Never Doubt That A Small Group of [Mutants] Can Change The World: A Personal Branding Lesson from “X-Men First Class”
You know those articles like “100 Million People Can’t Be Wrong” and “How to Land a Job Interview” and all the stuff like that?
If you read them, keep it casual.
Because the really smart people don’t follow the crowd. They know there is no value in being a copycat.
More than that – they are aware that they “think different,” proud of the strength it gives them, and strategic about leveraging their intelligence to live a better life.
If you think about it, in every sphere of life, it is the UN-conventional wisdom that helps people win big-time. In Seth Godin-speak, having this capacity makes you rare, and indispensable – a “linchpin”:
· Investing: “Buy low, sell high” is the first rule of stock trading. Some would say the only rule.
· Fashion: The truly well-dressed avoid like the plague anything “in style.” (Guaranteed you would never find Anna Wintour in a sleeveless top with ten layers of ruffles across the front – not anymore.)
· Real estate: Mavens look for undervalued properties in “up-and-coming” neighborhoods that nobody’s ever heard of.
· Government: As noted in a recent Fast Company article, the most innovative solutions come from the local level, not from large, centralized bureaucracies.
· Technology: Did you not see “Wargames” more than twenty years ago? Or read any biography of Julian Assange? Self-taught hackers know a lot more than classically trained geeks how to secure a computer network.
At the same time, “mutants” can’t make it on their own. They have to know how to blend in to “normal” society. For obvious reasons. (Credibility, literacy with what’s already being said.)
In addition, not everyone has the unusual capacity to “think different,” nor do they want to.
This is why small, synergistic (forgive me for that word) teams are the best route to success. Combine a freethinker with a diplomat, add a couple of other unique personalities, and go forth to conquer the world.
As they say in the movie – “Mutant and Proud.”
Photo source here
It’s classic movie narrative: Quiet, obedient, trusting wife. Confronted by cheating, lying, backstabbing husband. Wife turns murderously angry, loud and vengeful.
It started, literally, in The Beginning.
Though it’s not in the Bible (Torah), there is a Rabbinic text, “The Alphabet of Ben Sirach,” that talks about Adam’s misadventures in marriage. For when G-d created Adam, a wife was created for him too - “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18) – but he and Lilith did not get along.
Adam: “You are fit only to be in the bottom position, while I am to be in the superior one.”
Lilith: “We are equal inasmuch as we were both created from the earth.”
Adam: “Can’t accept that.” (That’s me, imagining.)
Lilith: “The hell with you.” (Still me writing this script.)
She calls out G-d’s name and flies away. Yes, flies.
In her place there is Eve. Created out of Adam’s rib. Literally, a body part. So the two are one, right? He is the “main part” and she is “subordinate.”
Not so fast.
In the Torah, Eve is called “Ezer Kenegdo.”
Meaning – if Adam does good, she is a helper (ezer).
If he is bad, she will fight him every step of the way (kenegdo).
To this day, the genders are caught in this dynamic over equality. There’s a lot to say, but one thing is clear: We see many examples of women bringing men to task when they act like pigs. When they are treated like disposable people.
(I have always believed that the liberation of the most degraded classes – by gender, race, and money - would harbor the coming of the Messianic age.)
We can debate theology and quibble about gender roles, and be sitting around all day.
The deeper message is much more vital (though no less important) than “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
What G-d is saying in Genesis has to do with the role of the leader and the led. Because the fact remains that we definitely aren’t all chiefs. In fact, most people around the world are poor, dispossessed, and routinely degraded.
Yet despite all that, I would posit that there is a persistent desire, among all people, to find and follow individuals who are strong, good leaders with integrity. Countervailed by an equally strong desire to take the bad ones down:
· Ezer: If the leader is good, the people will follow. Will help actively and willingly.
· Kenegdo: If the leader is bad, the people will oppose them. Just as actively and willingly.
In the past, “the masses” couldn’t do very much to overthrow a bad leader. But social media has restored their ability to not only fly the coop but upend it.
History, if you think about it, isn’t really in the past. We still see evil leaders, official and not, rampaging through innocent people’s lives. People who seem “disposable.”
Because the leader asks themselves, always, “Who’s going to tell? And if they tell, who’s going to believe them?”
Of course, those who did tell were quickly escorted to prison, the labor camp, the loony bin, or simply killed. Their families too often suffering a similar fate.
Social media has changed this power equation forever - in particular, the rise of Facebook.
