- Welcome & Introduction - 0:01:35
- CEOs Building Stronger Companies with Common Touch Leadership
- Lessons from Shakespeare's King Lear for Modern Leaders
- Never Forget Your Roots: Lessons in Humility and Servant Leadership
- Challenge Assumptions
- Cultivate Servant Leadership
- Build What Good Looks Like
- Leadership Lessons from the Great Books
- The Importance of Truth Tellers
- Lessons from the Decline of Empires
- Morality and Leadership from King Lear
- Taking Ruthless Inventory
- Self-Awareness Can Transform Your Leadership
- Rhetoric, Positions, and Principles
- Seek Truth, Act Locally
- False Promises in Leadership Don't Deliver
- The Power and Elite
- Insights into an Insular Leadership Structure
- Saying "No"
- Staying on the Path
- Listen to Libby Unger on Episode #42 - The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek w/Libby Unger ---> https://share.transistor.fm/s/512f183c
- Libby Unger on LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/libbyunger/
- Libby Unger Email Contact - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Libby Unger's Website - http://lumineaula.com/
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Creators & Guests
What is Leadership Lessons From The Great Books?
Because understanding great literature is better than trying to read and understand (yet) another business book, Leadership Lessons From The Great Books leverages insights from the GREAT BOOKS of the Western canon to explain, dissect, and analyze leadership best practices for the post-modern leader.
Hello. My name is Jesan Sorrells and this
is the Leadership Lessons from the Great Books podcast,
episode number 56 with our
play today, the basis for multiple films
and plays and adaptations focused on leadership,
revenge, deception, cold-blooded murder.
Corruption and power, including my personal favorite
adaptation, the 1985 film Ran
by the late, great Akira Kurosawa.
William Shakespeare's The Tragedy
of King Lear. Now, today we're
going to be reading the Folger, Shakespeare Library edition,
which I would encourage you to go ahead and pick up. And we are going
to be joined today on the podcast by our returning
guest co-host from episode number 43, where we
broke down the reality of human leadership through the lens of
politics and economics by reading The Road to Serfdom
by F.A. Hayek. I would encourage you to go back and listen to that episode.
And I'd like to welcome back to the podcast today Libby Unger.
How are you doing? Libby I am doing terrific.
I'm really excited for King Lear.
Now, Shakespeare, we've been doing a month of Shakespeare.
We've covered Hamlet, we've covered Taming of the Shrew,
and now we're getting into King Lear. Othello is upcoming,
very excited to cover that one as well.
Shakespeare, of course. Shakespeare's plays,
of course, lay at the root of all human behavior and all human understanding
and have influenced the West, as I said on the episode where we
discussed Hamlet, have influenced
human nature, have influenced our western understanding,
of human nature and quite frankly, our Western understanding of everything that comes out
of human nature, including leadership for gosh
the last 400 years. And so
with that, I would like to open from
once again the Folger Library edition of King Lear.
We're going to start off with act One, scene One,
and we're going to begin with Lear's comments.
As Cornwall, Albany, Gonereil,
his daughter, Regan, his other daughter, Cordelia, his other daughter and
some attendants enter the throne room.
Lear attend the lords of France and Burgundy.
Gloucester. Gloucester I shall, my lord. He exits.
Lear meantime, we shall express our darker purpose.
Give me that map. Here he's handed a map. Know that
we have divided in our three kingdoms and TISS our fast intent to shake
all cares and business from our age conferring them on
younger strengths while we unburdened crawl toward death.
Our sons of Cornwall and you, our no less loving
son of Albany we have this hour a constant will to publish
our daughters several dowers that future strife may be prevented.
Now the two great princes, France and Burgundy,
great rivals in our youngest daughters love long in our court,
have made their amorous sorjorn. And here are
to be answered. Tell me, my daughters, since we will now divest
us both of rule, interest of territory, cares of state,
which of you, shall we say, doth love us most that we
our largest bounty may extend where nature doth with merit
challenge gonerill. Our eldest born speak first.
Gonearill. Sir, I love you more than word can wield
the matter dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty beyond
what can be valued, rich or rare no less than
life with grace, health, beauty, honor as much as a child error loved or father
found. A love that makes breath poor and speech unable.
Beyond all manner of so much I love you.
Cordelia aside. What shall? Cordelia speak?
Love and be silent.
Lear pointing at the map of all these bounds, even from this line to
this with shadowy forests and with champagnes
rich with plentous rivers and wide skirted needs we
make thee lady. To thine and Albany issue be this perpetual.
What says our second daughter, our dearest Reagan, wife of
Cornwall? Speak, Reagan.
I am made of that self metal as my
sister and prize me at her worth. In my true heart I
find she names my very deed of love. Only she comes too short that
I profess myself ran enemy to all other joys which
the most precious square of sense possesses and find I
am alone felicitate in your dear highness's
love. Cordelia aside, then.
Poor Cordelia. And yet not so since, I am sure my love's
more ponderous than my tongue. Lear to
thee and thine heredity ever remain this ample third of
our fair kingdom no less in space, validity, and pleasure than
that conferred on Gonorrhill. Now our joy, although our last
and least to whose young love the vines of France and milk
of Burgundy strive to be interest. What can you say to
draw a third more opulent than your sisters?
Speak. Cordelia nothing,
my lord. Lear nothing?
Cordelia nothing? Lear nothing will come of
nothing. Speak again.
Cordelia unhappy that I am, I cannot leave my heart into my
mouth. I love your majesty according to my bond, no more and
no less. Lear how, how.
Cordelia mend your speech a little, lest you may mar
your fortunes. Cordelia good my lord,
you have begot me, bred me, loved me. I return those duties back
as are right fit, obey you, love you, and most honor
you. Why, of my sister's husbands, if they say they love you all
happily, when I say I shall wed that lord whose hand must take my
plight shall carry half my love with him half my care and duty.
Sure I shall never marry, like my sisters, to love my father all.
Lear but goes thy heart with this?
Cordelia my good lord? Lear so young and
so untender? Cordelia so young, my lord,
and true. Lear let it be so.
Thy truth then be thy dower. For by the
sacred radiance of the sun, the mysteries of hechatate and
the night by all the operations of the orbs from whom we do exist
and cease to be here I disclaim all my paternal care
propicity and property of blood, and as a stranger
to my heart and me hold thee from this forever. The barbarous
scythian, or he that makes his generation messes to gorge
his appetite shall to my bosom be as well neighbored,
pitied and relieved as thou my sometime daughter.
Kent. Good my liege, lee your peace. Kent, come now
not between the dragon and his wrath. I love her most and thought
to set my rest on her king nursery to cordelia
hence and avoid my sight. So be my grave my
peace here as I give her father's heart from her.
Call France. Who stirs, call Burgundy. An attendant exits Cornwall in
Albany. When my two daughters dowers digest the third,
let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her. I do invest you jointly
with my power, preeminence and all the large effects. The troop with majesty,
our self, by monthly course, with reservations of 100 knights,
by you be sustained, shall our abode make with you by due turn only
we shall retain thy name and all the addition to a king, the sway,
revenue, execution of the rest beloved sons be yours,
which to confirm this coronet part
There's a lot there and I just sort of
ran through folks, we've been doing a month of Shakespeare.
This is how it goes. I put the Shakespeare voice on. You got to throw
it out there a little bit. You got to do the sort of Orson Wells,
English actor, Patrick Stewart comes to mind. You got to sort of do that kind
of thing. You got to give it a little flourish, because Shakespeare
cannot be read in merely a plain voice.
But after all of the flourishes, after all the exaggeration,
I know why teenagers struggle with
King Lear. There's a lot of complicated things
going on here and quite frankly, flattery, and this
is maybe the first thing that we get from King Lear.
Flattery will apparently get you everywhere in business, just as
it will in royalty.
Leaders to get what you want, engage in flattery, right?
Turns out the narcissism is not a modern psychological state. It's just
moved from being a private act tinned with shame,
tinned with tinned with shame, to being a shameless
public act, right? We're not shameless in our narcissism.
We put it out there. We want it to be publicly applauded.
Gonerill and Reagan at least had the good grace to
keep it private. The other thing that we get from
that big opening act where Lear is trying to divide
up his kingdom is this concept. And we toyed with it a
little bit in Hamlet, and we're going to toy with it a little bit more
in Othello. And of course, it pops up in Julius Caesar.
But Shakespeare was very much concerned, as should leaders,
about this idea of beguiling or deceiving
another person. Reagan and Gonerill
and their husbands in particular,
cornwall, he's going to prove to be a problem later on
they engage in acts of deception,
they engage in acts of beguiling. King Lear. Now, you could
say, of course, the King Lear deserved to be beguiled. He wasn't
going to listen to honest feedback from Cordelia when she said
she had nothing for him other than her mere honor
and her love and her truth to give him and
beguiling a person in power to attain the power that they have. Which is what
Gondrial and Reagan are involved in in this little clip here, right at
the beginning, the opening of King Lear. If you do
that, it's a robust short term tactic, but it's a poor
long term strategy. Unless, of course, your fundamental
philosophy is establishing a tyranny with you
the top of the hierarchy. And this
is where we open. This is where Shakespeare starts us off in
the journey in through five acts, as usual,
of King Lear, a man who is going to find out exactly
what it's like to fall off the top of a mountain.
And how many people do you meet going all the way
As I said before, we have Libby Younger here, and we were talking about
the road to Serfdom, as I mentioned previously, in episode number 43, and King
Lear ties weirdly into the road to
Serfdom. I think Hayek would appreciate us reading
this because it's not necessarily about the economics of power,
although that does sort of come into it, particularly in this first part
here with the division of property.
But there's also an element here of human nature which
Hayek touches on extensively in Serfdom, particularly in
his chapter about why the worst always get to the top.
And so let's start off with Libby here as
we open with King Lear. I guess my
first question is, Libby, why doesn't anyone read Shakespeare anymore?
I've been asking almost everybody that since
we started this little trot this month on the podcast
through the works of Shakespeare, and we'll revisit Shakespeare again. There's just
too much good stuff inside of all of his work to miss.
But why does anyone read Shakespeare anymore?
That is a very good question. I think
it simply comes down to the language is
It really is like a foreign language that you need
to be introduced to through guidance
and with teachers and education.
It's like French. I'm not going
to learn French on my I may, but it'd be a lot easier to
learn French with guidance and instruction.
The story and the lessons of King Lear have been
modernized, so we haven't necessarily lost the
lessons. You spoke of ran,
but I was thinking more even more recently of succession.
We brought up succession. Interestingly enough, we brought up succession in our
episode on Hamlet with Todd Libby.
I think Hamlet skews more towards
something like Sons of Anarchy. That's more like Hamlet but with a biker
gang, right? Which I also said on the podcast. But, yeah, you're right. King lear.
King Lear is interesting because it is succession.
And I don't think the father and I've never watched succession
on HBO. I've just seen clips and I've seen trailers floating around. I got
the general gist of kind of what the show is about, but it
is this idea of building an empire and then how
the hell do you divide it up? Because you're not
going to live forever, and at a certain point, you have
to give it away, like you have to divest yourself of your property.
