The difference between the cult and the personality
For any reader it is important to note that the post is not about Elon Musk. He is just an example, one popular enough and with a shiny enough halo around to illustrate the point.
There are also the other aspects which are glorified, other than dubious behavior that gets a free pass because success. For example, still about the same person, Mr. Musk, it’s the never ending praise for his risk taking nature. How he spent (invested) 300 million dollars and, according to his statements, had to borrow money for rent. Now, your average young Joe might be inclined to think that it is this what has made him great. Yet there is very little appreciation deserved because: first, I don’t think after exiting PayPal with 300 million his credit score was a problem, so borrowing “for rent” came at a very cheap rate, second, when you are someone who built a company and sold it with huge cash winnings, it doesn’t really matter what you do next, given that you remain sane. Had Mr. Musk lost his 300 million in bad investments, he’d be welcome just about anywhere in tech, as consultant, CEO, VP of whatever, partner, strategic investor, you name it, for six-to-seven figure yearly salary, bonuses and what not. It’s a certain critical mass which if amassed becomes self sustaining.
Yes, bad investments and failure count as success when the ratio of risk to money is high.
In this particular case, 300 million is peanuts for companies that try to disrupt behemoths: space travel, cars and energy production. His business tenacity, ability to inspire other people to pour cash in his companies, the strategy to go all in with his personal money, as a advertisement of his long term commitment, these should be lauded, not the “risk taking” and teary eyed stories, as if he’d be homeless if Solar City failed. Srsly.
But he, just as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Nikola Tesla, Leonardo da Vinci or Hercules are not to be taken as targets for diminishing their worth. They are rogues in a system that we naturally create as humans, the funnel of change.It is a system neither controlled nor created purposefully by individuals, but a system created and somewhat controlled by humanity as a whole, possibly as an evolutionary trait of our society.
What we need to do about this is to approach ourselves in a fashion similar to the five principles of humanistic psychology:
1. Human beings, as human, supersede the sum of their parts. They cannot be reduced to components.
2. Human beings have their existence in a uniquely human context, as well as in a cosmic ecology.
3. Human beings are aware and are aware of being aware — i.e., they are conscious. Human consciousness always includes an awareness of oneself in the context of other people.
4. Human beings have the ability to make choices and therefore have responsibility.
5. Human beings are intentional, aim at goals, are aware that they cause future events, and seek meaning, value, and creativity. Wikipedia
And, before anything, we need to pay attention as much as we can. My personal target is about an hour a week, a dim, far attention time span that at least shines enough to keep the direction clear. A better version of me would do it every day, but I am not the sum of my parts, so there is no better version of me.