A Leadership Development Lesson
Learning to think for your damn self.
The Usurpation of The Individual
America has started a new annual tradition. Every year-end, we go to this new really cool website and get to enroll in Obamacare. That time is now upon us. We are forced to purchase a certain level of health insurance. Why? Because Obamacare knows what insurance our families need better than us. We are told all the time what to do and how to live by people who are supposedly a lot smarter than us. From Obamacare to environmentalists, to social engineers, they all seem to want to force their change (without our input – because they know better) onto us and desire that we think like they do. When we refuse, we are labeled. We are outsiders on their inside game and we have decidedly rejected being one of the cool kids. I hunt. I have regularly been told by animal rights activists on twitter that I should turn the gun around. Why? Because they are willing to impose their morality on me. I believe in marriage of one man and one woman. I have been called hate, bigot, loser, evil, nazi, and so many other bad things I can’t even mention here. Why? Because I think for myself and that has become terribly offensive to the cool kids.
Consequences of Not Thinking for Yourself
Let me explain a little bit of the consequences of not thinking for yourself; or at least not being allowed to. It isn’t just social and political issues. I have a large family and I went to a dealership today to buy a four-wheeler. I was shocked when the dealer was telling me I can’t give my kids rides on it legally. Are you kidding me? Who makes this stuff up!? What is the point of a four-wheeler if you can’t give your kids rides? I told the guy, hey, I have a motorcycle. I can legally give my kids rides on it as soon as their feet can reach the foot pegs. How can I drive on the freeway with a kindergartener without a back rest or handles, but I can’t put my kid on a four-wheeler that putts around on a frozen lake at 15 miles per hour? This has gotten insane. Someone in their “wisdom” knows better than I do about what is safe to do with my own kids. This also brings up a great question: who the heck decided the role of government was to protect us from ourselves in the first place? If I was governor, I would have laughed that guy out of my office.
We used to live in a land where we took care of ourselves and could make these decisions on our own. When we were responsible for ourselves, police were there to help. Now that we need to be told how to be safe, they are there to bust us for breaking one of the many thousands of regulations and laws that we now “need.” Unfortunately, our smarty-pants-know-it-all-government has decided to legislate and regulate free, sentient, law-abiding citizens into protecting ourselves from ourselves. To you I must say: “Thank you for protecting my children from my four-wheeler.” It is one more example of how we all need to follow their way of doing and thinking; because they know better.
Here’s a quick leadership development lesson: Too many people just take advice and direction from others without thinking. One common myth is that the higher your education, the more you must know better than others. Look at our 4-wheeler example. Do you think a bunch of hard-working gear heads and outdoorsman came up with these rules? No. It was government bureaucracy and the academics running policy recommendations and studies behind it.
While I am no great academic, I am well-educated. If you read this article and realize you want to throw it away, I would be quite happy with that. You would have applied a great lesson in thinking for your damn self.
Of all the books I had to read and all the papers I had to write, one of the most important things I learned in graduate school was very smart people can be kind of dumb. Just because someone is well-educated doesn’t mean they know better or understand more than you. All it means is they have paid a lot more tuition, written more papers, and have probably read a lot more boring books than you. The further you get in your education, the more focused it becomes. It is my humble opinion some academics often sacrifice common sense at the expense of this focus and can become myopic and out of touch. The most recent public example of this is John Gruber; the MIT economist dubbed “the architect” of Obamacare. Here’s what Forbes Magazine reported on him:
“the stupidity of the American voter” made it important for him and Democrats to hide Obamacare’s true costs from the public. “That was really, really critical for the thing to pass,” said Gruber. “But I’d rather have this law than not.” In other words, the ends—imposing Obamacare upon the public—justified the means. – Forbes.com http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2014/11/10/aca-architect-the-stupidity-of-the-american-voter-led-us-to-hide-obamacares-tax-hikes-and-subsidies-from-the-public/
When this kind of academic arrogance erupts, it usually isn’t good for the rest of us. Arrogance comes from an abundance of pride.
There are two kinds of pride, both good and bad. ‘Good pride’ represents our dignity and self-respect. ‘Bad pride’ is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/johncmaxw600899.html#vIcJD48VlFYM8RR5.99
Academics is rarely a moral endeavor. It is no more right or wrong than a hammer and a saw. This is actually a good analogy for academics. Education should be viewed as a tool kit to make the learner more effective in the world. It does not however make one person better than another, or know better than another. Learners should be proud of their own dignity and self-respect in their learning. After all, you would never hire someone to build your house if they didn’t have a hammer and saw, but it is very very very rarely, if ever, a kind of superiority over others.
So next time you hear something from very smart people and it doesn’t seem to meet the low bar of common sense; you might just be right. Some things are so obvious you need to have a higher education degree to warp your mind around in the other direction.
Start Thinking For Yourself
Ultimately, the leadership development lesson is to learn to think for yourself. Thinking for yourself is the foundation to independence. It is virtually impossible to shake off stereotypes, biases, and break cultural norms without it. If you don’t think for yourself, you will become what other people want you to be. And I can tell you there are no shortages of people willing to tell you how to live your life.
Shouldn’t you control you own development and formation? Do you think there are a lot of leaders out there that don’t think for themselves? If you want to lead, start thinking and carefully examine what others say. Listen first, then discern. You will find some of it is good, some is bad, and some is irrelevant. But the point is that you are the one controlling who you are becoming and when you finally develop yourself, you will be able to lead and develop others.