- Welcome and Introduction - 00:00:18
- Late Career Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe - 00:12:46
- Poe, Hawthorne, and Puritanism in Boston - 00:21:53
- Geography Shapes Identity and Makes for Powerful Writing - 00:30:41
- Texas Business Culture Versus Northeast Business Culture - 00:46:24
- Zig Ziglar Was Only in Deals for Five Years - 00:50:31
- Leaders Should Understand Dynamics Before Taking Action - 00:57:45
- On Roderick Usher - 01:01:19
- From Opium to Fast Food: Addictions Versus Habits - 01:12:12
- Leaders Should Understand and Listen to Their Employees' Habits and Motivations - 01:25:34
- Vaults, Basements, Crypts, and Other Creepy Places - 01:31:15
- "The Fall of the House of Usher: Layers and Hidden Realities" - 01:36:56
- Staying on the Leadership Path: Don't feel like you have to do it alone - 01:46:55
- Close - 01:50:38
- Pick up your copy of 12 Rules for Leaders: The Foundation of Intentional Leadership NOW on AMAZON!
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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
70, with, of course, our
usual guest host, Tom Libby.
Hey, everyone. I'm doing fantastic. Tom's doing
fantastic. It feels like it's been a while since we talked to Tom, but we
just talked to him. I mean, we just talked to him last month. So as
we go into the month of August, we are going to begin
going down a particular road here. We've already started exploring some of this in our
shorts episodes, talking about geography and place
and talking about the impacts of geography and place on the
psychology of not only writers but also on the psychology
of leaders. And we're going to start this
wandering meditation well, where
I'm at anyway, the triple-digit degree heat of
the summer. We're going to start this in a little
bit more of well, a little bit more of a
northeasterly place, a little bit northeasterly location and a little
bit of a colder environment.
And the author that we are going to bring to you today
is delivering a
meditation on madness, nervousness,
melancholy and the transcendent power of place.
And it's a story that we probably should have covered in October, but what
the hell, we're going to do it in August because that's how I roll.
The Fall of the House of Usher by
that great creepy writer
Edgar Allan Poe
from The Fall of the House of Usher. By the way, I'm
reading from the Project Gutenberg version of this. Your
Mileage Will Vary by Edgar
Allan Poe. And I quote during the
whole of a dull, dark and soundless day on the autumn of the year, when
the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone on
horseback through a singularly dreary tract of country and at
length found myself, as the shades of evening drew on, within view of the
melancholy House of Usher. I know not how it
was, but with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of
insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I say
insufferable, for the feeling was unrelieved by any of the of that half
pleasurable because poetic sentiment with which the mind
usually receives even the sternest natural images of the desolate or
terrible. I looked upon the scene before me upon the
mere house and the simple landscape features of the domain upon the bleak
walls upon the vacant eyelike windows upon a few rank sedges and
upon a few white trunks of decayed trees with an utter depression of soul which
I could compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the afterdream
of the reveler upon opium, the bitter lapse into
everyday life, the hideous dropping off of the veil.
There was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart,
an unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of the
imagination could torture into aught of the sublime.
What was it? I paused to think. What was it that so unnerved me in
the contemplation of the House of Usher?
It was a mystery all insoluble. Nor could I grapple with the shadowy
fancies that crowded upon me as I pondered, I was forced to
fall back upon this unsatisfactory conclusion that while beyond doubt, there
are combinations of very simple, natural objects which have the power of thus affecting
us, still, the analysis of this power lies among
considerations beyond our depth. It was possible,
I reflected, that a mere different arrangement of the particulars of the scene, of
the details of the picture, would be sufficient to modify, or perhaps to annihilate its
capacity for sorrowful, impression. And
acting upon this idea, I reigned my horse to the precipitous brink of
a black and lurid tarn that lay an unruffled luster by the dwelling, and
gaze down, but with a shudder
even more thrilling than before, upon the remodeled and
inverted images of the gray sedge and the
ghastly tree stems and the vacant
Edgar Allan Poe when I
say that name, it conjures up several things in your head,
not only the writer, but it also conjures up
the character that the writer has become over the course of time.
