A couple of days ago on Facebook, a recognized “thought leader” posted that Tesla was more of an energy company than a car company.
And of course, the usual band of sycoph…er…colleagues – many of them male – clapped him on the back, and several ponied up clever analogies of their own, waxing poetic about Uber as a logistics company or Amazon as a technology company.
The trouble is that none of these thoughts is unique.
Actually, that’s not the trouble. There are very few truly unique ideas and thoughts these days. The “Tesla as energy company” idea was thrown out there as early as the company’s inception, and in 2015 it firmly established an energy division, putting to rest the speculation that had been swirling for a while about their battery products. (Not for nothing, but many women were also at the forefront of those early discussions about the company).
No, the real issue is our continued need to follow people, hang on their every word, and treat their utterances as revolutionary gospel.
I want better for us. And I want more critical thinking.
When anyone can sit down at the keyboard and vomit out a stream of poorly-filtered thoughts, it means we have a plethora of them, and but a few of them are original or interesting.
Now don’t get me wrong. Some of the most unoriginal ideas are the ones most worthy of our attention: Tolerance. Freedom. Humanity’s role on the planet. Kindness. Those aren’t unique ideas by a long shot, and sharing them has tons of value, because we can really never have enough investment and discussion in things like that.
But it’s the same problem with the sledgehammer of “hustle and grind” culture that keeps getting swung into people’s skulls. It’s simply completely devoid of nuance, of substance, and of an ideal – not just a random set of quips designed to get people to get excited without really having to think for themselves.
It’s okay to look up to people. All of us have people who inspire us, who drive us to do and be better. The real issue is when those people become lazy figureheads for our own critical thinking, a proxy for motivation and giving a shit because hey, that guy (or girl) is doing all the thinking for us.
Why do you think we have piles and piles of motivational books and speakers and programs and courses that sit on shelves and gather dust while we sit here wondering why we haven’t taken a single step further on the path we want to walk?
Stop. Just stop worshipping every vapid, regurgitated set of thoughts that comes out of the mouth of so called “thought leaders” and lead your own damned thinking.
And if there’s an idea you love, seek out diverse ways to process and refine that idea. The altar of straight, white men is not the only place to find brilliance. Women. People of color. People of diverse gender expression and identity, people of complex sexuality. People who have never held a fancy title or worked more than a minimum wage job or earned a college degree (hint: I didn’t).
For the love of all that’s holy, instead of taking someone else’s sentence in a bold font on a colorful background on Facebook and treating it like a shrine, sit down. Slow down. Think for yourself. You have something valid to contribute, too.
True thought leadership means a) thinking critically, b) taking the time to express those thoughts in a way others can understand and c) the humility to believe that your idea isn’t that original and isn’t the only way.
There’s brilliance in all of us, and some real dead ends in the world of hero worship.