I think of this as “Mark Zuckerberg’s Tikkun Olam.”
Shorthand for my belief that Zuckerberg’s primary contribution to repairing this flawed world is the empowerment of the masses with a free and simple-to-use microphone.
(Tikkun Olam is the belief that the human effort to alleviate suffering is the purpose of our being here.)
Think about the awesome power of Facebook. As Joel Osteen says, “When G-d wants to speak, the only voice He has is your voice.”
Facebook made social media usable for the average person.
My mother can’t figure out what a “Tweet” is. She says it sounds ridiculous.
On the other hand, she just loves Facebook.
Zuckerberg expressly intended for FB to tear down the wall between the private self and the public self. Because if you are a good person, you should have very little, if anything, to hide.
Let me be clear: I have my reservations about the way that Facebook eliminates personal privacy.
But overall the company has empowered the masses, because it has made it normal for the average person to speak out. To boldly tell truth to power. To say, outloud, “There is no such thing as a disposable person. That person you disposed of – was ME!”
This is a weapon we never had in the past.
So it’s not so easy to divide people into “disposable” and “significant” anymore.
Women are too often thought of as “disposable people.” So are poor people. So are people of color. And religious people of every faith.
I truly believe, in my heart of hearts, that people will use social media for the good. Yes it is true that people can use it to steal things. To disrupt life. Even to make it impossible to govern.
But given how badly people want to believe, and how passionately they support good leaders, I think they will use it to weed out the bad apples and put the good ones in power.
In the end, with G-d’s help, the wisdom of the people will win out against their ignorance, anger and greed. I do have faith in that.
Have a good day everyone, and good luck!
Photo source here
In psychoanalysis they call it “splitting.” And public figures suffer
terribly from it.
and bad – we insist that they either be heroes or the opposite. This is visible in nearly every sphere of celebrity, from Hollywood to
Washington and in the plush hallways of Wall Street. You’re either a
“genius” or an “idiot,” with nothing in between. Why do we do that? The Freudians say it’s from a wound caused in infancy and early
childhood. When the baby, confronted with a mother who is sometimes
available and sometimes not, imagines that she is actually two people:
one an evil witch, and the other an all-giving heroine. Healthy people know that it is the same mother who both gives and fails to give. People who aren’t functioning as well can’t know that. So they put her, and other people, in categories. Not only that – they actually look for people to idolize, and then
look forward surreptitiously to the time that they will fall. This is
“repetition compulsion” – the desire to relive the original wound over
and over again, hoping that it will turn out differently. Do we not see this dynamic happen every single day with the people we
call leaders? And celebrities? It is almost as if the paparazzi look for new stars and actively build
them up – then watch and wait until they crash. No actually they
really do that. Former child stars suffer from this especially badly. Former
Mouseketeer Britney Spears is a great example. So is “Parent Trap”
star Lindsay Lohan. Sad. Some people refuse to put celebrities into a box. Michael Lear wrote
an amazing profile about Charlie Sheen that is running in the new
Vanity Fair. Sheen emerges as complex and interesting and human. No
false castles of glass being shattered here. But – as they say – who cares? This is not a diatribe about childcare. Nor another post about how to prop a leader up or save them from themselves. No – this time it’s about product and service brands themselves. I say
“them” because unfortunately for the companies that make them,
customers perceive these things almost exactly as if they were people.
Celebrities, more specifically. So the same customers who so insistently “split” the leaders they
adore and hate - led to do so by a media that caters to this very
“repetition compulsion” – may spend a lot of money on a brand today,
only to be completely turned off by it tomorrow. And I mean
completely. The same fervent wish to idolize someone that built the brand up, also
can bring it down. And the crash can be caused by anything. The media, of course, fanning
the flames of a scandal, mini or micro. A disaster. A competitor. A
new emerging brand. And the social media whispers of the crowd – or no
whispers at all. (Because more than anything else, people are influenced by what other
people in their social circles do.) What that means for brand producers is very simple: “Get paranoid.”
(to paraphrase Intel’s Andy Grove) You should always look at your brand as if it were in imminent danger. Even more than that – you must actively kill the brand yourself. Anticipate the cycle that is coming – they will love you and then hate
you and stone you to death – and immolate your brand on its own sword
first. Then come up with a new one. That way you stay in control of what’s going on. (Theoretically – as
much as possible.) It’s a tough brandscape out there these days, but the smartest
companies are undaunted. Get out there, kick your OWN butt, and start over again. Good luck!