And this is a real problem.
Yeah. Well, let's step back and more.
You've got the lessons of succession is teaching the
lessons of King Lear and the human nature.
The builder creates a huge fief dumb.
He wants it to continue and to thrive. And his successors
are well positioned to do that, although they didn't learn the
tricks of the trade and how to build,
and they're overconfident in their capabilities and competencies.
And what becomes of them? They let their greed
start to dictate their actions,
and ultimately they lie and cheat
in order to retain power or to hold on to the last
grasp of it. But you've got succession,
but you've got Dallas and you've got Dynasty.
Dallas in the 1980s. Right? Same thing. Same thing.
Yeah. But what's so beautiful about Shakespeare and the classics and
what you're trying to do through these podcasts is it
really demonstrates that human nature is a constant.
Right? So the same tendencies that
the powerful have had back in the 16 hundreds
are the same ones that we're having in the Tooth in 2020.
Why is it that Orwell and Anne Ran
could so accurately predict where we would
be landing as a society 80 to 100 years from
when they were living? Okay, then let me ask you this follow up question,
because this is the key crux question.
I am old enough and and you are old enough to
remember an analog time before all this digital nonsense,
right? We're both in that weird sort of middle ground generation,
right, analog than digital. And now we got to adapt, right?
a fundamental hubris that's built into digital, and we're seeing this right now
with large language models being called artificial intelligence.
And the fundamental hubris is a is a lack of being.
Not even a lack of being. It's the desire now
for every individual to never be forgotten. One of the things
that I tell folks is, and I do have this written into my
will, I want to be erased from the Internet when I'm gone.
I want to be eliminated. I don't want to show up in some deep fake
video 100 years from now.
And I think I may have said this on the podcast, but like selling Nestle,
because Nestle's pushed everything out to the edges and now they've
got to grab regular people and I'm in the background of a crowd somewhere.
Or because my voice is around everywhere. This is brought to you by
any of that right? Erase me, move me from the Internet. But the fundamental
hubris of our time is that technology has allowed us to believe
that we are King
Lear, right? That we're at the top of our own little pile,
and now we can sort of do these things. And it used to be
when we were more tragically focused
or maybe not tragically focused, we were more acknowledging of the tragic nature
of humanity, that we were like, no, there has to be boundaries
like that's for those people over there, and we still do have a lot of
that. But for us over here, there's something
different, and we can look at it. Right. Like, I think
of this is now the second
time these people have made it on the podcast, but okay, Harry and Megan,
the Markle twins over there, those two people.
And, yeah, if you all find me, you ran, come sue me.
It's fine, whatever. Good luck.
But the dynamic there of,
oh, well, that's those people over there doing that thing, but I'm living over
here doing this thing, has sort of become wrapped up with this narcissistic
hubris. That's why I opened up with narcissism, this narcissistic hubris, because of technology.
Like, if I can build my own reality on Facebook, then why
shouldn't I be King Lear? The digital age I've
shared this with a lot of folks over the years is
that it's distance perception from reality.
So we have the perception that we're more important
than we are, either good or bad.
There's this perception that we're
bigger and more powerful than we are. And Oprah
used to talk about this, which is whenever
you're trying to analyze someone's behavior, recognize that we
all just want to be seen. And the digital feat,
it used to be that we were seen in our local communities,
right? Yeah, exactly. At grade school, in the schoolyard,
or at church or in girl
scouts or cub Scouts. And we got rapid feedback,
but it was real and untinged. So it wasn't
this narcissistic like like, that was ephemeral.
You could feel it in your soul. You could feel it viscerally,
and you knew the person, so you actually would have to face them day
in and day out. On the digital world, the feedback we're getting is from anonymous
folks. And if you say something negative,
there's no consequences for your action, because you don't have to be with them
or be with them or interact with them
in a real human way anymore. But there's this perception that if I
say something true, it is.
And we're completely being divorced from reality as
it is in this digital world. The narcissism,
I think it is actually fueled economically as well.
Yeah. You and I both touch the VC
and tech space where all these folks are
being given free money. Free money. Free money. They can blow up
their companies, and they're given another job
doing the same thing six months from then.
They aren't actually having to deliver anything other than growth.
They're not thinking about sustainability and delivering a viable
business. It's just, look at me, look at me. I'm raising money.
I'm building something big. But they're not thinking about the bigger picture.
Who am I building it for? Right? It's more
about, look at me, I'm important. Like Forbes 30
under 30 throw up.
You know, squat in your twenty S.
I talked about this on on the Shorts episode that
came out this Tuesday, right ahead of the Shorts episode, number 75.
You go back and listen to this, but it is this idea, and it's
also wrapped up with what you're saying of and
I keep going back to this over and over again because I'm working on something
here, philosophically and rhetorically out loud with folks.
It's this idea of the adults in the room.
So I look at lists like 30 under 30,
40 under 40, for God's sakes. I just got an email the
other day, could we interview you about being 50 under 50?
And I went and I immediately
deleted it. What are we doing? Right? So there was
a dynamic in our culture, and I said this on our Shorts episode. I think
it's lear repeating. There was a dynamic where
you would never trust anyone no, not never trust you would
never give power to any right. You never trust anyone over 30. But that
was also intention against the dynamic in
the post World War II era of don't you dare give anybody any
power who's under 40 because they can't handle it.
Because there was something going to get tragic right about that. And we
see this in Reagan and gonerill in King Lear.
Right. Yes. All the Shakespeare parts are played by young men.
Young boys, usually 16 to 19. Yes, okay, got it.
And yes, they would have been a 16 year old boy playing Reagan and a
six Lear old boy playing Gonorrhill. Okay, got it. Yeah, I'm aware of all
that in the Globe Theater and in the Elizabethan
Theater age. Right. I'm aware of all this. My point is the
people as characters are
young and arrogant. They're under 40. They're not
behaving with wisdom. Right? That's the whole setup for Lear.
It's the whole set up for succession. It's the
whole set up for another show that's very popular, which is
shocking to me. My wife and I watched, I think, the first two
episodes of the first season, and then my wife is like, these are bad people.
I don't need to have these people in my house. So we never went back
to it again. But Yellowstone a show that has just blown
up, but it's basically King Lear with
Costner at the top of the hierarchy. Right?
There's a couple of threads in here that I think are important, and I think
there is always a really good tension between the young and
the young and the old. And I think it's
an important tension. But this is why it's
so important to understand history, to understand your
own behaviors and your own tendencies, so that you
are able to put a check on yourself.
One is this concept around humility 99
billion people have walked the planet. Why do you think your name is going
to stand out in history? Right?
But when you're always moving, when you're not reflecting,
when you're not stepping back to assess the environment and
to assess what's happening in context of a greater history,
you will have the inclination to let your ego self lead.
And your ego self is about me, me, status,
status, status. And there are some benefits from
a heavy ego, from a survival perspective.
But in the world that we live in now, it can be very self destructive
and destructive to others. And in this digital world
where we all get these rapid feedbacks, positive or negative,
in the digital world, we do feel a lot more important than we
actually are. And I had this
there's two things that are stand out thoughts
that have occurred to me and been important through my evolution
as a human. And the first is remembering a statement that
my stepmother said to me young when I was
young. She said, in my twenty s I thought I knew it all. In my
thirty s I realized I didn't, but I thought I could. And in my forty
s and thereafter I realized that I would never know at all.
So it's so freeing to recognize how little you
actually know and how much you have to discover about
life. Now, that can be scary if you live in a fear based,
control need environment, or it can be extremely fringe if
you recognize that there's only room to grow.
The second was after my own CEO stint
and I got caught up in even
though I had always viewed myself as a servant lear I
had started to move into this more narcissistic world,
which is easy when you live in the Bay Area and everyone around you is,
what are you doing? You're getting funding, you're working for VC. I'm building
the next big company. And it can be
overly consuming where you define yourself by
your title and your role and not who you are.
And when I moved
on from that, I started asking myself,
what is my legacy? And I'll go back to Oprah again.
I really miss Oprah. And she was talking about
how Maya Angelou how she had told Maya Angelou
that this school that she's building in South Africa was going to be her legacy.
And Maya said, you don't know what your legacy will be. And I
always thought, Oprah, your legacy is everyone who watches you.
You taught me about Michael Singer and
Eckert Tolley and all these other amazing things. Your destiny
legacy are the small moments. And honestly,
over the last five years, it is the small moments that
make a difference. It's the small moments that have a ripple and butterfly
effect through life, in people's lives. How you treat
someone when you're in the grocery line and they're having a bad day
could completely shift their day. And the knock on
effects that they have, impact they have on others. So the humility
isn't actually realizing how small you are,
but how much power you have in the small moments versus
the big ones. And that's a good reminder for folks
with ambition, leaders with ambition.
Ambition is a well,
I'm going to paraphrase from base camp here. They're talking about VC.
Ambition is a hell of a drug.
And it's not necessarily a bad thing, but checking
your intentions. And that's the important thing, is your intentions.
And this is where we always see those executives before
they were executives. They're like, I'm going to spend all my time
helping develop talent and making sure everyone gets paid
right and gets opportunities. And then once they're in their role, they are looking up
to the next thing and they've forgotten who's behind them. So ambition about
building big businesses. Why? Because you have a great product for your customer.
You're providing jobs in a great place, jobs so
people can put food on their family's table. It's all about the intention
behind the ambition. What we have today,
and this is where the fourth Turning, I think, plays a big
picture. What we're seeing in King Lear,
too, is that people
aren't building or creating and what
they're chasing becomes smaller and so they become
more vigilant. If they're defining themselves
by their position and their power, then they're going
to start and that's all that matters. And that's when the tyrannical
and authoritarian traits start to come back, come into
play. Yeah, well, because.
Step aside. Well, not only that, but you're
constantly mounting a you're mounting a
defilade, rear focused defense
on an incredibly tiny slice of
an incredibly shrinking fat head.
And when you're mounting that rear facing defense,
you're so afraid of the future that you can't
let go. And so now you're trapped, right, because your
hands are full of the thing you have now.
And and I'm kind of a little bit in this moment now and so I'm
kind of talking to myself a little bit. You're kind of in a little bit
in this moment right now with some things, but you're so holding on so hard
to think you've got now, but you have to let it go
to grab onto something else.
I think of Grappling. I think of Jiu. Jitsu. Right. I always going to bring
a jujitsu at least once, a podcast, and this is going to be the moment.
But in Jiu Jitsu, if you're in a bad position and
this is one of the lessons like I've had to learn and it's really hard
to learn. Like when you first start, when you're a white belt and it
sucks and you're getting crushed all the time,
you want to just hold on for your life. It's like a roller coaster ride.
Like, yeah, I got this one hand in here. I'm holding on. I'm never letting
go. Right. But the reality is you have to
let go. You have to have the bravery, the courage to let go of
that position, to find something else because you
only have two hands. That's it. That's all you got. It's the concept of what
you resist, persists. Correct. Right. And if you
just step back and let go and
have trust that the good things will follow,
it's amazing what will happen. It's a scarcity mindset
and a fixed state mindset that puts you into a
tyrannical and authoritarian kind of world.
