The Guru Is A Fallacy

The guru is a fallacy.

The man standing on the mountaintop that has mastered all the skills needed to get where you want to go, is a lie. A sham. A figurehead created to perpetuate a myth, to milk massive amounts of dollars out of your pockets.

Yes there are people who have mastered many skills. Yes, there are people who have endured many battles. Yes, there are people who possess what you need to know, and can provide to you knowledge without you having to obtain it the hard way.

But these gurus are not magical beings. They are humans, pure flesh and blood, just like you. They don’t need pedestal or accolades as much as they need a cup of coffee and a good conversation.

Beware the ones that introduce themselves to you as a guru. That should tell you all you need to know.

Edison Only As Good As His 10,000 Failures?

When we think of the now dying incandescent light bulb, we think of Thomas Alva Edison and his 10,000 prototypes. It’s a story that has grown in the century plus since it happened, and would fit in perfectly with the cult of personality that today’s tech pioneers enjoy. But is it a complete story? Let’s go a few years back. Somewhere before the work in the Menlo Park laboratory and see what it took to get to prototypes number 1.

In 1850, Edward Shepard invented an electrical incandescent arc lamp using a charcoal filament.

In 1854, Henricg Globel invented the first true light bulb, using a carbonized bamboo filament placed inside a glass bulb.

In 1875, Herman Sprengel invented the mercury vacuum pump making it possible to develop a practical electric light bulb. Also in 1875, Henry Woodward and Matthew Evans patented a light bulb.

In 1878, Sir Joseph Wilson Swan was the first person to invent a practical and longer-lasting electric light bulb using a carbon fiber filament derived from cotton that could burn for over 13 hours.

We don’t really get to Edison until 1879. That’s when began to evolve his designs based on the 1875 patent he purchased from Woodward and Evans. This is the year he invents a carbon filament that could burn for 40 hours in an oxygen-less bulb. The next year, 1880, he would improve his light bulb until it could last for over 1200 hours using a bamboo-derived filament.

While Edison’s success was derived from his ability to learn from his failures, he also gets a break from building upon the successes of others who made the breakthroughs he needed first.

And then there are the 10,000 failures themselves. Without them, Edison would not have been able to leave the world with quotes like, “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” Or, “Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” And of course,” I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” These quotes are made possible by the notion that Edison toiled long and hard until he found the right material, design, and shape to make the bulb a success.

But what if he didn’t toil so hard. What if he was on to something in prototype one that would have allowed him to offer prototype 10,001 somewhere around 2001? Or even 101? Or what if the number didn’t matter because somebody like Nikola Tesla could have succeeded before Edison? The quotes could not exist without the eventual success of the light bulb, but could they have existed with much earlier success?

James Dyson built 5127 prototypes of his vacuum cleaner over a span of about 14 years, going deeply into debt in the process.

Blendtec has been selling professional and home blenders since 1975, but didn’t gain prominence until founder Tom Dickson began the “Will It Blend” segments on YouTube in 2006. Dyson and Dickson are successful businessmen seen as pioneers in their oddly similar product lines, but a good part of that success comes from having a great story to tell.

One more quote from Edison: “Nearly every man who develops an idea works at it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.” This is a quote that I have recently taken to heart. I’ve developed some idea to the point where the do indeed look impossible, and I have been discouraged. I am about to change that.

We will talk again about my success. We will have to see how soon, but I’ve got ways to go before I reach prototype 10,001.

For Billionaires, Business Decisions Should Be No ‘Joke’

How would you classify Facebook?

I would classify it as having origins as a pseudo-stalking application that became a great collective time-suck that has designs on becoming a dominate source of connection and conversation. While I will attest to hating to have to be on Facebook (and having to be on it so much during my day), I love the idea of what it is, and accept my fate as a Facebook user as a person who works in the ‘talking to people all day’ industry.

But I do not like Mark Zuckerberg’s inability to convey a message to multiple communities.

The headline from an article published today at Business Insider reads “Mark Zuckerberg Says That Facebook’s Failed Snapchat Competitor Poke Was ‘More Of A Joke.’” But the implication just isn’t funny to me. Or multiple me’s.

News reporter me would have rather heard, “Poke was an app that we didn’t put a lot of resources behind as we waited to see how competitive it really was.”

Tech follower me would have rather heard, “Poke was not a quick clone of a competitor, but it was a project quickly put together that we couldn’t justify sustaining.”

Business investor me would have rather heard, “Poke was not a viable product as it was originally produced and would not become viable by tweaking the original product.”

What I heard from all versions of the story that I read today was Zuckerberg saying, “There is this thing called Snapchat. We had nothing like it, and we were a little worried. So some guys hacked together a Shapchat-like-thing over a few days to see if it could be done. It could, so we threw it out there to see if anyone would jump at a Facebook-branded-Shapchat-like-thing so we could gauge if we should actually build a Facebook-branded-Shapchat-like-thing with some serious intent.”

I know that some of the best selling and easiest spread commentary follows a simple hate the player and the game. And I often fall into that trap with my commentary. But this interview to me is just another example of a person winning the cosmic lottery and thinking they have no need to every change. I get that he’s a billionaire and not even 30. Most sub-30-year-olds have the privilege of spouting one-offs without care, and no one pays them any mind. I even had that right as a sub-30-year-old talk radio producer.

I didn’t have that right as a sub-30-year-old Air Force Captain. Lay people assumed my words and actions had some meaning, or I wouldn’t have been given the authority I possessed.

Mark Zuckerberg wants to be the hoodie-wearing fun guy for as long as he wants. He can do whatever he likes. But being the hoodie-wearing fun guy is not why he had to pay a $2 billion tax bill for 2013. Its the whole ‘running a business that aims at becoming a dominate source of connection and conversation-thing. If I sound like I’m hating the player, well, maybe I am. If I were a billionaire (and I am far from it), I would have billions of reasons not to care as well.

Tell Your Story (Someone Will Listen)

Someone out there needs to hear your story. Unfortunately, that does not mean your story is worthy of becoming a bestselling novel that gets optioned into a summer blockbuster movie. That’s what keeps most people from putting the words to paper to preserve their stories in their purest forms (from their most recent memories) for the world to share and future generations to savor. Because most of the world won’t put forth the effort to share them, and the future generations will probably not care.

But there is someone out there that needs to hear your story. Your particular story. They may not be famous or influential, but the words that spin a tale of your life, with fear and faults, and successes and celebrations, are destined to be told to someone, or a few some ones.

As I work to help people ‘master their message,’ formulating their stories to present to mass audiences, I look at my own life and my own story, and the frustration that more people don’t seem as interested in my life as I happen to be. I have an interesting life. More real than any B-list actor trying to keep their fame alive and mortgage paid by living an semi-scripted life on a TV reality show. Yet few people care about the details of my life, and fewer want to hear me tell it to them as a way to be entertained on a Friday night.

My story may not be the greatest ever told, but I intend to make sure it is told with as much splendor as can be mustered every time my daughter hears it. And every time I get the chance to share a few tales of my past experience, I give a performance as clear and concise as possible. Because I have learned on thing from listening to so many stories in my lifetime, and now training others to share their stories over the past decade. You never know what tidbit of information or what sound bite of advice is going to resonate in other people. You never know what small shred of your story someone else will actually remember. I know I am surprised by the bits as pieces of stories I have heard that I actually retain.

So save your complains about a lack of an audience. There is an audience. There is always an audience. Craft your words. Master your message. Tell your story to anyone who will sit still long enough to listen. Keep telling your story as they stand up and walk away. Someone will listen. And someone needs to hear it.