The most important lesson this week taught me
You know what I have learnt from years and years of reading research and biographies? It’s remarkable how often and how deeply the majority is always wrong. It’s stunning how bad popular wisdom often is.
The reasons for happy marriages, good health, great companies - as gleaned from the research and the informed, reported experiences of the successful - are so far from the consensus of common wisdom because people don’t link cause to effect, and benefit from the wisdom of well-designed systems without knowing why things happen the way they do (you don’t need to believe in science to be cured by Paracetamol).
Leadership gives you a vantage position to see the bad behaviours that make people leave jobs too early and lose out in their careers, why entrepreneurs enter bad businesses in a hurry, how people make long term plans for their lives based on what their friends are doing in the short term, based on the feeling of missing out, or based on a quote on Twitter shorn of context or detail.
I think of all the things I have heard in my life that I know to be wrong. You can’t find a woman to love you without money. You need money to make money. The best way to motivate staff is via pay. Successful pioneers are those that innovate fast. Strategy is the most important thing. Exercise is the key to losing weight. You can’t be friend with your ex. Young people don’t stay long in companies. No pain, no gain. Long courtship leads to good marriages. What Nigeria needs is young people in power. Vulnerability is weakness.
I wrote this to myself a while ago, and I remembered it this week as I saw a bright young person that’s dear to me make a decision I know to be unwise: It’s remarkable how often, and how much, of the majority is always wrong. Almost everything you know about running a company successfully, or finding and keeping love, from the public, from movies, from ‘street wisdom’ is very often, too often, just wrong.
Here is what I have learnt for myself: If you are able to resist the pull of the crowd and truly think for yourself, your chances of winning big, and staying a winner in this world increase dramatically.
What I am rumbling with
Someone did something to me last week that I considered so lacking in grace and goodwill that I was filled with such anger, and sadness. It’s one of those things where people forget grace in the pursuit of ambition; where they thank you for doing them a favour while refusing to do you one in return.
In that moment I was so full of disappointment that I wanted do something graceless to him in return. And that moment led me to empathy: Ah, that’s why this CEO walked out that employee from the office. Oh, that’s why that pastor stopped funding that gospel artiste’s concert. Now, I see – that’s why those best friends don’t speak again. It makes sense now why that former governor wants to punish this new governor, even at the cost of his reputation.
I am grateful for the grace of restraint, however. I remembered the kind of person I want to be when I am 80. I remembered the epitaph I have written for myself. And I recalled all the people above who had let bitterness blind their eyes. I empathized with them. And I chose to learn from them.
God bless you, I said instead. And I meant it.
For The Culture
It’s a useful reminder that bluster doesn’t erase reality. I am speaking of the video I just watched where Donald Trump, for fear of his life, wears this big, bold, black mask while driving out of the hospital.
He has Covid-19. The same Covid he has sought to delegitimize, minimize, and even deny.
Maybe it’s a publicity stunt. Maybe it’s a secret plan to drum up sympathy and strength through recovery. I wouldn’t put it past him.
But he didn’t wear a mask. And he was encouraged and enabled by his staff, friends and family. Not wearing a mask in a country with over 200,000 dead from this disease is irresponsible when you’re exactly that most-at-risk demographic, and you have the potential to infect so many people.
Bluster doesn’t cancel reality. Politics doesn’t trump gravity. It’s a useful lesson for us to remember in a time of fake news.
A mistake I made/a challenge I am facing
“You should have just let them go.”
I heard team member after team member say to me this week about a decision I approved of that turned out to be a questionable one, judging by the short term outcome.
There are very few feelings more maddening than copping out from doing what you are supposed to because you are trying to be nice, and then the people you are trying to be nice to don’t even know the sacrifice and restraint that it took you to make that decision.
It makes me smile because I know better, but I didn’t do better.
So now there is the wrong decision taken, no credit given, and judgement questioned.
Also, hopefully, lesson learnt. Amen.
What I am watching/reading/listening to
A fantastic and beautifully presented TED Talk (I have been binge-watching, sorry!) on why and how the majority is always wrong.
“Whenever people teams and organisations hit a wall, they tend to do more of the same things or less of the same things,” he tells us. “What you seldom see is that they do different things.”
I have watched this one before. Watching it again gave me the final inspiration for today’s post.
“Second, most books are old. This is not a disadvantage: this is precisely what makes them valuable. They stand against the conventional wisdom of today simply because they’re not from today. Even if they merely reflect the conventional wisdom of their own day, they say something different from what you hear all the time. But the great books, the ones you find on a syllabus, the ones people have continued to read, don’t reflect the conventional wisdom of their day. They say things that have the permanent power to disrupt our habits of thought. They were revolutionary in their own time, and they are still revolutionary today. And when I say “revolutionary,” I am deliberately evoking the American Revolution, because it was a result of precisely this kind of independent thinking. Without solitude—the solitude of Adams and Jefferson and Hamilton and Madison and Thomas Paine—there would be no America.” -- William Deresiewicz, Solitude and Leadership
From my gratitude journal
I am grateful for resources.
I am deeply grateful to the leaders at RED.
I am grateful for the Nigerian film industry’s strides.
From my daily affirmations
Humility. Always student not teacher. Number one job is to listen.
Food for thought
“But it seems to me that solitude is the very essence of leadership. The position of the leader is ultimately an intensely solitary, even intensely lonely one. However many people you may consult, you are the one who has to make the hard decisions. And at such moments, all you really have is yourself.”
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