And we see this with Lear in his behavior.
Now, there's always usually a check on that.
And I want to talk about the blindness
of hierarchies because when
well, when Lear is challenged
a little bit in his decision making,
he doesn't really like that. And he kind of
sort of pulls the old
card of the old card, but he pulls the card of, I'm in
charge. I get to make this decision and I get to decide
what happens with my lands and how it's going to go.
And there's a check in the court
there and that check is as it is in our
own society and culture. And I think this was something important that Shakespeare
picked up on the check. Was the comedian or the fool.
Right. The fool. Right. Fool is
critically important psychologically. Fool is also important for
leaders. And it's important in order
to wake up those who are at the top of the hierarchy with
the all seeing eye to the fact that they might not be seeing
all the things that they think they're seeing. And so let's
start with the blindness of hierarchy. Let's go back to King Lear a
little bit. Let's open up with act one, scene four.
And this is where King Lear is
talking to the fool. And the fool is fool's
poking him a little bit in his court,
which is, by the way, the fool's job. By the way, the modern fool is
Dave Chappelle. That's the modern fool. Or Chris Rock.
Right. You keep your hands off the fool. Will Smith.
He has a right to Joe Rogan. Or Joe Rogan.
That's right. He has a right to be in the court.
You need him there.
Act one, seed four of King Lear. Enter, fool. Fool. Let me
hire him, too. To Kent. Here's my coxcomb. He offers Kent
his cap. Lear cow. Now, my pretty Dave.
How dosted thou, fool? To Kent. Sarah your
best bet. Take my cox comb. Lear why, my boy?
Fool? Why? For taking one's part that's out of favor to
Kent. Nay, and thou canst not smile as the. Wind.
Sits thou little to catch a cold shortly. Here. There, take my
coxcomb. Why, this fellow has banished two sons and daughters and
did the third. A blessing against his will. If thou follow him, thou must knees.
Lear my coxcomb. How now, ran uncle. Would I had two coxcombs
and two daughters. Lear why, my boy.
Fool if I gave them all my living, I'd keep my coxcombs
myself. There's mine. Beg another of thy daughters.
Lear take heed, akira the whip. Fool truce.
A dog musta kennel. He must be whipped out when the lady brock
may stand by the fire and stink. Lear a pestilent gall
to me. Fool. Sarah I'll teach thee a speech.
Lear do, fool. Market, uncle. Have more
than thou ShoWest speak less than thou
knowest, lend less than thou owest ride
more than thou goest learn more than thou
trowst that less than thou throwst.
Leave thy drink and thy whore and keep in a door and
thou shalt have more than two tens to
a score. Kent this is nothing,
fool. Fool Vintis, like the breath of an unfettered lawyer.
You gave me nothing for it. You make no use of nothing, uncle.
Lear why, no, boy. Nothing can be made out of nothing. Fool to can't
tell him so much the rent of his land comes to, he will not believe
Lear a bitter fool. Fool DOST
thou know the difference, my boy, between a bitter fool and a sweet one?
Lear no, lad. Teach me. Fool that lord that counsel
thee to give away thy land complace him here by
me. Do thou for him to stand. The sweet
and bitter fool will presently appear. The one in motley
here, the other found out there.
Lear DOST thou call me a fool,
boy? Fool all other titles thou
hast given away that thou was born with.
Kent this is not altogether fool, my lord. Fool no,
faith, lords and great men will not let me. If I had a monopoly
out there, they would have part on it, and ladies, too. They will not have
me. They will not let me have all the fool to myself. They'll be
snatching. Uncle, give me an egg, and I'll give thee two crowns.
Lear what two crowns shall they be?
Fool why, after I have cut the egg in the middle eat up the meat,
the two crowns of an egg. When thou clovest thy crown in the
middle and gaveest away both parts thou bourse thine ass on thy
back or the dirt thou hast little wit in thy bald crown
when thou gayest. The golden one, away. If I speak like myself in this,
let him be whipped that first finds it. Fools hath never less
grace in a year for wise men are grown foppish and know not how
their wits to wear their manners are so epish.
Lear when were you want to be full
of sons? Sarah fool, I have used an uncle ever since
thou mast thy daughters, thy mothers. For when thou gavest
him the rod and puttest down thine own breeches he Sings
then they for sudden joy did weep and I for sorrow sung that
such a king should play Bo Peep and go the fools among rithy
nuncle, keep a schoolmaster that could teach thy fool to lie.
I would fain to learn to lie.
Lear and you lie. Sarah will have you whipped.
Fool. I marvel what king thou and thy daughters
are. They'll have me whipped for speaking true. They'll have
me whipped for lying. And sometimes I am whipped for holding peace.
I'd rather be any kind of king other than a fool. And yet
I would not be thee, uncle. Thou hast pard thy wit on
both sides and left nothing in the middle.
Here comes one of the pairings. Enter.
Gonerill. Lear hey, now,
my daughter, what makes that frontland on me? Thinks you are too much
late in thy frown,
fool. That was a pretty fellow without hast no need to care for her
frowning. Now thou art without a figure. I am better than thou art.
Now I am a fool. Thou art nothing to Gorill. Yes,
for sooth I will hold my tongue. See, your face bids me,
though you say nothing. Mum, mum. Neither keeps, nor crust,
nor crumb, weary of all, shall want some.
He points at lear. That's a
shell. Peace. God not only serves
this you're all licensed fool,
but other of your insolent retinue do hourly carpet
quarrel, breaking forth in rank and not to be endured riots.
Sir. I had thought by making this well known unto you to have found a
safe redress but now grow fearful by what yourself who
late have spoken and done that you protect this course
and put it on by. Your allowance, which if you should the fault would not
escape censure nor the redress sleep which in the tender of a wholesome wheel might
in their working do you that offense which else were
shame that then necessity will call discreet proceeding.
Fool. For you know, nuncle, the hedge sparrow feed the cuckoo
so long that it's had its head bit off by it.
Young so without the candle, and we
were left darkling.
Now, granted, there's a lot there.
It took me a couple of readings of that to kind of grab what the
fool was doing. But there's a couple of things there.
Well, the biggest thing, I think if
you look at act one,
the biggest thing there is this idea.
And you get it with Lear first,
but then with Glauster later of blindness.
And the fool is trying to point out something because the
fool is the one who can see, the fool is the
one who can observe. The fool is the one who
can well successfully
point out when the king has no
The Earl Gloucester loses his eye in act three, scene seven. You may
want to go back and take a look at that. We're not going to read
the whole play today, as usual. And I always say that the Fogo Shakespeare
Library is a great library version of Shakespeare is a great version to pick
up. And of course, we cannot read the whole play, so we're dipping in it
out. We're making our points, but go back and read it. The earl loses his
eye in act three, scene seven, which put me in mind as I
was reading also what the fool was talking about here
and trying to get in Lear to open up both of his eyes.
I was put in mind of the blind Oedipus at Colonus
by Sophocles. And in that play,
one of my personal favorites, part of the triumvirant of
Sophocles plays about Oedipus, the man who killed his own
father and, well, married his own mother and forgot
the riddle of the Sphinx. Oedipus at Colonus,
when he's blind, he asks the chorus, men of Colonus,
how was I innately evil? Or other translations,
men of Colonus, how was I evil?
Lear, in his interactions with the fool, actually doesn't understand
how he's evil. He doesn't understand how he's missing it.
He doesn't see what the fool sees. He's beginning
the psychological blindness that will eventually wind up in physical
blindness at the end of the play.
There's also something here about the Western eye that is
very important for us to point out, for me to point out to you and
for us to note as leaders. If you look through Western literature,
the eye is dominant, particularly in Western art forms,
almost all Western art forms going back to Egypt, but really hyper dominant
in Western literature. So it's not just a blind Oedipus at Colonus or
the all seeing eye in an Egyptian hieroglyphic.
It's also that the top of Sauron's tower in Lord of the Rings,
there's an all seeing eye. And, of course, in the myth
of Osiris, the god is depicted as a disembodied eye.
And, of course, the Western view of art, we always say
that we are affixing a piece of art with our gaze.
There's something fundamental here in the west. It's not in
the east. And King Lear Shakespeare is grabbing
onto this, right? He's grabbing onto
this idea that Cole calculating and
scientific realism represented by a guy
like Edmund, and we'll talk a little bit about Edmund later on.
It's not seeing enough.
And that Lear's ultimate sin might
be that he didn't recognize that the higher up
you go in a hierarchy, the blinder and more fragile
A lot of different threads and thoughts in that.
But let me close with this. I got to
admit, and I'm going to go on record about this, and I've never gone on
record about this before on the podcast, so this will be a first. I don't
know why I feel compelled to go on record about this now, but I do.
So I'm going to go with it. It I'm not gigantically
worried about one world government.
Don't get me wrong. Guys like Klaus Schwab and the
World Economic Forum the people who believe they are the masters
of the universe, the people who are in governmental
bureaucracies behaving with corporations in a fascistic manner all
over the globe manipulating currencies and
doing things in the dark that should not be spoken of in the light.
Don't get me wrong. Those are folks to pay attention to and
those are things to be worried about. I'm not naive nor am I
stupid to those dangers and they should be battled at every step of the
way. But I don't think
it's going to work because the
eye becomes blind the higher up the tower
it goes. How exactly
are you going to control 9 billion people?
Actually I have even more important question than that.
If you can't even control a nation state of 2 million or
a locality of 50,000 or
a tribe of 500,
when you go to scale the arrogance and hubris that you will
be able to control whether through electronic, economic or
psychological means falls apart. This is why
I'm not worried about one world government and don't get me wrong I used to
be very worried about it and now not so much because
of the fragility of that all seeing eye.
Anyway, leaders what
can leaders take from this? How do leaders keep their sight Libby? How do
they how do they maintain vision?
And by the way, what's the role and a sub question what's the
role of the fool in the court of the CEO
these days? Particularly when we're all doing de and I and
trying to sanitize everything?
Yeah, these are all really good questions.
I'm inclined to speak to somewhat to
what you went on record about and you
got to know what's out there and what's a possibility. But I
do have broader faith in in the people and all
empires fall for the same reasons and it's because
they believe they've become too removed from
the the individuals. They've become too removed from
where they came from.
I find that the CEOs who actually walk
the halls and talk to the common man are much more
in tune to are going to build
better enduring companies than
those who come in and believe they know it all.
I have a good example of that. I won't go into it.
But one company the CEO shortly
did three years after he took office he was
kicked out due to an internal scandal and the other built
a business that grew and grew and grew above market
rates. So never lose
touch with the common man and never forget where you
came from. One of the things that I wrote down when preparing
for this is again those executives
who once they're in executive positions tell you that title doesn't
matter. They're never willing to give
it up right.
And to remember where you came from,
to always challenge your assumptions and
your intentions. It's really important. What is
my intention in making this decision and making this move?
Am I working for me or am I working for we
and creating that mindset around a servant leadership
where you're actually helping build conditions for everyone to
thrive versus conditions for me to survive.
Right? But all empires fall
when you don't have truth tellers at the table.
The fool was the obvious one. But there is one theme that
is really powerful, is that the good hide themselves.