As a matter of fact, we talked a little bit about Edgar Allan
Poe. We referenced Edgar Allan Poe's great poem, The
Raven when we were talking about Albert Camus
and the Myth of Sisyphus with Claire Chandler. Go listen to that episode. I believe
that's episode number 66.
But when you think about Poe, you think about, like I said, the
character, and you also think about the writer, and you sort of merge those two
things together. He's that weird person in American literature, and
it could only have come out of American literature where the writer began to
transcend even his own work, even while becoming part of
his own work in subsequent years.
Partially, this is because of the terms of his life. So he
was a writer, a poet, an editor, and a literary critic who
was best known for his poetry and his short stories, particularly Tales of
Mystery and, of course, The Macabre. And I'm thinking of this
in terms I don't know why, but as I talk about Edgar Allan Poe and
I talk about his literary life, I'm seeing a combination in my head
of the tiny, toons animated series
version of Edgar Allan Poe where they did The Raven on that
cartoon combined with Vincent Price's voice. And if you don't know who Vincent
Price was, go look it up on YouTube.
Born in 1819 and dying under
unusual circumstances in 1849, poe was
a writer shaped by existential distress and
trauma, rarely placed alongside the
fellow romantic New England writers of his time, including Emerson,
Hawthorne and Melville, who we'll also be covering on the podcast we're going to
read Moby Dick coming up here in a couple of weeks. Poe stands in a
league all his own where he's become both a myth and, like I said, as
a character as well. In the American literary history.
He was a writer of strict conventions and convictions.
He infamously reviewed Hawthorne's books. Twice Told Tales
and Moses from an Old Man's. And with an assessment
partly informed by his contempt for allegory and moral tales
and his chronic accusations of plagiarism, he admitted
in this critical review, and I quote, the style of Mr.
Hawthorne is purity itself. His tone is singularly
effective, wild, plaintiff, thoughtful, and in full accordance with his
themes. We look upon him as one of the few men of indisputable
genius to whom our country has yet given
birth. By the way, that was about the
last nice thing he said about
Hawthorne. Paul was known
to have his literary fights
and he engaged in battles
in the pen with poets such as Henry
wasworth Longfellow. And most notoriously, he got into
it with Ralph Waldo Emerson,
kind of like the celebrity death match between Elon Musk and Mark
Zuckerberg. That's coming up here fairly soon
in our history. Good fight and good night. All right
on that. So we're going to talk
about Poe. We're going to talk about place. We're going to talk about
geography. We're going to talk about maybe we'll even talk about literary fights.
Who would win in a fight? Poe versus
Emerson. Who do you take on that one with?
Of course, our usual RaconTour, usual man about
town. The indispensable. Indisputable.
Because who else would dispute him? Tom Libby.
So, Tom, talk a little bit about the
reputation because you live in the Northeast. I kind of picked these
guys, and I started with Poe. Because you live in the Northeast, we'll leave it
at an undisclosed location. But you live in the Northeast in an undisclosed
location, kind of close to where Poe might have potentially
wandered around. And so you're
knee deep in this, right? A little bit. So talk a little bit
about the writing and the reputation of Edgar Allan Poe, what you know about him
from high school, maybe, or maybe, you know, nothing. I don't know. But let's sort
of break apart this. A little bit of this for our listeners.
Mean, first things first, right?
I do know a little bit about
and then think of other authors from the
have Walden. We have Walden Pond right here. Right? Like right down
the road. Yeah. Row, right? Frost. There's like a
whole museum dedicated to Frost right down the street as well.
But I feel like it's one of these
weird things and this is going to sound very morbid and I
don't mean it this way but I think he did himself a
service. By dying.
Early, stopping when he did. Right. Because think
about this. If he had continued on, his
credibility probably would have continued to go downward, spiral, not up.
