he became distracted from his math homework, she would have him start his English homework. When he grew tired of that, he would switch back to math.
He taught himself to draw by breaking down his subjects into a series of points. Soon he had an elaborate, self-made, connect-the-dots drawing. When he was day-dreaming out of windows, he would focus on one building and think about how he could help. Finding an inner city school led him to teaching.
But his grandmother tempered her positive support with the valuable lessons of failure, he said. Referring to Aesop’s Fable about the tortoise and the hare, she told him to “always bet on the turtle.” Not every idea will succeed, so celebrate the work being done, the intentions behind it, and “embrace that you are going to fail.”
Not every idea will succeed, so celebrate the work being done, the intentions behind it, and embrace that you are going to fail.
Siegman said he knows he will not be the doctor who cures cancer or the person who provides the funding to underwrite the doctor’s research. But he can be the person who “connects the dots” and brings them together.
And his wandering does just that. While visiting one school, he walked down the street to a senior center. While talking with the seniors, Siegman noticed the lack of art on the walls. Soon he had the school’s principal and the head of the center talking about establishing a rotating gallery of the children’s art at the center. Now, the children have a place to display their art and the seniors have started a reading program for the students.
But is there a way to make money by connecting the dots? Siegman showed a slide with one word in the dot between business and consumers: Google.