The Stanley Milgram shock study is an age-old experiment that demonstrates our habitual response to authority. We, by instinct, obey authority even if the orders from that authority appear unethical.
Lying on his back, blinking the blood out of his eyes, the king watched a red kite reel in the sky. The scent of pine and old snow in the air. He rolled onto his stomach, pushed himself to his feet. He touched his left eye.
It was gone.
He lumbered down the rocky valley following the narrow stream. He paused in a meadow of foxtail, to regain his sense of direction. The sun hung hot over the trees in the east. He put his hand to his left eye.
It was still gone.
In the afternoon he lie beneath a warped juniper. Slept while the wind swarmed. When he awoke with a start a nearby hare jumped and bounded uphill, disappearing behind a crop of rocks. The king put his hand to his left eye.
It was still gone.
The following day, at dawn, he drank from a pond. While still crouched he touched his left eye. He wept long, hard. And then he rose to his feet, eyed a storm cloud, and lumbered west.
He marched through rain, through cold, through dark. But he marched.
By evening of the fourth day he spotted a large camp. A few souls wandered with canes about the space between the battered tents. Their eyes were covered by a swath of dirty cloth.
He entered the camp, built a roaring fire, and, throughout the night, replaced every dirty swath with a clean strip he tore from his own robe.
Then he ate.
The next day he taught the men how to shape yew into a bow, the women to milk cattle. The young men to plow, the young women to dye cloth. And, beneath the stars, he taught the children about the sun and the moon.
Over time they replaced the tents with houses made of stone. And until the end of his life he quietly ruled this small kingdom of the blind. The king with one eye.
So: what’s the moral? Leave your answers in the comments. And please share this story with people who need it.
For every rule there is an exception. Take business advice for example.
Since the late 1930s, every budding industrialist, investment banker, and entrepreneur has read Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People.
It’s loaded with sage, but simplistic advice like listening and smiling.
Large corporations hand it out to their sales and customer service teams. Writers clamour for a copy. Just about everybody in the world has read it.
Except my grandfather.
As a young adult, husband, and father, my dad’s dad was in the insurance business. Strange, considering he was a blunt instrument. A rugged, dead-to-the-feelings-of-the-world individual. A bull in a china shop.
Annoy him and you could expect something along the lines of, “I hate you and the horse you rode in on.”
This made selling insurance difficult. This made working with others difficult. His superiors suggested he read How to Win Friends and Influence People. He refused and quit.
I love that story. Not because it exalts hard-headedness or rebellion. But because it doesn’t end there.
From the insurance business my grandfather went on to snap up a few apartment buildings and houses he eventually renovated and rented.
In addition, he bought a shotgun-style sundry store with tar paper floors (he refused to replace) that became a downtown staple of Collinsville, IL (my childhood home).
As far as I know he didn’t get filthy rich, but he was financially independent … and vastly satisfied.
I love this story because he carved out his life in direct opposition to conventional wisdom. Until the day he died he maintained that snarl.
It would be wrong of me, however, not to point out that he was, indeed, a very caring and generous person. To me, my sister, his own children. His community, his lodge. He had dozens of good friends. You just had to know Brad — and how to bear Brad — to enjoy Brad’s company.
The moral of the story: know when to listen to conventional wisdom. And when to ignore it.
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This trick works for just about any bio, really — LinkedIn, Twitter, your resume, your blog About page or a conference speaking bio. And it boils down to adding credible endorsements (recognizable names and brands).
Nike. Google. Stephen King. Adobe. New York Times. Mashable.
I’m an achievement addict. And I love books. So no surprise that I read books that will help me achieve my goals [no matter how ridiculous they are].
The four that I’ve read recently are high on my list of must-read. Like read them and you’ll get lit. In a good way. Passionate.
In other words, you’ll get a case of “rage to master.” I explain below. [Read more…]
The nineteenth post in The Education of a Writer (TEW) series.
I’m a selfish turd prone to episodes of self-loathing where all I want to do is write bad poetry.
It’s not that I hate hard work. I like hard work…especially when I’m working hard to please myself.
Unfortunately, this won’t get me anywhere fast. It won’t get any writer anywhere fast, including you. But there was a time when I didn’t want to get anywhere fast. I just wanted to be left alone. [Read more…]