They put on disguises. Kent and Edgar
both disguise themselves in order to try
to save the king from himself,
or Edgar tries to save Glauster from
himself. Both were willing to forgive and
move on. Edgar, his father. In his
final moments, Edgar forgives his father for turning
against him for a lie that he had believed was true.
So good oys prevails even those
who appear to have bad intentions, like Albany,
he ultimately ends up doing the right thing. He checked himself.
So even if you find yourself doing the wrong thing
in a moment, be vigilant
about doing a ruthless inventory of yourself and
catch yourself and change. And that's what Albany
did well in. Edmunds, a really interesting case
study, too, because I kind of circled
it and I wasn't quite sure we were going to cover it because it's not
covered in any of the sections that were multiply minorly touched on in any of
the sections we're going to read today. But Edmund is a critical character because Edmund
pushes the narrative forward through his actions and through
his deceit. And there's a great line
we're going to cover Othello coming up here very soon on the podcast, but there's
a great line in Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion,
where she says where she writes through
one of her characters voices in that novel. People often
ask, what makes yago evil? I don't ask anymore.
And that's a really interesting that's worthy
of pulling apart in the context of Othello. But in
reading King Lear, people will ask, what makes Ed medieval? And I
don't ask that, not after looking around in our
time. We don't talk about illegitimacy
in the kinds of ways that it was framed in King Lear.
And that would read to our modern years as just
being ridiculous and an anachronism. Right. Who cares if he's a
bastard child? Who cares if he's illegitimate? But that
actually means something. And this is something fundamental to like,
again, it's something fundamental to reality, the things that we're talking about today,
right? Things that are fundamental to human nature.
It's interesting, this Sunday you talk about going to church this Sunday in my church,
one of the pastors was talking about how we pay it.
God pays attention if you read the Bible carefully.
God pays attention to the
widows and the fatherless, right? And the foreigners, the sojourners,
right. The people that in our modern society,
based on our smartphones and our digital access, we don't pay attention to.
Right. Or if we do, we try to throw money at the problem and then
run away. Right. And he says that if
we want to behave like Christians, basically this is his point. We need to be
paying attention to things that God pays attention to and ignoring the things that God
ignores. Okay. And by the way, Jesus also in the New
Testament. Throughout the New Testament, right. Helping widows,
helping orphans, helping the fatherless chastising the
rich, particularly the rich young ruler. The story of the rich young ruler who
couldn't give away everything and follow him. Talk about the CEO
who couldn't give up his title. Right.
There's a thread through Western thought here, right.
And it runs through Edmund as well. And it's this
idea that if you don't pay attention,
this is part of that blindness to the fatherless in
particular, you are
sowing the seeds of your own destruction. Yeah,
I actually kind of see this a different way and
can make it a modern analogy. Going back
to what Oprah said about the fact that we all want to be seen.
Yeah. Edmund wasn't seen.
Now, he wasn't seen during that time by his father because he was illegitimate,
but it could have been he was the youngest child, and his father just didn't
spend time with him either. Right. And because he wasn't
seen, he had two choices to make. One was
to seek revenge on that who did not see him,
and the other was to go and live a fruitful life
and create opportunities for himself. The same
is, like, gone. Auroral versus Cordelia.
Gonerrell has a choice to either.
She decides to act out of fear and she
says this to her husband, is, I would rather be wrong acting
out of fear than to be wrong acting out of trust.
So she chose to turn against
her father because she anticipated how he would
behave, whereas Cordelia chose to do the right thing
for her and lived to her true values and lived a
good life. She wasn't
seen, and she chose a good path,
and Edmund wasn't seen, and he chose
a vengeful path.
Ultimately, it's about recognizing
human nature, and everyone has two choice points.
You can play a victim and seek revenge, or you
can say, I own my destiny and I'm going to create
a life for myself. Okay. So I'm going to push back a little
bit on that from the opposite end. A little bit. Okay.
Yeah, great. I don't want to be a
sucker. Well, if I'm 20
and I've grown up in this world and I
share the same things as youth from other times, it's not any different.
I distrust my elders. I can fix everything.
I can't even make my own bed, but I can fix the world.
I can get riled up about the injustices of the world.
Whatever the activist du jour ideology of the moment is,
I can go and run to that because that's the great adventure, right?
Because I want to have a great adventure because I'm 20. I want to have
a great adventure. Right. Everybody at 20 wants to have a great adventure. You're no
different than any other 20 year old, but okay, you think you are because you
have a mobile phone. Cool. All right. So you're going to go off and have
your great adventure. But in the process of having that great
adventure, I'm also because I've been exposed to all of this
stuff, I have a deep well of cynicism, a deep
well of cynicism inside of me. And so I don't want to be a sucker.
So there's this tension, right. I don't want to be taken advantage of.
Right. And you talked about it's interesting. You talked about how in the past
you got rapid, real feedback, right? Because the gaps between
distance, perception and reality were closed, were tighter.
Maybe now the distance between perception and reality
is more broad. Right. And the feedback
is not rapid, and it's very much not bona fide,
as they would say down here where I live, bona fide.
It ain't the real thing. And so now I'm operating in this well of
just nonsense, right? And I'm 20, and fundamentally,
at the end of the day, I want to have hope. I want to have
a great adventure, and I don't want to be a sucker.
Well, so this is where not
gone. Real, but cordelia doesn't read well to me.
I'm either going to be gone real or I'm going to be Edmund. I'm going
to pick one of those two. That's really interesting.
I would be cordelia. Okay.
Right. And I just know that about who I am because I have to live
with myself. Right? Well, and that idea of living with
yourself so you have to be willing. To walk away,
right? Right. I wonder if it's easier to be Cordelia when
you're 40 than it is to be Cordelia when you're 20.
I don't know.
I have an analogy that I use from third
grade. I'm friends with everyone, and I belong
to nothing. I actually really love learning
from all types of people. I belong to all different types of group, but I
don't identify myself as a group. Sure.
And one of the reasons I remember when I was in third
grade and I was part of the cool
club, friends with one of the Broncos
kids, and we were really cool,
and everyone wanted to hang out with us. And I
bullied my best friend from two years old
because she wasn't cool enough. And I still feel
that ick in my body. And I
knew at that moment that belonging was never important
enough to holding true to who I am.
The ins don't justify the means.
And so this concept around you need to live with yourself
is really important. It doesn't mean that I othered the cool kids,
I was still friends with them, but I
would not bully, I would not subscribe to all of their behaviors.
But you also see what you want
to see. So if you only believe that
there's one path, like anger and activism,
or there are role models everywhere that
disprove a belief system that you have,
it requires flexibility and a willingness to go against
the grain and not by.
There's such an innate human instinct
for us to label ourselves.
Because if we label ourselves, we provide ourselves with
certainty around who we are and how we should act. And then
others are certain with how they will
respond to us and react. And one
of the things with age that is terrific is that you start
to see that there is really no one path to
happiness. And when you start trying on different hats, like one thing may fit the
other, doesn't king willing to flex
and never being certain that only one path is right.
And that's one of the challenges that I see in youth,
is that they need like, I need to go to this school because it's going
to give me the path to this. It's going to be the path to
happiness, or this job is going to be the path to happiness. But when
you look at the people who have been successful, some people who
are happy and successful did take one path, but there is
an exception to every rule. Oh, yeah. And so being
flexible, I always say I'm not someone who's going to find a wall
and stop. I'm going to find a crack,
I'm going to find a crack, I'm going to dig under it, jump over it,
find another way. But knowing who you are
and what matters to you has
got to be that inner
pool and drive.
And understanding tribal instincts is really
Like the Stanford Prison Experiment. It's really important
to say, if I were alone and
not seeking to belong, how would I act? And as part
of the tribe, how am I acting? Well, and this is the challenge.
So we read Gulag Archipelago on the podcast
last year, and we're going to revisit Gulag Archipelago
not this year, but next year. We'll revisit that because there's some other
things that we need to pull from that text that
are critical for our time. We're also going to be reading
a couple of other heavy books this year. So we're reading Eli Weisel's
Knight, and we're also going to be reading The Power of the Powerless by
Voklov Hovel. And again,
there's a thread that goes through all three of those, right? From Gulag Archipelago
through Eli Weisel, through Voklov Hovel and even Victor Frankel
man's search for meaning. Right? There's some ideas. There's an idea that goes
through this, and the idea is that,
you can be the worst tyrant you could be as a tyrant to yourself.
But you don't know that when you're 20, right? That's right.
You have no clue about that when you're 20.
And when you lock yourself up into
a tyranny that is totalizing,
thus it is a totalitarian tyranny.
Whether that is a totalitarian tyranny pursuing a job
or a life that you think other people will appreciate
and will give you status, or whether it's pursuing some form
of activism to change society even though your
own household might be a mess. Exactly.
Whatever the totalizing tyrannical thing is that
you are in the grasp of,
you're going to wind up metaphorically
behind barbed wire, you're going to wind up behind barbed
wire, you're going to wind up in a problem.
And I think what
troubles me deeply is I think leaders are missing
and have been missing for a while, although maybe they're starting to
wake up. But I think leaders have been missing the opportunity to
state this as baldly as possible at the lowest possible
level. So I think about the kinds of people listen to our podcast
and the kinds of people listen to our podcast tend to be, and I said
this before when we were doing Road to serve them, they tend to be community
leaders, right? They tend to be people who are local to the community,
local to where I live, a little bit more national, too, a little bit
more national focus, business,
government, religion, those kinds of areas, right?
People who are thinking deeply about these connections, right, in a wide variety of
different spaces, and the greatest possible spot they
have to influence people is directly where
they are at.
And yet there can be totalitarianism there.
There can be a totalizing idea there that, by the way, they may
think is good, but it
can capture them and it can ideologically possess them the same way that
Edmund was ideologically possessed. Right?
That's one point. Then my other thought there
is, and by the way, when I was a kid, I would have been more
like Cordelia, except, like, I probably would have would have
taken gone real and King out back and we were going to fix this problem
tomorrow. That's how that problem is going to get fixed,
old fashioned, fix this problem, because I don't want to hear the taste of my
name falling out your mouth, because that's how
I solved problems. I was a kid and
I was always the person who, like, if I saw somebody being bullied,
I'm going to step into that situation, even if it's not, quote,
unquote, my business, right. Because I can't abide by
that. Even if it means, and many times it did when I was a kid,
even if it means me taking a beating, that's fine, I can take a beating,
But I was raised sort of with that moral assertiveness.
I also was born with the ability to be kind of
sort of a little bit, as you can tell from the podcast.
Disagreeable. So it's okay, right? I'm okay with not being liked.
In the world that we that's important.
You need to be okay not being liked.
Right. And in the world we live in today, that's the other dynamic,
right? Where in order to
tell the truth the way Cordelia does to her father,
you have to be okay with the consequence of that.
Right. And I want leaders to
be okay with consequences, because the leaders
that are most okay with the consequences get to be the adults in the room.
And I worry we don't have enough adults in enough rooms.
Agree. What's really interesting,
I also believe that it's in
everyone's best interest to speak the truth. Right. And I tend
to use a fact based truth and not a feels based truth.
