As entrepreneurs, wouldn’t we be wise to spend some time in the land of humanities rather than being subsumed by the pathological narcissism of new media?

…Am I a Pinhead?

Molly Worthen, in a 2015 NYTimes piece, Lecture Me. Really., argues against applying the active learning craze to the humanities. Her well thought out piece highlights instead the many benefits derived from the lecture/small weekly discussion format. Those types of classes already force students into active learning mode by requiring them to

  • Develop the art of attention;
  • Build and defend one’s own argument; and
  • Synthesize, organize and react to others’ arguments.

Worthen stresses how listening differs from thinking about what you are going to say next. She quotes a recent graduate thankful she learned to take good notes, dissect ideas and reduce them to single sentences that can then be supported or refuted. Worthen concludes by quoting John Henry Newman’s defense of the humanities. The Humanities are “crucial disciplines for teaching students how to think, …’to detect what is sophisticated, and to discard what is irrelevant.’”

In an age defined by the constant barrage of information, wouldn’t we all benefit from knowing when we are being misled, played or fed something a little light on truthiness? As entrepreneurs, wouldn’t we be wise to spend some time in the land of humanities rather than being subsumed by the pathological narcissism of new media?

So much of what passes for wisdom at entrepreneurship conferences or on the web and in social media hinges on a grandiose view of one’s own talents and accomplishments, combined with a craving for admiration. The same compulsion and obsession that many entrepreneurs harness on their path to success (self-declared success?) often drives a post-success tendency to shine the spotlight inward.

Hey, look at how cool smart successful important better than everyone else I am on my #socialmediawebshrine.

True conversation:

Me: “Hi. Nice to meet you. What do you do?”

Hipster Dude: “I’ve got over 13 million Pinterest followers.”

Me: “Cool. Does that make you a Pinhead?”

End of conversation. Was it something I said?

Successful entrepreneurs excel at

  • Being attentive to others’ problems and viewing them as opportunities;
  • Developing and selling their vision; and
  • Revising and repackaging their products and solutions in the wake of changing conditions.

Successful entrepreneurs actively listen, dissect and simplify. They actively analyze and interpret complex issues, all the while filtering out disconnects. What they don’t actively do is actively go into pitches unprepared, with poorly constructed arguments based on unsubstantiated opinions and actively walk away with investment and mentors and support they need to succeed.

I’m sure one day we will discover social media proof of the mythical Okapi relative known as the #GazelleUnicornPinhead. And with equal certainty, that once mythical creature will go on to eclipse the once dominate #SerialEntrepreneur as the purveyor of elite entrepreneurship wisdom, virally propagated by Twitter followers and Facebook likes and Pinterest repins.

Until then, however, I’ll be wondering who’s on first with the ghost of Plato.


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