Because he's attacking these authors and writers that have been,
I mean, super glorified. Right? Like some of these writers are,
from a historical perspective, the tops of the
tops of the best of the best of whatever, right? Like, we reference them
all the time. So if he was continuously just crapping on them all the time,
eventually people would have stopped listening to him, right? Number one,
and he wasn't well respected. In his time anyway. He wasn't his literary
criticism. And then he had to wait a while to get published. And then the
biggest thing that he got published that he got recognition for in
his time wasn't any of his short stories. It was the Raven. The raven,
right? Yeah. But again, to your point,
he was he was like that I don't even know how to explain it, but
he was like that kid that just he just did enough of this jabbing. And
then when he stopped jabbing, everyone was like, oh, wait, where'd that noise go? We
should probably go look. What was that noise about? And then they listened to it
and they go, oh, maybe he did know a little bit of something, what he
was talking about. And then it was like almost like a backward thing, right?
Let me just give you the modern day version of this, right? Which what
could have been I feel like the same thing could have potentially happened
to he had stopped if he had stopped writing
right after Pet did Chris, he
did Christine and The Shining and Carrie and then the Pet
Sematary. If he just stopped right there, we would have been like, oh, where'd that
go? And then we would have started lifting him on some sort of
pedestal. Because we don't really talk about Stephen King. We all
like his writing. We all read it. When is he ever
involved in conversation outside of real literary people? Like people who really
like literature, right? But I don't talk about Stephen King on
a day to day basis ever. But Edgar Allan Poe pops up every once in
a while. Like he still pops up. I just feel like Stephen King could
have been that guy of this generation if something happened to him. So
Stephen King and,
you know, I follow, as you probably would guess, I follow literary
Twitter, I would imagine
it comes with its own problems, but it comes
with its own challenges, I should say. And Stephen King
is huge on Twitter. He's huge, as you would
expect. Now, there's three phase. It's interesting you brought up Stephen
King, because I would not have made that intuitive
leap. So that's good way to bring that to me because I would not have
made that intuitive know you had early Stephen King
which know Cujo which was his first book
all the way through I would say the cocaine fueled and he's even admitted
cocaine fueled tommy knockers, which if you ever read that
book you have to be high out your mind.
Oh, my God, like glowing
aliens. It's a whole thing.
Never read TommyKnockers. Go read it. My God.
I think this is what the Northeast winter does to people. Think about
like they're all from here. This is what I want to talk about. This is
the power of place. And then you have like mid career Stephen King
who's, who goes from, I would say Tommy
Knockers. And I can't remember what came after Tommy Knockers,
like different seasons. He starts writing like the Richard Bachman Tales and things like that.
Stand By Me was probably the most infamous kind of short story that got turned
into a film right out of that group. But
he goes from there to I would say mid
career Stephen King is right where he got hit where he had the car accident
in Bangor, where he got hit by the side of the road, right? And at
that time he was working on Gunslinger, which is my personal favorite series of
his. I love the gunslinger. It's an amazing series.
You should go read it. Except kind of at the end where it kind of
falls apart. But anyway, he gets hit in the middle of writing that and
then that's where you go. You have mid career Stephen King
end. And now we're into late career Stephen King and late career
Stephen King. I, and I'm going
to publicly admit this, I have not read a whole lot of
late career Stephen King. I look at his books and I go
and I kind of walk away. And it's terrible because there was a time,
and this is also for Poe, where King
hit me at a particular visceral level from about the age of maybe
like, I think maybe ten or eleven
all the way up to probably about
17 or 18. And then after that
I was done and posed the same way, where,
don't get me wrong, I've read Cask of a Montelado and I've
read oh gosh, it was another few,
one of few of the Gold bug story where he explored
cryptography. Read that now, followed House of Usher.
Read that now a couple of times now. But
you get to a certain point with Poe where you're like, I could probably just
place. Okay, so let's get this out early because
we are going to talk about this a little bit again. But I want to
sort of explore it early and then get back to it. The melancholy
the fall of the House of Usher,
which by the way, is going to be turned into a Netflix series. You might
want to pay attention to that, folks. I can't wait. It's going to be amazing.
Starts from the unnamed
narrator getting a letter from his friend, right? And he has to
go visit him. For those of us who are living in other
places geographically, that's not the Northeast.
Is it really that creepy? Like, really, is it really
past like September? I mean, if I'm
being 100% honest, because I've
born and raised in the Northeast, lived here pretty much my whole life,
right. But I've visited everywhere else. Like, I've been around the country
all the way. I think the only state, US.
