By Staff Writers Jessica Jen and Richard Chenyu Zhou
Social Studies Teacher Jaime Richards will soon release his third book, Missing Pieces. The Smoke Signal interviewed him about the ideas behind his book.
The Smoke Signal: What do you talk about in this book and how is it related to your past books?
Jaime Richards: I had a newspaper column for 12 years, and [What It Takes] was the title of the column. The idea was finding people who were successful at something and asking them how they became successful. That was the idea behind the column. What does it take to live successfully — how one defines that is different than other people — What does it take to be happy, What does it take to live a good life. What I found was a lot of those things that they were saying weren’t published in any specific place. It was more like “This person said this is what you need to do.” By hearing all these different people talk about what it takes to be happy, what it takes to live well, I thought that someone had to put that all together into a book.
SS: What inspired or influenced you to write your newest book?
JR: I think a lot of it is just personal stuff, things that I wish I would have known or have been taught younger that I ended up learning the hard way … And then, what really changed me, was I started asking people out in the world, not in school, successful adults, not just in education, what did you need to be successful … I kept hearing things that weren’t part of any curriculum. Over and over, they’d say, “You need to get along with people. You got to be able to make friends and talk to people, make contacts.” There’s no class for that. You can get straight A’s in school and never really talk to anybody … [It’s] other stuff, outside of the work world, not just college, things we really need to be taught. Some people get it from their parents… I didn’t know a lot of stuff because it wasn’t like my parents didn’t teach it to me, but they didn’t know themselves. How were they supposed to teach me when they didn’t know? That was my inspiration.
SS: What responses to your book do you anticipate?
JR: I think people are gonna love it, buy it, and I’m going to sell more books than J.K. Rowling. I’m kidding. I don’t know really. The people I’ve had read it said good things about it, but that’s the biggest thing. People got to read it.
SS: What do you hope readers can take away from the book?
JR: I hope that they’ll read it and say, “Yeah, that will help me live better. I’ll be happier, be more successful.” I also hope that they’ll teach it to other people. It’s not my stuff … These things have come from incredible people [whom] I’ve met over my lifetime.
SS: How should MSJ students apply the ideas in your book to their daily lives?
JR: The one that I would focus on the most is called “How to Build Social Capital.” It’s the idea of how to make contacts with people, make friends, develop relationships. I think we don’t take it as seriously as we should. I’ll use the analogy of you have a choice of going out with a friend and talking over coffee at Starbucks or doing your homework, which would be the right choice? Most Mission kids would say, “You do your homework and then if you have free time, you go,” but I say it’s the other way around. It’s more important to talk. People think I’m crazy but in the long run, that’s what will make you happier and more successful. If you had to choose, blow off the homework and spend the time with your close friend [who] needs you … It’s easy to blow [the coffee] off. But the fact is that it’s harder to do that and then maybe squeeze the homework in later. It should be flip-flopped.
Photo by Staff Writer Richard Chenyu Zhou