Yeah. And there are leaders
as you're climbing the ladder, there are leaders who are going to appreciate that,
and therefore, you will continue to work together because
you're only trying to get at the truth or the best solution.
And then there are going to be leaders who are threatened
by the truth. And your willingness,
like, I'm a change agent. I turn around businesses and
I transform them. I'm going to be telling you uncomfortable
truth. And if
your leader believes that it's a reflection on them
and their self worth, then they'll be threatened by it and you will be
pushed out, either implicitly
or explicitly. But what I love about Cordelia
is that she was pushed out and
it also revealed the
other truth seekers and good people for
the more material ones. So Burgundy showed his true
cards. She only got to see his
true cards because she was able to speak her truth.
And France showed his, and he loved her for her,
not for the material goods. So she's going to
then therefore live a life more aligned with
her values because she's going to attract
those who are like her and reveal those who aren't.
Yeah. Well, this is good
because we're going to turn the core. We're going to talk a little bit about
Cordelia. Yeah, we're going to talk a little about Cordelia.
So we're going to read a little bit from act one, scene one,
right after the land gets
cut up like a Thanksgiving turkey
and all of the turkeys leave the room,
by the way, we didn't want to pause for just one moment. I do
want to kind of circle back around and close the loop on this other idea.
do we get more of the fool back into the corporate boardroom?
How do we get the fool into the meeting? Because we
need those people. And again, I do genuinely worry
that in our pursuit of the good of everyone feeling comfortable,
everyone being agreeable, perhaps maybe not
comfortable with disagreeable. In the pursuit of having agreeable rooms,
we're not allowing the fool the space. To work.
And by the way, I don't mean the fool should be offensive or the fool
should be clearly like, whatever, right.
But sometimes I don't know.
You need to create the conditions. Like Ran Dalio in the way that he
leads his companies. You always have the
devil's advocate. You always have a pro versus a
con debate. It has to be rewarded.
And people observe what rewarding
looks like. So you have to invite it
to the table and reward it. And for
many leaders, you may actually need to go out and build that company.
Because right now, what we're seeing is
when everyone's compromising, you have a rapid
deceleration towards mediocrity. Same story with Anne
Ran, right? When all you want to do is be
liked and have everyone agree with you,
society is destroyed because all of our standards erode
in the name of being liked and not based
on competence or outcome. Well, and it's weird
to me how, like, you would have people who would be identified
in the past as iconoclasts in a wide variety
of different spheres, who are now part of the establishment.
And people who would never have been allowed into
the establishment, ever,
are seen as being the absolute,
just satanic living end by dominant
power structures. And I don't even have to say names.
People could figure it out. Right. This is
the cultural dynamic of the west that we are in now.
And the challenge, of course, with that is true iconoclasts
who may start off at the lowest end being fools and work their way up,
which is, again, I mentioned Dave Chappelle. I mean, I think he started off
well. No, I think I know. I've been watching that guy's career for
25 years. Like, he started off as the fool on the street
corner and now I would call him a genuine iconoclast.
It's because he and Chris Rock don't need to be liked.
Right, right, exactly right. But Chappelle
walked away from the foolery
of the corporate world because they
were asking him to be something other than he was. Correct.
That's why he still has the fool.
Well, he's got the cachet. Stern. Right. Where has Howard
Stern he's now fallen in love so much with being
revered that he can no longer see the truth.
Oh, my God. Howard Stern. Yeah. I mean, he's just a really great example.
No, that is a great example. Yeah. No, that's fabulous. Well, okay.
Or Neil Young. Or Neil Young. Yeah, there's another one.
There's another one. When you talk about and I'm
fascinated by radio and guys who do interviews. Let me
look what I'm doing now. But, I mean, I'm fascinated by all of that.
And the two probably well,
I wonder if this is fundamental to generations, too, because the baby boomer generation
in general really liked beating each other
at the game, whatever the game happened to be. So you have Howard Stern and
then on the opposite side of that. You have Rush Limbaugh, and they both liked
beating each other, beating their heads. They did.
I don't know if it's a Japanese or Chinese proverb, but when the elephants fight,
the ground gets trampled. And there was a lot of that debate over
generation, a lot of the elephants fighting. You go a couple of generations
down, though, where now we've got this idea of agreeableness being the
highest virtue, and you talk about it if you framed it
in terms of mediocrity, that's one one framing, and I would not disagree
with that framing. A larger framing may be and
buddies of mine have this discussion about sports,
right? Because the whole LeBron James versus Michael Jordan thing continues
to rage basketball. I am personally of
the belief that we will never see a Tom Brady level quarterback of the NFL
ever again. Like we just won't. Because that guy was fine
if you didn't like him, he just wanted to cut your throat out
to win. That was it. Didn't care. Oh, you don't like
me. Cool. Same thing with Michael Jordan.
If you could see behind my camera, I'm a Jordan guy,
right? He came not just to kill you, but to cut your heart out,
and he didn't care if you liked him. LeBron James cares
very much about who likes him on Twitter, and I don't understand
that. To me, that doesn't click over. And so as we've gone into this
level of agreeableness, competitiveness ambition, these things wind
up conforming to these spaces.
And this is where then you get speaking of radio, to flip back to radio
for just a second, you get all the people who would not have been allowed
through the narrow keyhole of radio are now running podcasts
because Joe Rogan they weren't going to let Joe Rogan on the radio. They never
let that guy radio never let that guy on. So just a minor observation there.
It's all about what you're striving for. And Michael
Jordan was striving for their team to be the best
team on the merits, right?
And by challenging and setting the pace and the
tone for his team, everyone else stepped up,
right? I say this a lot. I'd rather be
respected than liked. I don't really care if you like me. I want you
to respect me. Right? And too
many people care about being liked. And there's lots of fine people that I
like, but I don't respect the way that they make decisions, right?
I don't respect how they're living their lives and how they treat themselves
and others. But there can be lots of reasons for why I like someone.
And respect is a very different something very different,
yeah. Well, respect lands
in that place of I
think we see this a little bit in King Lear, but it winds up
it's that combination of merit driven by competency,
right? And I think we're missing something on competency, but it's merit.
We don't measure competency anymore. We're actually saying we don't
want to measure competency because people will feel bad.
Well, we don't even know how to define it, I don't think. Exactly. Which is
weird to me. Like, how do you not know? Okay, you don't know. Okay,
fine. But if you don't you you can't get to respect without
merit and competency and then you can't get to merit and competency without
a baseline understanding of what the parameters of a goal
are. So we're missing both the top of and this is a cultural
critique, but we're missing the top of the hierarchy in some
ways, and we're also missing the bottom of the hierarchy while the
middle gets hollowed out, which means, and I've
been saying this for a while now on the podcast. The west is approaching a
Tower of Babel or Tower of Babel moment.
And the tower can't stay up.
Everything's driven everything's driven by politics and emotion,
which means everything is unpredictable. When you're managed by the rule
of law versus the human nature, there are
at least guardrails that make it predictable
around how you win and lose. Like in business in about 2008,
people, they stopped doing performance reviews or goals.
Well, if you and now it's
hard to find like, a job description that's meaningful or understanding
how you measure success in a specific role. Well, what happens
when it isn't clear how success is
defined? You become more political and cutthroat.
And that's where the Tower of Babel happens, is politics
will always take over when you don't have clarity of objectives,
when you don't have clarity of outcomes and clarity of roles. And then, of course,
you get rule by the worst because you get people who are experts at politics.
Exactly. Everyone else drops out, moves out,
because does something different, which is fascinating.
Yeah, it's a fascinating psychological study. There's a little jog there.
I want to talk a little bit about the truth in Cordelia and
telling truth to power. Much is made
of that in our time. Back to the book, back to the
play, back to King Lear. The tragedy of King
Lear by William Shakespeare. Once again, the Folger Shakespeare
Library edition. I would encourage you to pick it up.
It's a smooth read, regardless of how I may have mangled
the Old English here, but it is a smooth read
with clearly defined stanzas.
As Libby said, it's almost like a library in
a book there. And I would also encourage you, by the way,
and this is something that's critical, I think, for understanding Shakespeare.
Shakespeare has to be absorbed in a couple of different ways. And so in
preparation for these podcasts, just a little Inside Baseball, I not only
read the Shakespeare, but then I also listen
to it for you and perform right. And there's many different performances of Shakespeare
on YouTube. You can just go find any of them. It doesn't matter. Pick one
and listen to it. While you're reading it, and it makes the thing flow,
makes the thing understandable. And then, at a third level,
I would recommend go out and find a film version that you
can of Shakespeare and watch that.
It makes it all digestible. And what
the heck, spend 799 on a DVD and
you'll be all right. All right. So back to
the play, back to Act One. We're going to go back to Scene
One a little bit later on, after, like I said,
after everything's been sort of cut up and Cordelia is speaking
to King Lear. So we're going to pick up with stanza 255.
255 to 260. Cordelia to lear. I yet beseech
your majesty if
for I want that glib and oily art to speak and purpose not
since what I well intend I'll do it to before I speak
that you make known it is no vicious, blot murder or foulness,
no unchaste action or dishonored step that hath deprived me of your grace
and favor. But even for want of that for
which I am richer, a still soliciting eye in such a tongue
that I am glad I have not. Though not to have it hath
lost me in your liking.
Lear better thou hast not been born than
not have pleased me better. France it
is, but this attireness in nature would often leaves the history unspoke. What it
intends to do. My lord of Burgundy, what say you to the lady loves
not love when it is mingled with regards that stands aloof from the entire point?
Will you have her? She is herself a dowry.
Burgundy de Lear royal king, give but that portion
which yourself proposed, and here I take Cordelia by the hand.
Duchess of Burgundy. Lear nothing.
I have sworn I am firm. Burgundy to cordelia. I am
sorry. Then you have lost. You have so lost a father,
and you must lose a husband.
Cordelia. Peace be with Burgundy. Since that respect
and fortunes are his love, I shall not be his wife.
France fairest Cordelia, that art most rich, being poor,
most choice forsaken and most love despised thee and
thy virtues here I seize upon. Be it lawful I take up what's cast
away. Gods, gods. Tis stranger, that from their
colst neglect my love should kindle to inflame respect. Thy doubloless
daughter, king, thrown to my chance, is queen of us, of ours, of our
fair France. Not all the dukes of Washless,
Burgundy can buy this unprised precious maid of me.
Bid them farewell. Cordelia thou unkind, thou losest.
Here better where to find lear
thou hast her, France. Let her be thine. For we have no such daughter,
nor shall we ever see that face of hers again.
To Cordelia. Therefore be gone without our grace, our love,
our medicine. Come, noble Burgundy.
Lorish all but France. Cordelia gonrial and
Regan, exit. France bid farewell to your sisters.
Cordelia the jewels of our father with washed eyes, cordelia leaves
you I know what you are. And like
a sister, and most loathe to call your faults as they are named
love well, our Father,
to your professed bosoms I commit him,
but yet, alas, stood I within his grace.