State I've never been to is Hawaii. Right. I've been to pretty much every other
state, including Alaska. So I've literally been around
the and throughout the Caribbean, certain
parts of Central, and I've been I've been all over the place. And I got
to be honest with you. Yeah. The only
place I can think of, honest to God, the only place I can think of
that is even on the same
level. It might be a little bit less, but not tremendously less. But it's like
that New Orleans southern plantation kind of environment
where you get like a decrepit building and that one building
is super creepy and it's probably like the creepy part of town or whatever. In
New England, you get like that all over the place. You got to remember you
got to remember we have homes that were built here in the 16 and 17.
Hundreds still up. And if you don't take care of them when I tell
you they look creepy, man, I'm telling you, it's stuff horror movies are made out
of. It really went we just recently
went to see Haunted Mansion, right. And whatever, if you like
Disney or not, it doesn't really matter. But I know you've seen at least the
preview of the house that's in the movie. Oh, yeah. I looked at that and
I was like, what's so scary about that? I could fix that up. That's a
fixer upper. Where's Chipping, Joanne Gaines when you need them?
That's like a New England fixer upper. No big deal. It's a
no demo Renault in the Northeast. I will say,
though, the same house that looks super creepy in October,
november is, like, beautiful. In June and
July, it's literally the same house. But
the time of year matters. It really does. The time of year matters around
here. And again, once you hit late December,
January, and early February, everything snow covered.
Who cares? Nothing looks creepy when it's snow covered. It just looks freaking cold.
It looks like day after tomorrow stuff.
Way to put in the climate change reference. Yeah, go ahead. Right? Anyway,
I thought I'd throw it in there anyway, but you know what I'm saying, right?
It's either super cold
cold can also be creepy, but it isn't necessarily creepy
because cold also can come across as crisp and clean,
right? So sometimes, like in New England, when you get that first
snow cover and it's like 18 degrees outside, and you step outside and
the air just seems more clean than normal, right? Because
the snow just pulled all the pollutants out of the air, and you walk out
there and it looks almost pristine, like this snow covered
landscape, and it's beautiful in the fall. You don't get that.
Is this a function. And I'll ask you this. This is sort of
touching on a little bit of and we have on previous podcast episodes,
touched on this, your Native American heritage, right? Your Native
American background. So is this part of
I wonder how the Native Americans dealt with it when they were there
back in the 15th century, before all these
random let me be blunt. All these random puritans started showing up and
putting up buildings and houses and all that nonsense. How are
you dealing with did they have super creepy.
Know because think of this, right? Think of this. And up here in the Northeast,
we had either Wigwams wiki ups. Those are the dwelling types, right?
And even like the long houses of the Iroquois or the Honda Shoney people,
when that framework was done, you just collapsed it back down into the earth
and it was biodegradable, 100%
biodegradable. You didn't get the creepiness that you get with some of these
cement and stone buildings, and you
got the creeping
vines up when Mother Earth decides to take
over a building that won't fall because it's not biodegradable, it looks
creepy, as opposed to, oh, Mother Earth said, oh, you're done with that wood. We'll
just put that back into the yeah, but I will say, though,
still, I think that's kind of where my interpretation
I let me half a step back. I think
my native side like the deep roots to the native
community I have here. I think that's why I view the winter the way I
do, right? Because the winter, to me, it's
purifying, it's clean, it's beautiful, it's really nice. And
by the way, when native people were required to hunt in the
winter, it was also slightly easier to track animals. They
left trails in the snow. You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to figure
out that the moose went that way or the deer went this way.
Not that it made it easier. It didn't make it easier to hunt and actually
kill them. But I'm just saying, like, you could track them better.
That elk or whatever the hell you're tracking, that shows up really
well against the white snow, like it really does. Yeah.
