The Foolish Crowd



When Ray Bradbury was first staring out as a writer, he thought the path to success was to do what everyone else was doing. He found inspiration in other people’s work, but he lacked originality. It wasn’t until later in his career that he began to discover what he called the truths beneath his skin and behind his eyes.

Last Wednesday on The Fight Spot, I wrote about removing ourselves from the Echo Chamber. An echo chamber is “an enclosed space for producing reverberation of sound.”

Have you ever felt that you’re spending too much time in an enclosed place where the majority of what you hear is unoriginal and whatever you say is echoed back to you?

When we get too absorbed in things like the platform, the analytics, the new, and the feedback, then the echo chamber becomes the place where we compare ourselves by ourselves. It’s noisy. Inspiration runs dry. Our creativity gets stifled. We grow cynical and sarcastic. We lose motivation for doing meaningful work; it serves as an ever-present distraction and pacifier from doing work that matters.

* * *

I’m going to ask you a question. And I want you to answer honestly.

Don’t answer to me or to your peers. Don’t answer with what you think you should say. Take a breath and answer honestly to yourself.

Okay, here’s the question:

Do you want to do work that matters?

Pause for a moment.

Think about it.

Okay. One more question:

Are you willing to be foolish?

Pause for a moment.

Think about it.

Are you willing to be foolish in order to do work that matters? Are you willing to fail? To be honest with others? Are you willing to create something even when life is still messy? Are you willing to take risks? Are you willing to put your work out there even when you’re afraid it might not work? Are you willing to try something different than what everyone else is doing because your gut says “why not”? Are you willing to make space in your schedule so you can show up and create something every day?

In our heart, we say, “Yes!” Then we tell ourselves we’ll start tomorrow.

Most of us want to do work that matters. But most of us don’t want to be foolish. At least, not right now. Or, we’re okay with being foolish so long as it’s calculated, planned out, polished, and then distilled down to the lowest common denominator until it’s so insipid it couldn’t possibly be confused as foolishly original.

Here’s a tip: it’s easier to be foolish and to take risks when you are surrounded by people who are also being foolish and taking risks.

If you want to do work that matters, then run from the risk averse and put yourself right in the middle of the foolish crowd.

How can you become a voice — how can you provide something original, unique, and valuable — when all your inputs are unoriginal echoes?