Steven Strogatz is a professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University. After graduating summa cum laude in mathematics from Princeton in 1980, Strogatz studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a Marshall Scholar. He did his doctoral work in applied mathematics at Harvard, followed by a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard and Boston University. From 1989 to 1994, Strogatz taught in the Department of Mathematics at MIT. He joined the Cornell faculty in 1994.

He is the author of Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos (1994), Sync (2003), The Calculus of Friendship (2009), and The Joy of x (2012). His most recent book, Infinite Powers (2019), is a New York Times Best Seller.


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The Learning Leader Show

  • Leaders who sustain excellence:
    • Have a willingness to be a beginner
      • “When you’re naive, you ask new questions”
    • “They have the courage to be someone who’s just starting”
    • How do you fight the urge to live up to a prior reputation of being an expert at something?
      • Be known as an adventurer.  Cannot have an ego.
  • Six degrees of separation is a math problem
  • The strength in weak ties
    • It’s important to connect with people outside of your typical orbit
    • Action: Go to a strange party, play a new sport, go to a new gym, meet oddballs
      • Collect “casual acquaintances”
  • The value of being a helper:
    • Be the assist person, help others, do little acts of kindness, promote someone else’s work
  • How Steven and I got to know each other:
    • David Epstein’s wife made an intro for David and Steven… And then from David to me.
      • “Be the kind of person who remembers others names”
  • Why should a normal person learn calculus?
    • “The world has been turned upside down by calculus”
    • “Calculus is the mathematical study of change”
    • “It’s a great intellectual adventure story”
    • “Calculus is the language that God talks” –> The laws of nature are built in calculus
  • How to be more creative?
    • Be broadly interested in many different topics.  Take something from one area and apply it somewhere else.
  • Advice Steven would give to a mid-level manager:
    • “Getting high grades is jumping through hoops someone else sets”
    • “As a PhD, you have to make your own hoops”
    • “People need to be more adventurous, and then figure it out”
  • Why you should study Improv as a leader:
    • Use “Yes and…”  This helps with brainstorming and coming up with new ideas.  Put out a lot of wacky ideas to get to the good stuff.
    • “I want people to be gripped irrationally by the imagination”
  • The power of mentors:
    • “Learn from both the great coaches and the bad ones”
  • The value of friendships:
    • The story of Mr. Joffray — Physically impressive and wonderfully intelligent.  He took pleasure in Steven passing him.
  • The value of teaching:
    • It helps create empathy… It forces you to put yourself in the mind of someone else. “Bad teachers don’t have empathy.”
  • How does Steven prepare for big moments?
    • “I try to be myself.  And talk myself out of being intimidated.” —>  The audience wants you to do well.
  • Life advice:
    • “Do what you care about most, what drives you the most, do the hard work to become skillful.”
    • Why joining The Learning Leader Circle is a good idea


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