Okay, so the other follow up
question to this is and we'll kind of explore a little
bit of this, but when we get to the next part coming up here,
but Paul was a master of
understanding psychology before Freud
psychology of the creepy, which I think is what?
the events of his lifetime and the writing of his lifetime occurred
during the beginning and the middle of what we
call in the United States at a religious level, the Second Great Awakening,
right? So there was a lot of very powerful preachers working their way through the
Northeast talking about the Holy Spirit and
transcendence and all that kind of stuff. By the way, a lot of the
modern churches that we have today came out of the Second
Great Awakening. And the modern religious denominations like Baptists,
Mormons, presbyterians. Presbyterians.
Right. All of them came out of that. And we're going to get into that,
a little bit of that coming up here. But Poe was
around for the beginning parts of all of that, right?
He's also considered to be a romantic writer who
sort of previewed the worst excesses of the Second Great Awakening. And some of the
worst excesses of the Second Great Awakening were in
Seances and trying to summon people back
from the dead and get them to talk to you. And
Poe sort of anticipated some of this. Sort
of interestingly enough, so did Nathaniel Hawthorne. A lot of what's in The Scarlet Letter,
which we're going to cover in our next couple of episodes coming up on the
podcast this month. Hawthorne
struggled massively with the nature
of his puritan ancestors and how
judgmental and persecutorial he perceived them to be. And
then he went full bore into nihilism, which is a whole other kind of thing
that you get into with Hawthorne. We'll cover that again. We'll cover that on
a later podcast. But got to have all those people
dynamics happening at the same time that you are
building between 1819 and 1849,
Boston out, which is
I mean, the Founding Fathers didn't consider boston
was never a city that was under consideration to be the capital of the United
States. It was never under consideration. Unlike
Philadelphia. Philadelphia was under consideration. New York was
under know, but
Boston never and I've always wondered,
um, and I wonder if it's because of that
streak that sort of honestly
still exists in Boston, but it's so
muted that if you I mean, you could walk through
Boston. And I've visited Boston several times, and I've always said the interesting
thing about the biggest problem with Boston is it's full of Irish people. That's
the biggest problem. And all my listeners from
Boston cannot come for me. It's fine. All you boys from Southeast. Yeah, you all
come for me. It's fine. It's fine. Whatever. I got something for you. I'm not
afraid of any of you. Any of you schmucks from Lowell. Anybody
wanted to handle me? What? Anybody? Anyhow.
But Boston is its own thing. Like, even as a
sports town, my God,
if you didn't have the Patriots for the last, like, 20 years, be the
worst sports town ever.
Oh, what? Am I wrong? Am I wrong in my
analysis? There's something
in the place. Self
misery. In the last 20 years, all
three of the other major sports have at least won championships. In the last 20
years. All three? Yeah. Now, I'm not saying they win
in tier point. I mean, the Patriots have won, what, six Super Bowls? They've been
to ten. Right? So it's like they're always in it. But if you
even take that out of the equation, the Celtics have won in the last 20
years. They're in it just about every year now. I had no
delusional thought into thinking they were going to win the championship this year. Some of
my colleagues did, some of my co Bostonians or whatever did, and I was
like, they're not going to win anyway. I was actually surprised they made it through
the first round, but whatever. The Bruins the same
thing. The Bruins the same thing. They're always in the conversation, but they have won
a championship in the last 20 years. Actually, two, if I'm correct. If I remember
correctly, they've won two. And they're always in the conversation. But I knew they
weren't going to win this year either. I just knew it. But that sense
right there. Like, I know we're in the conversation, but we're not going to win.
That chip on your shoulder stuff, that comes from somewhere.
No, but I'm not expecting to win. If you talk to 25 other people from
Boston, they're like, yeah, we're going to win it this year. Yeah, we got it.
We got this. And I'm the one sitting there going, we got what?
They're going to be decent. They're going to be good, they're going to be in
the conversation, but they're not going to like, who do you think we are?
We're not New York. Well,
and that's fundamentally the thing that you get the sense of on the
East Coast, that there's three cities on the
East Coast that are constantly it's like three little kids in a.
