Cara Santa Maria: Life Advice from a Badass Skeptic
Top 3 Post Insights
Curiosity leads to identity
embrace life's detours
Knowledge is key to a full life
She’s got a dog named Killer and doesn’t believe in God. Cara Santa Maria is one bad ass skeptic making science cool again.
Host of the Talk Nerdy podcast, you've probably seen the science communicator on CNN, BBC America, Huffington Post and Al Jazeera. I had the pleasure of chatting with Cara as part of her Skepticon Australia tour. We spoke about the importance of curiosity, skepticism and how life doesn’t have a one way path. Enjoy reading!
Prelude: What is Skepticism?
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. A Skeptic is someone who is in search of truth. Contrary to misconception, it's not necessarily someone who is always doubtful or cynical. Skepticism is a process of reason and critical thinking to determine a claim’s validity (ie. evolutionary theory, religion, medical or scientific positions). Now more than ever stories prevail facts and emotions rule logic. In a post-truth world, developing our own social constructs can get too confusing. Skepticism hopes to bring clarity and rationale to the process. Here are my favourite take outs from my chat with Cara:
#1: curiosity leads to identity.
"To be skeptical is to be open-minded. Through curiosity, we find identity."
When I asked Cara, 'What are the benefits of being a Skeptic?,' she told me that it was much bigger than searching for scientific evidence. It's more like an approach to life. It's a process which helps us understand things through our own lens. Through curiosity, we develop identity. I found this so profound! We all know someone who went down a Google rabbit hole and decided to go vegan or start a climate change initiative. In some weird way, curiosity aligns us to our true passions no?
She also stressed the importance of asking your own questions. Cara was raised Mormon but 'divorced' the church at 14. If we don't ask questions, other people's truths will become ours. In a turbulent knowledge economy, our own beliefs will be the most authentic navigators in our lives.
#2: Embrace Life's ‘detours’.
"Your path isn’t straight and narrow. There might be a huge unexpected left turn... take it!"
This is one of my favourite (yet scary for some) life philosophies. I asked Cara what advice she had for her 20 year old self. At the time Cara was still studying and on her way to an academic focused career. She said the advice she would've give herself is to not be afraid that a life/ career path is not going to be straight. Cara had a mentor that was able to pull her through a period where she wasn't enjoying the work she was doing. It was with her mentor she was able to redirect her skills as a university teacher to a science communicator. Cara takes the complexity out of science and communicates them to the general public. Today she's an Emmy and Knight Foundation Award winning journalist, television personality, producer, and podcaster.
#3: Knowledge is key to a full life.
"It's not just science knowledge, but knowledge in general improves our lives.... You make better educated decisions and learn more about yourself. It also makes you a more interesting person as you can have conversations with different people."
I failed science in high school. It's funny because my interest in science (from a behavioural, psychology and neuroscience point of view) has grown since I left school. Maybe it's because it's something I'm genuinely interested in.. and won't have a test to do! Anyways, I asked Cara how general science knowledge can improve our lives. In the quote above, she points out that knowledge shouldn't be exclusive to one field. Learning in general helps us explore life's full potential.
#4: you Fu%king earned it.
"Women in particular can feel guilty for 'success', or indebted to someone who 'did them a favour'... like introducing you to someone or handing in your resume... you shouldn't feel guilty, because you made it happen, you earned it."
Any 'career go-getter' will experience knock backs and slammed doors. As for females, we may be more sensitive to the bumps in the road. I've definitely had moments where I thought 'OMFG I'm unemployable and I'm going to end up on the streets.' But I love this saying, 'the harder you work the luckier you get' because it couldn't be more true. Everything we are today, is product of the decisions and work we did yesterday, last week or last year! So whatever opportunity or success or 'luck' that has come your way, don't feel guilty because you my friend have mother fu%king earned it!
I had so much fun chatting to Cara and if you want to learn more about her, visit her website here. If you're in Melbourne on the 17th November or Sydney on 18th November, join us at Beyond the Eye and Skepticon. Tickets still available!