I would prefer him to a better place. So farewell to
you both. Reagan prescribed not us
our duty gonerill, let your study be to content your lord
who hath received you at fortune's alms. You have obedience scanted and
well or worth the want that you are wanted, that you have wanted.
Cordelia time shall unfold with plighted
cunning hides, who covers faults at last
with shame derides well may you prosper
France. Come by, Pharaoh. Cordelia france
and Cordelia exit that
little clip right there, a little piece right there of a much
larger dynamic that's occurring between France,
Regan, Cordelia, and King Lear.
It's like watching a movie clip. And the reason why I pulled that is
because Cordelia, as Libby
has already said, cordelia committed all the way to the end on her principles.
See, the truth will set you free.
Free of influence, free of pulling the levers of power,
but not free of accountability for your actions.
There are some people in the leadership development space who would say
that Cordelia should not have spoken the truth. Cordelia should have shut her mouth and
stayed in a position of power, eaten the wrap
that was delivered by Gonorl and Regan, bited her
time, and then sprung the trap.
They would say that you can't influence from the
outside and so you must be on the inside.
They would also say that Cordelia can't tell truth
to power unless she's near to
the source of power.
But Cordelia understood something that I think a lot of those folks
who would advocate for that position miss. And I think it
is something that is important in our fractured age.
No longer are we in an era of mass media and mass
audiences and mass consumers and even mass consequences.
We are now fully, firmly in the era of micro audiences,
micro consequences, and micro interactions
that, of course, have major implications, don't get me
wrong, but they are still, at the smallest, at least
to this point, possible level, which is, again, one of those reasons why I'm not
really too worried about one world government.
Folks like Cordelia don't get to just skip away into a consequenceless
future. Nor does she make everyone, as we
already mentioned, happy with her truth telling. That wasn't her job. Her job
was to understand the difference between principles and position.
And truth tellers may lose materially, but they may win spiritually.
You have to be comfortable with your past. You have to be comfortable with who
you were and what you will become.
And Libby has already mentioned this as well. But sometimes the lure of
power and influence closes people's mouths to saying the truth with
the three C's clarity, candor, and courage.
I do fundamentally believe that it is those three C's
that we need now more so than ever.
And people who are willing to accept the consequences for
speaking with clarity candor encourage whatever they may be. And by
the way, we are now in the wake
of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And clarity candor
and courage has
proven to be just as in a short supply as I always thought it was,
or at least I always suspected it was.
And so we really need to pick up this we really need to pick up
this lesson we really need to pick up this lesson about principle, the difference between
principles and positions. We nearly need to pick up this lesson from Cordelia.
And by the way, this is just a small sample. She consistently,
character wise, walks this out through King Lear all the way
to well, to the clearing at the end of
the path. As Stephen King would say, a different
Stephen King. Not the one you see on Twitter. A different Stephen King. The one
that I know, the one who wrote The Gunslinger. That guy Libby.
Much is made of telling truths to power. Much is made of
raising your fist and protesting. I'm thinking in our contemporary moment
right now of events going on in Tennessee, in the
state government in Tennessee. If you want to Google what those are,
you can. They will all be wrapped up by the time you hear this podcast.
But that is just the latest example of,
I don't know, sort of the marketing of truth
to power versus the actual telling of truth to power with actual
consequences. How can leaders separate the marketing
from the actual thing?
Because the actual thing has actual consequences. Like when I talk about
job applications, okay, there's a way to frame this.
I see a lot of job applications, a lot that say they're
gobbledygook as far as what they want you to do. But at the bottom,
in bold print, it says, our organization has determined the COVID-19 requirements
must be met. So you must have a COVID-19 shop before you can show up
to interview for this job. And I just go,
nope, I'm not looking for a job right now. But like, if I were no,
then I'm out. There's principles
and then there's the position. Do those principles
have consequences? For sure.
And I wonder how
many folks understand the difference between
these two things. So how do we tell the truth to power? How do we
keep our principles as our position?
Or maybe we don't. Maybe we just need to be position driven.
People that wave, wave around with the
wind. They just wave around
with the wind. Negotiator like, I understand the value of
positions. I'm not knocking positions. And at the end of the day,
you have to have a principle, omar from The Wire.
You have to have a code. Yeah,
I mean, if positions aren't bound by
principles, you get what we have today.
Yeah. And it's really interesting what you talk
about, what we've seen over the last three
plus years. I always
knew that politics was a lot of rhetoric in theater.
I did not realize the extent of it that was theater
and how much of it is meant to just
drive our emotions and to keep us focused on
what they want us to focus on while they move their agendas
through. It's not
courage when you're saying what everyone is saying,
even when you act like you're saying it in anger and conviction,
all I see is someone who's towing the party line.
I tend to be focused on I tend
to be an outcomes based individual.
had identified the owls versus the hummingbirds in one of
our early conversations, and I
was definitely more of a hummingbird when I
was in my twenty s and thirty s.
Now that I have been through many cycles economic,
political, familial, you can see certain trends.
And one of those on the political side is the rhetoric
doesn't ever deliver the outcomes that are promised. I don't
have to look far from the streets of Ran Francisco, and the
homeless crisis that was the top of Newsom's priority
list in 2010 has only accelerated into severity.
I don't have to look farther behind the streets of San
Francisco where we're basically conducting
assisted suicide with the drug epidemic
and the homeless epidemic. Those outcomes are not outcomes of
people who care. So after you
start to see cycles of false promises and false
prophets, you then need to start
to look for where the truth is and start to
act locally and as an individual.
George Carlin, who I never appreciated in the days he
was saying, they don't care about you, but you
don't want to get to. They being the government, they being big business.
That is true. At the end of the day,
like the power and elite is very insular and they're really focused on
continuing to advance their own positions. Whether they're aware
of it or not is another story.
But you do have the ability to act locally.
You do have the ability individually and in a decentralized
manner to live a life worth living.
And our role as leaders is to
do the right thing because it's the right thing and just
put 1ft in front of another and ignore the
noise. Let me ask you this question, which is always
the pushback on this? When I say something like this, or I do a
short episode that basically talks about the difference between principles and positions,
or I write a blog post and I've been writing blog posts about this and
books about this stuff for years now, right. The pushback I
always get is invariably, the pushback that I get
is, well, it's so hard, Hasan, to know what's right.
Give me a break. Really? Oh yeah. That's still floating
around out here. I have
the good grace not to laugh, not out
loud anyway. But it does make me
that the fact that that rolls so easily off of people's
the fact that.
They'Re mistaking positions for principles.
Right. And they're
also mistaking principles for and
don't get me wrong, they run parallel. They do run
on parallel tracks. In some cases, they intersect. But principles aren't necessarily
morals or even ethics, though they do run
on parallel tracks. Okay.
And by the way, my response to that is always well, no,
I mean, when you don't do the thing that you're supposed to do
and you know you right. Well, and you knew you
didn't do the thing you were supposed to do, there's another old school
concept I'm going to hit you with that's called sin.
And then that's what I laugh and then I walk quick,
usually leaving those people kind of just flummox and just standing there looking at me.
I don't think things are as complex no,
not things. Let me be very specific here. I do not think the decision
to do what is right is as complex as people make it out to be.
I just don't think that it is. And maybe I haven't
been in areas of enough complexity. You mentioned San Francisco and
the homeless. I think crisis is not
ran appropriate, even word to use for this. The absolute total
societal collapse of the Tenderloin district of San Francisco
is an unbelievable black eye
on a black eye of an indictment on California
in general, california in particular, and America in general.
Okay. In the coal mine. Oh, my God.
And by the way, I would not have believed it if I hadn't gone there
a few lear ago with my wife and kids and seen it, like, up close.
I would not have believed that it was that bad and have gotten worse
since then. Would not have believed it. Thought it was all rhetoric and blown out
rhetoric. Thought it was rhetoric in theater. No, it's not rhetoric in theater,
folks. It actually is that bad.
The unprincipled people understand that the system
is run by politics. That's how Gavin Newsom gets to the top, because he's unprincipled.
He understands he's got competency in that space.
I'll grant him that. Yes. Yeah.
And so the people who would be competent
at fixing the problem with principles eject out
of the system, and many of them, by the way, post COVID, pack up
their bags and go to Utah or
Florida or Tennessee or anywhere else other
than where they right and what you're left with. And we saw this most recently
in the most recent Chicago elections in 2023. Oh,
my God. Well, but who's left to vote?
And so it's going to be a self fulfilling cycle of nonsense.
Who's, at a
certain point you're
not draining a swamp anymore.
Okay, I'll frame it this way. At a certain point I
used to live in Detroit. I lived in Detroit for a few years in my
early 20s, rode the bus around Detroit,
actually, to go to my four different jobs back in the day.
And on the bus in Detroit was not to the king of heart back in
the day and then cleaned up Detroit. I mean, Detroit's gone through
some interesting things, and there's a little bit of a renaissance going on. It has
been for a few years, and that's good, by the way, for Detroit.
But in order for that renaissance to begin, Detroit had to and
there was a corrupt mayor, of course, Kwame Kilpatrick.
But there was a person in his administration who decided, we got to knock down
these buildings. We got to start somewhere.
We got to go after the slum lords who haven't
maintained the buildings. And I've allowed devil's nights and Halloween nights to just burn through
the city for the last 30 by that point, 30 freaking years,
like, we're not going to allow this anymore. One person decided that and
got the ball rolling. And, yes, Kwame Kilpatrick was corrupt in the court
was a court of a corrupt king. The man went to jail for sending text
messages to his mistress. By the way, your text messages can be subpoenaed,
folks. Keep that in mind. They are public record.
My God, how did he not know this? Anyway, also for hiring
his relatives and doing other corrupt things. Okay, cool.
But that was the beginning of the renaissance
of Detroit, because one principled person who we don't know the name of and probably
never will, was like, no, we're done.
That's the cordelia in King Lear's
court. Where's the cordelia? In San Francisco. I think a lot of people
are asking that. By the way, where is that person that's inside that just says,
you know what? You've got gubernatorial hair, and you may fire
me tomorrow, but this has to stop.
Well, this is that theme that is through King Lear
with the good people are in disguise,
like Kent goes into disguise in order to help
King Lear protect King Lear from himself. And the same
is true for Edgar, who acts as poor Tom,
right? And the nameless servant who kills Cornwall.
So these stories are of the individuals
who do the right thing,
and ultimately the
house of cards comes falling down.
That is the faith that I have in humanity.
And when you're talking about the one world order,
that's where I also hold
some faith in, is the power of the individuals
working inside. They're not the narcissists who need to be seen. They're not the
narcissists who are doing the right thing in order to be rewarded.
They're doing the right thing because it's the right thing to do.
One of the things that's beautiful about where we are in the
digital age is that all of the playbooks
by all of the corporations and all the politicians were exposed
because of the decentralized nature of the Internet and why
they want to censor the Internet so much is because it
was hard. Like they were playing Whack a Mole with the truth.
yes, we eject out. But I'm a big believer
that it's very hard to change a system from within. You have to change it
from the outside. I call it outside in transformation.
But you need to go out and build what good looks like,
and it will attract those who are like you,
those who will do the right thing because it's the right thing
exist. They're the exception. I wouldn't
say they're the exception. They're just not visible because they're not driven
by visibility. They're not driven by their ego. They're driven
by doing the right thing.
