Why Inspirational Speaker-Entrepreneurs Are So Disappointing

An excerpt from my most recent Flyover Geeks post. Read the whole thing here.

What is it that makes a charismatic leader? Is it his or her message, or its delivery? Or is it something else, perhaps the inclination of the audience to believe it? In 1978, 918 people died at the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project at the command of cult leader Jim Jones to commit “revolutionary suicide”. It was this incident that gave rise to the expression, “to drink the Kool Aid”.

What makes cult leaders so compelling is not their message per se, but the vulnerability of their audiences. Indeed, Jones’s message was not particularly, how to say it, rational. Right? Far stranger cults, like the Heaven’s Gate cult, which believed that a UFO trailed Comet Hale-Bopp and could be contacted if its members committed suicide. (Strangely, the 39 devotees were found wearing identical shirts, blue and white Nike shoes, and carried a five dollar bill and three quarters.) What’s up with that?

Might the charisma of the cult leader lend credence to his message? Sure. Could a particularly emotionally resonant if fanciful tale compel otherwise normal, if somewhat gullible people to do irrational or even monstrous things? Again yes, especially if their leader is charismatic and all the rest. But if you really want to know what makes the cult leader so convincing, what makes his/her message so wholly true in the eyes of her/his flock, it’s not the message. It’s not the leader, or charisma, or whatever.

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Read the whole thing here.

Seth Godin, Look What You’ve Done

This is an excerpt from a book review I wrote for Flyover Geeks. Read the whole thing here.

Back in 2008, when Seth Godin published his fourteenth book,Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, he was likely correct. The gist of his book, which champions a new media landscape in which change is effected not by huge corporate megaliths, or by the slow plodding progress of governments but by “tribes”. Tribes follow a leader, who articulates some idea to his/her tribe, and empowers the tribe to reify her/his ideology–act on it. Render it concrete.

I picked up Godin’s book because I’ve never read anything about leadership written for the express purpose of inspiring or instructing or empowering would-be leaders. And I realized, after about forty pages, that all of my criticism of inspirational flimflam such as this, yeah, it wasn’t baseless. Sorry, Seth.

[…] Read the whole thing here.

 

Social News Curator Newsle The Most Promising Web Startup at 2011 Kairos SummitStartup

Here’s an excerpt from my most recent post for Flyover Geeks. Check it out here.

The most promising new web startup featured at the Kairos Summit, Newsle, is a social news-curation tool built by a couple of whip-smart Harvard sophomores, Axel Hansen and Jonah Varon. Newsle has been featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education and TechCrunch, and made waves among the veteran Silicon Valley entrepreneurs at the conference. Newsle has the same feel as the Facebook news feed, but takes only relevant, high-quality content from users’ Facebook friends’ pages, as well as allows users to track public figures. News stories are presented in a clean, intuitive user-interface. Having only used Newsle for four days, my experience is rather limited; but based on what I can see, this, more than any web-app featured on the NYSE trading floor, Newsle’s got legs.

IncubatorU

Now, I’m sure hordes of grumpy old men in tweed jackets collectively carp about the increasing focus on commerce in the classroom, about the decay of classic liberal arts dogma about Truth and Beauty, and all that jazz. What I say to that: grow up. Fact: for as long as a college degree is a prerequisite to entering into the workforce, the two will be linked. Instead of bemoaning the fall of “classic intellectual pursuit” (whatever…) I propose a more pragmatic approach. If you can’t beat the entrepreneurial spirit out of your students, foster it. Make the university a resource for more than just abstruse theory, a repository of dusty grey scholars of neo-Marxist hermeneutics or post-structuralist creative heuristics, or whatever else scholarly work consists of. Leverage the enthusiasm of students to, if nothing else, augment existing endowment funds.

This is my latest post for Flyover Geeks. It’s about the rise of business incubators within universities. Find the whole article here.

Now, I’m sure hordes of grumpy old men in tweed jackets collectively carp about the increasing focus on commerce in the classroom, about the decay of classic liberal arts dogma about Truth and Beauty, and all that jazz. What I say to that: grow up. Fact: for as long as a college degree is a prerequisite to entering into the workforce, the two will be linked. Instead of bemoaning the fall of “classic intellectual pursuit” (whatever…) I propose a more pragmatic approach. If you can’t beat the entrepreneurial spirit out of your students, foster it. Make the university a resource for more than just abstruse theory, a repository of dusty grey scholars of neo-Marxist hermeneutics or post-structuralist creative heuristics, or whatever else scholarly work consists of. Leverage the enthusiasm of students to, if nothing else, augment existing endowment funds.

The Upstart’s Conundrum: Time Crunch

College entrepreneurs around the country are at once impelled by their institutions to “innovate” and launch ventures, yet stymied by organizational structures and other systemic constraints that render college an inopportune time to gain entrepreneurial experience.

This is the first part of a two or three-part series I’m writing for Flyover Geeks. Below you’ll find a paragraph excerpt, but to read the rest, you’ll have to click here.

College entrepreneurs around the country are at once impelled by their institutions to “innovate” and launch ventures, yet stymied by organizational structures and other systemic constraints that render college an inopportune time to gain entrepreneurial experience. In spite of the recent groundswell in enthusiasm for entrepreneurship–focused specifically on developing “social” and technology enterprises–among business leaders and students alike, there has been little change on the part of institutions to support the development of these ventures in any meaningful way.

Why Young Geeks Leave School

For this series, I’ve Skyped gawky, venture-capitalized college kids who’re still grappling with acne. It seems as though tech entrepreneurs are getting younger.

Click Here to read my new article in Flyover Geeks. Here’s a sneak preview:

For this series, I’ve Skyped gawky, venture-capitalized college kids who’re still grappling with acne. It seems as though tech entrepreneurs are getting younger. What explains this trend toward younger people entering the tech-entrepreneurial space, even while still in college? This necessarily leads to a second question: why is it that nearly all of these successful college-aged entrepreneurs ended up dropping out of college to start their ventures?

Thiel’s 20-20 Vision: Stop Out of College

Here is the first paragraph of a post I wrote for Flyover Geeks, the remainder of which can be found here.

The average cost of a college education at a private institution is just short of $37,000 per year, according to an NPR survey last October. One important question students ask themselves when entering is, “What will I get out of this?” It’s a question I’m asking myself right now, and although I’m still uncertain as to its answer, I am confident in answering that question’s converse: “What will I put into my college experience?”

Careerism is Dead.

I’m now blogging for Flyover Geeks, a Chicago-based blog aiming to be the TechCrunch of the midwest, the “flyover states”. I’ve been tasked with writing about college, entrepreneurship, and my opinion of both/either of them. Here, on The Halcyon Days, I’ve posted the first paragraph of my Flyover Geeks post, “Careerism is Dead”. It is a pared-down version of a Halcyon Days post from the summer.

From the time they’re young, kids are told to go to college and get a good job. Well, I’ve been doing some thinking about what it means to have a “good job”, and I find myself unimpressed. Look no further than the movies to find examples of Good Jobs. Charlie Sheen’s character in Wall Street had a good job selling stock to rich people. What about Leo DiCaprio’s Frank Wheeler in the film adaptation of Revolutionary Road? He had a good job at Knox Business Machines doing… something. What he did, exactly, is a little unclear. In fact, there are dozens of such characters who worked hard to graduate from Brand Name University only to get a Good Job that utilizes precisely 0% of what he/she learned in school. I don’t know who came up with the whole Good Job idea, but they were a spot-on marketer. Good Jobs, to be frank and a tad crass, suck.

To read the whole piece, click Here.