It's kind of like how many introverts do you need to overcome
an extrovert? Probably 50%
of the world is introverts. 50% are extroverts, and you need
eight introverts to overcome one extrovert. It's probably the
same with the ego driven versus the servant driven
leader. Right. And they're there. We just need to create conditions.
Like, if you've gone to Utah or central
Oregon, you're creating
a place outside of the Dystopia for
people to come to. John Gault could have done that in Atlas
Shrugs. Instead, he was keeping the good people from doing the good work. But you
could have created a place where you set the example and the
good came. You could say Florida is trying to do that.
that's one of the reasons why, like, in July,
we're going to cover the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence yet again on
this podcast. I mean, we are going to do it again because there's
no I do not
think it is rhetoric. It may have been
I think it was Ronald Reagan when Ronald Reagan said it initially.
And it might have been John F. Kennedy. I might be putting on Reagan just
for the sake of putting on Reagan, but I
do believe the United States,
for all of our flaws and black eyes and monumental problems,
is still the last, best hope for let's be grandiose the last best
hope for humanity. Because there
is a system of checks and balances that
persists in and you mentioned the rule of law. Persists in
the rule of law, which is why it's so disturbing,
the ideological capture of law schools. Right.
That's even more disturbing to me than finance. Finance is one thing.
Money okay. But the law now
we're getting into existential things here. Now we're getting into
who gets prosecuted and who doesn't.
Is there a standard for everyone regardless of
money or power? And by the way by the way,
if you want to assert that there's never been a standard, one standard for everybody,
regardless of money and power, is there at least the attempt
to get to a standard? Because there's not even the attempt.
If we are now cynically throwing the attempt out, if we're saying the
attempt was never. Real. So we're just going to jettison the whole thing.
What's that? WB. Yates the
falcon can't hear the falconer second coming, the blood
dim tide. Yeah, that's what you're welcoming because
then it's anarchy. Then it is man every it's it's a hobbesian nightmare
that we have not even begun to understand. And so
the United States is worth protecting,
the Republic is worth defending, the Constitution is worth
talking about and examining and
knowing. And for leaders,
that kind of knowledge has to undergird your work.
The mob is never right and
that's one of the foundations for the
US being a republic and not a true democracy.
Mob rules will
dictate what individuals do that they ordinarily wouldn't do.
But a monarchy isn't right either. I mean, then you wind up Louis
No, completely agree.
Total populations and groups can be virtuous,
but there can get to a place
where people stop thinking. For example, when you call
half of the country evil or deplorable versus
I do believe that every individual has the propensity for good or
bad. Right. I believe that people
can change. I don't believe that you are a fixed state
in your personality. And as long as you believe that,
and people are given the opportunity to repent and
to be good, like Albany was,
that's the foundation, having belief in humanity, and that humans
can always choose to do the right thing. Even if they haven't in the past
is what we can do to move forward and
not get into a dystopia thinking that the world
will end. Because here we are today. You have
to believe in humanity. Well, you have to have
I call it hard headed optimism. Yeah.
Pragmatic optimist. Pragmatic optimism,
that's good. I'm going to borrow that. I'm a pragmatic optimist and I
don't think there's wrong with pragmatism. I think it's
passion is fine,
but passion is like fire. It can either cook your meat or it can
burn your house down.
And passion has to be directed
exactly right. And you talk about
guardrails, we've talked midget guardrails a couple of times.
We relied for the majority of the 20th century and for a good chunk of
the 21st. And this is now, we've now started to see
this sort of fall apart. But we've relied on the people who proclaim themselves to
be leaders, to maintain those guardrails.
And when the leaders themselves are pulling up the guardrails, putting them in
the field and lighting them on fire, running away and telling us there were never
any guardrails to begin with, now we've got a problem.
And the problem is with, again, leadership,
which is why we're doing what we're. Doing here, why measurement is so
important and outcomes are so important,
equal application of the law. We can all identify
exceptions to where it wasn't, where someone like a Kennedy got
off because of who he was.
And people can see that. But there's going to be an exception
for every one of those rules as well.
But at least looking for are we trying to dial
it in to be as perfect as possible,
recognizing that there's always king to be an error, not throwing
away the entire system,
identifying where it's flawed and fixing it.
And that's what we've lost is
nuance, which is a very common phrase, but we've lost nuance,
we've lost relativity, we've lost context.
And the small things now are perceived as the
biggest things on the planet, as problems. And so measurement
is so important, knowing where you're going, how you measure success.
Instead, we're getting rid of that and we're letting emotion drive everything
and objectivity and reason are gone for
those who are currently leading the country. I'm not saying that.
No. Right. No.
I'm going to go here. Two plus two still equals four at my
local wastewater treatment plant. Yes. Because if it doesn't,
I get poop in my water.
Yeah, right. Or the bridge falls down
or my gate doesn't work,
and I don't really care about the color of
the person's skin who's doing the two plus two equals four.
Not when I want the bridge the bridge to work and not
fall or the plane to fly or
to not. Have whatever in my water. Correct. Right.
So two plus two still equals four.
Merit and competencies still matter. And what
we measure matters as much as what is
being measured. Exactly.
And how we measure matters as much as what
is being measured. Let's turn our
corner. We're wrapping up here. We spend a little bit of time with Libby,
and I want to once again thank her for coming on the podcast. Always invigorating
Libby unger. So let's turn the corner a
little bit here. Let's talk about the failure of the appalonian.
Let's talk about the failure of the eye and then the Dionosian lurking
in the basement. Let's talk a little bit about Edmund the
Back to the tragedy of King Lear. Act one.
Scene two. We're going to do a few stanzas here and there.
We're going to kind of jump around a little bit because I want to get
the words of Edmund out there. Want to give us a little bit
of a brief look at this fellow?
King Lear, act one, scene two. Enter.
Edmond the bastard. Edmund thou nature art
my goddess, to thy law my services are bound.
Wherefore should I stand in the plague of custom and permit the curiosity of nations
to deprive me for that I am some twelve or 14 moonshine's
lag of a brother. Why Bastard? Why wherefore base
when my dimensions are as well compact, my mind is generous,
and my shape as true as honest madam's issue?
Why brand they us with base with bastist bastardy
base, who in the lusty stealth of nature take more
composition and fierce quality than doth within a dull,
stale, tired bed go to the creating a whole tribe
of fops got Queen asleep and wait.
Well then, legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.
Our father's love is to the bastard. Edmund as to
the legitimate fine word, legitimate. Well, my legitimate,
if this letter speed and my invention thrive,
edmund the base shall pop the legitimate. I grow, I prosper.
Now gods, stand up for bastards.
Then Gloucester comes in, speaks to Edmund.
He exits. End of act one,
scene two. Edmund. This is the excellent foppery
of the world. That when we are sick and fortune often the surface
of our own behavior, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon
and the stars as if we were villains
on necessity fools by heavenly compulsion knaves, thieves and
treachers by spherical predominance druckerns, liars and adulterers
by enforced obedience of planetary influence and all that
we are evil in by a divine thrusting on an
admirable evasion of poor master man to lay his gauchish disposition on
the charge of a star. My father compounded with my mother
under the dragon's tail and my nativity was under Ursa Major so that
it follows I am rough and lecherous I should have
been, that I am had the maidenliest
star and the firmament twinkled on my bastardizing Edgar.
Then enter Edgar and Pat he comes like the
catastrophe of the old comedy. My cue is villainous melancholy with
a sigh like taboo bedland. Oh, these eclipses
do portend these divisions FA sola me.
He's going to talk with Edgar a little bit. He's going
to chat him up.
And then we're going to leapfrog a little bit over here to
act two. And we're going
to go to scene three in act two.
And we're going to
juxtapose Edmund's complaint with
probably the most famous soliloquy in
edgar's Song. Edgar act
in scene three, act Two. Edgar I heard myself
proclaimed and by the happy hollow of a tree escaped the hunt.
No port is free, no place that guard and most unusual vigilance
does not attend my taking. Whilst I may escape, I will preserve
myself and am be thought to take the bassist and most porous shape
that ever pernery and contempt of man brought near to
beast my face I'll grime with filth blanket my loins
elf all my hairs and knots and with presented nakedness
outface the winds and persecutions of the sky. The country
gives me proof and precedent of bedlam beggars who with
roaring voices strike in their numbered and mortified arms,
pins, wooden pricks, nails, springs of rosemary.
And with this horrible object from low farms, poor pelting,
villagers, SHEEPCOATS and mills,
sometime with lunatic bands, sometime with prayers and force
their charity. Poor turtley. God.
Poor tom. That's something yet. Edgar I
nothing. Am. And he goes
to repair himself to
potentially save the King.
Edgar and Edmund are two sides and
we've touched on it, we've touched on it, touched on. Now we're going to address
it directly. They're two sides of the Western idea.
Edmund, of course, is a bastard.
Back when illegitimacy actually meant something,
actually meant quite a lot. And I still do believe it matters quite a lot.
But we've moved it from the material level to even well, to the spiritual level,
even though there are material consequences for Illegitimacy that we can
see in any and all of our major cities. And then
we have Edgar. Edgar, who is willing to fall on his sword,
not only speak to truth, to power, but also take action in that truth
to engage with the
Dionysian forces that Edmund and even in his cold
rationality represents. Edmund represents
the rational Dionysian. He represents rational,
decadence. I hate you and
I seek revenge. There's many characters like this in Shakespeare.
I would argue that Hamlet's uncle in
Hamlet is this character. I would argue that Iago
in Othello is this character.
I would even argue that a couple of the characters in Taming of the Shrew
are these characters as well. Shakespeare plays with this psychological
idea in the pursuit of fiction, in the pursuit of literature. He plays
with this idea of the Dionysian as being rational,
but also being decadent, driven by these decadent emotions. We talked
a lot about emotion on this podcast, but driven by decadent emotions,
driven to pursue what is in, quote, unquote,
their nature. And then, by the way, in a world before, a good 300 years
before there was any psychological language, shakespeare understood
that the drivers of these psychological
behaviors were murky and cathonian,
and they lived all the way down deep in the dark heart of
man. Jeremiah 79. The heart is deceitful
above all else. Who could know it right now?
There's two other folks in here. We've talked about Cordelia, but we haven't
really addressed Reagan and Gone a real. And they
have female agency and something that Shakespeare
gets knocked very often for, how he portrays
his women, either as being too shrewish
that's the feminist critique against Taming of the Shrew, Catherine,
in Taming of the Shrew. But then you also get the feminist
critique against Cordelia. The feminists somehow miss that
Reagan and Gonrial drive much of the narrative
of King Lear. They are women in power. They are women
who are, in the parlance of our time, to be believed,
believe all women. I'm old enough to remember when that was a thing.
I'm also old enough to remember when Supreme
Court nominees couldn't define what a woman was.
Okay, all right.
Once again, evidence of the Dionysian, right?
If the Apollonian fails, this is the lesson for leaders.
If the eye of cold
rationality fails, the Dionysian always lurks
in the basement. There's always cathonian,
Mother Nature, darker things, earthier things,
uglier things to fall back into. And,
of course, this is what we build up against,
right? Edmund in
his seemingly Apollonian nature because by his words, he rejects
all of that Dionysian nonsense. The stars get the heck out of town.
I'm not driven by the stars. I'm driven by rationality. I'm rationally pursuing revenge.
But he was manipulated by female nature
without even being aware of it.
Cornwall, on the other hand, we haven't really touched on Cornwall
too much, but Cornwall was aware of the manipulation and he went along with it
anyway. He's like, no, this works for me. I'm going to do this until the
rail, until the wheels fall off. And they fell off pretty
And then Edgar Edgar's song,
edgar's Soliloquy song, such as it were, acts as
an anchor for the child. Roll into the dark Tower came by Robert
Browning, whose great first line of that poem is my
first thought was, he lied in every word.
Love that line.
There's a lot between Edmund and Edgar and Reagan and
Gonorrhill, but again, they represent the Apollonian and the Dionysian.
They represent the pull of villainy.
And we've talked a lot about that on this podcast because King Lear almost engenders
it. But the pull of villainy, right? In a time
of chaos, a time of venal appetites
and pursuits, a time of decadence when
everything's really falling apart,
how do we lose we've kind of maybe talked a little bit about this
already, Louie, but how can leaders address that chaos and
that villainy without losing their ethics?
Pragmatic optimism? Maybe that's the way.
Or lamenting even the reality of people.
How do you maintain hope? How do you stay a happy warrior?
Yeah, I think we've touched a lot on
this. I always come to come back
to the concept of that we all have good and bad in
us, and I look for the exceptions with
the good and creating conditions for the good to come
out versus focusing on the bad.
This also is about I mentioned change
comes from outside in versus inside out.
And that means you need to be willing to walk away.
You need to be willing to walk alone.
And none of this is said to be easy.
No. Right. I'm not trying to say, oh, you just walk away in the world.
That creates a fine place for yourself. But you need
to be able to walk away to stay clear, to stay true to
who you are. And you will attract
others like you to set the stage
for what good looks like.
I like that. I wrote that down. Build what good looks like.
I love that. And this
also comes from the concept of servant leadership, too.
It didn't occur to me until this year that
I no longer hear we I no longer hear
what we can do together. When talking to employees
about how they can contribute to a company or
even companies talking to employees, it's all about, what are you going
to do for me? Tell me what you did. What you did, I did.
And nothing is
accomplished with an eye.
And the concept of servant leadership is
it would almost be frowned upon to talk about
in today's corporate environment
where you're actually serving others because by
nature of being a servant, you're not in power. But I
look at the concept of all tides rise, a rising
tide raises all ships. If I'm helping you
to become the best version of yourself, whether you're someone who works for
me, whether you're a peer, or whether you're a board member,
investor, whomever, my goal is to
unleash your potential.
And in doing so, I also unleash my own because I
learn, I create more opportunity for myself.
Yada, yada, yada. But at the end of the day,
where's this concept about creating conditions for all to
thrive? And where is
the we and not the we as a tribe,
but we as a team, we as an organization,
we as ran ecosystem? How are we all working together
to help diverse individuals with diverse needs and
I think we're at the end of division. And maybe I'm only speaking
from my point of view here,
my end of the telescope from what I'm seeing in my local community.
But I do think that we
collectively have hit the end of the cycle of
the eye. Now, don't get me wrong. It's ascended so high
that it's going to take the message has gone up so high, it's going
to take a while for the we message to get up. It's going to take
a while. There's still a lot of nonsense it has to push through.
From where I'm sitting, I do think that we
are getting it. Not maybe the
people who are leading us, maybe they aren't getting it. And by
the way, I mean, after a certain breakpoint and in politics,
I go above the state level, probably not. But from
the local level up. Yeah, the we is coming back for sure,
right? The we as a civilization,
right? Yeah. We as a tribe, seeing individuals for what
you can learn from them,
embracing our individual diversity and
true diversity, diversity of experience, diversity of thought,
all that kind of fun stuff.
But as they say, I think it's the Chinese character for
chaos is also the one for opportunity.
And in the midst of the chaos,
people are looking for something that adds meaning. And they're
realizing that these evacuous promises
and externally validating things are not
fulfilling. They're looking for something that gives them an
enduring purpose, an enduring set of enduring
set of meaning. Well,
I think you're seeing this culturally in the decline of the
So we've reached the end of the superhero film.
I can pretty definitively say that, yeah, I think that genre
I'll push it to 30. It had a good 30 years.
It warped everything because of the amount of money that Disney
put behind marvel films, which are really quite frankly,
I love how you put a rhetoric in theater. They're rhetoric in theater
with spectacle on top. And they had nothing
to say after the spectacle. Right.
Remarkable silence after the spectacle. Even though there
are a wealth of stories to be told in the canon, trust me,
I know. I collected comic books for many years. There's a wealth of stories
to be told in the canon,
but the stories don't match the rhetoric in
the theater. And so if
what you're selling is rhetoric in theater through
a heightened cultural message of,
I not we. I am Iron Man.
I am Shazam. I am Superman.
What's? Batman famous. I'm a Batman guy. I'm Batman. Okay.
Well, yeah, okay.
The rhetoric and the puffery isn't delivering.
Right? I think we start, you saw early on
with PR and corporations, and after a while, we're like, oh,
they're going to come out with a PR statement. And then it started moving to
the puffery and politics and the puffery. Everything was
puffery and statements that we are.
But when you looked at what was actually delivering, you're like,
just hogwash. All you care about is money and power. So all
of the gilding is, like, starting to wash away,
and people are starting to look at real sources of value and truth,
and they're finding it locally. But if you believe in the human condition,
if you study history, if you understand human nature,
you can have faith in the cycles
of time and know, hey, it may not be easy. You may be
the person who sacrificed on the altar, but at least you get to live with
yourself. I was
going to ask you, what can we take away from this? How can we stay
on the path? What can we take away from King Lear? And I think that's
a good takeaway. I think that's the takeaway.
And you may end up with, like, you've got spiritual wealth,
you may end up with material wealth, you may not, but at least you can
live with yourself. And the people who are
more spiritual seem to be happier after
the ephemeral. Well, fundamentally,
it's one of those things where I think
well, I think yeah. I thought for many years,
I'm going to be dead a lot longer than I'm going to be alive.
So since I'm going to be dead a lot longer than I'm going to be
alive, I should probably be worried about that
king of stuff and making sure that all that's aligned,
because eternity is a really long time,
like, really long time.
Even if there is no life after death. Yeah. Even if we take the
Pascal. Right, yeah. Pascal's wages that are dictated
all make life better. Right.
Why do I want to take dictates and mandates from people who
can't manage their own households, whose kids are striped with addiction
or health policy, from people who are clearly
anorexic or have problems with overeating?
Right, exactly. Yeah. Sorry.
exactly. Well, and that's where the Jordan Peterson
idea of make your own bed comes from.
And this is where I look at people who
are in activist positions who yell and scream a lot
about a lot of things. And I do. I wonder
as I read their tweets and their proclamations and I watch
their performative acts, and I wonder,
what is your family like?
And as an individual, I have compassion for them.
Right. I want them to be struggling. I want them to find happiness with
themselves. But I'm not going to take rules and orders
from people who don't, as you said, right. Their own house isn't
in order. Focus on
your side of the sidewalk, I'll focus on mine, and we'll be really happy.
And that means I keep mine clean, right?
Exactly. All right. Well, in turning
the corner on King Lear, I think we've determined what Libby believes
is the larger message for leaders for staying on the path.
I will say this king Lear is often framed
as a tragedy. Matter of
fact, on the back of the Dover Thrift edition,
it says that first performed about 16 five, king Lear
is one of the most relentlessly bleak of Shakespeare's
tragedies, probably written between Othello and Macbeth when the
playwright was at the peak of his tragic power.
Lear's themes of filial, ingratitude,
injustice, and the meaninglessness of life in a
seemingly indifferent universe are explored with unsurpassed
power and depth.
Yeah, okay. If you just read
it for what it is on the surface, absolutely.
It's relentlessly nihilistic. It is lear. There is
an existential struggle, and the
universe does to Neil degrasse Tyson
or Richard Dawkins glee, I would imagine, reveal itself to
be just about as dead
end and meaningless as you would think if you came from that particular set
of ideological assumptions. And yet
we're not reading things into the text that are not
there. There are multiple interpretations of Shakespeare's
work, just as there are multiple interpretations of King Lear.
Just like when you watch a movie or a television show,
like a Succession or a Yellowstone, you have to contextualize
Shakespeare to your moment. And by the way, this is why Shakespeare
will survive both the nuclear weapons and the cockroaches,
if it comes to that. They'll still be doing Shakespeare in China
or in India or among whoever is left,
because it's human nature,
not English nature or
white European nature or patriarchal
nature. You could switch around all
of the roles in King Lear, as Akira Kurosawa did
in Ron, and it would still be the same,
because the drivers are human. Are the
drivers of humanity bleak? Is there injustice in
the world? Yes.
But there's also hope. There's also optimism.
There's also building what good looks like. Use that
a lot from Libby today.
There's understanding the difference between principles and positions, and there's
not getting caught up in spectacle or rhetoric in theater.
There's not getting distracted. They're standing firm
in the face of chaos and villainy. And just like Cordelia
does and many others in King Lear,
including Edgar Silently,
nor maybe even out loud, but silently asserting
yourself and saying out loud just one
word, no leaders.
We have to learn the power of the no. I think that's the biggest lesson
from King Lear. If there's anything we could take from Cordelia, it's the power
of the no. If there's anything we could take from Edgar, it's the power of
what you do after the no has been given. Regardless of how many
Edmunds or Lausers or Kent's
or attendants or servants who's surrounding you,
the characters really don't matter. None of
them are going to help you at the end of
that existential struggle and the clearing at the end of that path.
Now, Lear got lucky. Cordelia was with him there at the end.
In our modern era, Lear would probably be written and I get the
sense of the father in succession. And potentially, whatever they do
with the Kevin Costner character in Yellowstone is going to wind up alone in
a room by himself. And it usually is a man,
by the way, ladies, full of regret.
But it doesn't have to be that way. We have agency,
we have choice. We can take
the lessons from King Lear. We could take the lessons from Shakespeare. We could apply
them to our lived lives. We could
build a better society and culture starting at the lower local level.
We could build a we together where
we can all see with collective eyes and
create a vision for the future that's worth
I want to thank my guest, Libby Unger, for coming on the
podcast today. Always a great pleasure to have her. We will have
her on again. There's another couple of books coming
up in a few months. We're going to have her on again.
Libby, is there anything you would like to promote today
on the podcast? Anywhere where people can find you or where you want to
be found or do you want to be found, even?
No, I don't hide. You can
always find me on LinkedIn, Libby Younger,
and ping me there or email me
directly at email@example.com.
And you can add that to the show notes. But this has been
fabulous. Don't lose hope. Do the
right thing. The only person that you need to be able to live with is
yourself and do the right thing,
because it's the right thing to do. And with that,