Like, I know where you're going with this. You know where I'm going with this,
right? You got Philly,
you got New York and you got Boston. Those are your
three cities, right? And that's it. That's it. And New York
City, like, Boston would love to get New York City's
attention. It's like the ugly, the ugly second. Kid that would love
to New York's. Like the big brother, that
middle child is always trying to get like, look what we can do, look what
we can do, look what we can do. But you're not paying attention. And Philadelphia
is like the youngest one of them going F you to all of you, and
I'm going to do whatever I want because I'm a punk and I'm a this
and I'm of that. Hey, Philly fans, listen,
I love the Eagles, just to let you know. They're one of my favorite teams.
Even though I live in New England, I love the Philadelphia Eagles.
So I'm just letting that out there right now.
It's one of my favorites. Listen, if the NFC is I'm
rooting for Philly or my two my two NFC teams, I
love both of those two teams anyway. But anyway, my point
is but Philadelphia, you think Boston's those people are nuts,
man. The police department had to grease
the lamp pole so people didn't climb up and do stuff to
them. You don't have to do that in Boston
anyway. But you're right.
There are three towns that really make
the sports community the sports community. Now, don't get me wrong. There are other
towns that want to be there. They'll put their hand up every once in a
while. But they're like that cousin. Like Baltimore.
We got a football team. We've won a championship before. Yeah. Nobody listens. No
one cares. Nobody cares.
You got Toronto, which is your weird Canadian cousin. Why do you always show
up? Who is that? Those are out
of town. We still have family in other countries.
Anyway, back to Poe. We could talk about this all day.
Long, but anyway, welcome back from Swartz. Talk on me.
I think you're heading down a question here as to why was Boston never
considered in the conversation of
national capitals. Honestly, I think part of it was just
location. If you think about where Philadelphia is and where
eventually Washington, DC. Ended up, it's more middle
ground. Like, it's more middle toward the middle of the country, even though it's on
the coast, but it's, like, middle. So I think Boston was never and by
the way, think about the time frame, the time of this, right
in the 1718 hundreds. When you'd have literal
icebergs in the harbors, you don't want your delegates from other
countries coming into Boston in Been.
That's terrible. That's why none of
these World Summits are not held in Oslo in January.
Like, if you're going to Oslo for a summit, it's in
August. There's a reason for.
It. Klaus Schwab doesn't want to rent
an icebreaker. Exactly. To
get through Boston Harbor. And I think New York was at least
in the conversation because it was just south enough that it doesn't quite
get that bad. New York's cold in the winter, don't get me wrong. But
it's always like when we're having a
Northeastern, which is one of the worst storms we can have up here, and we're
getting dumped with 3ft of snow. New York is like
3ft. We got three inches. You guys have good luck with
that. Whatever. So they'll get snow, they'll get cold, but it
doesn't quite get as bad as Boston. I think that's more of the reason.
Somebody might have brought up Boston one time and they would have been like, yeah,
shut that down real quick because we're not having the King of France
and the King of Spain coming over to Boston in December. It's not
happening. I think it was more of a logistical thing.
And then the delegate from Massachusetts went off and decided he was going to split
Maine off of Maine off and just have them go be their own thing.
Okay. That was his revenge. All right. I think we've covered a lot of
things here. I think we've gone around the horn. I'm sorry. What story we were
reading? Yeah, back to the book.
Actually, back to the story. Back to the fall of the House of Usher. This
is what we were. Reading. That's what it was.
No, you're not listening to sports talk. You have not stumbled into the wrong
podcast. We just went down a road there, as we often do sometimes
here, just to explore some things. All right.
Back to The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe. So we're
going to pick up at this idea of place, and I quote,
although as boys and it's the narrator talking about
himself and Roderick Usher, the second
character here. Although as boys we had been even intimate
associates, yet I really knew little of my friend.
His reserve had been always excessive and habitual.
I was aware, however, that his very ancient family had been
noted time out of mind for peculiar sensibility of temperament
displaying itself through long ages in many works of exalted art and
manifested of late in repeated deeds of municent yet
unobtrusive charity as well as in a passionate devotion to the
intricacies, perhaps even more than to the orthodox and easily
recognizable beauties of musical science. I had
learned, too, the very remarkable fact that the stem of the Usher
race, all time honored as it was, had put forth at
no period any enduring branch, in other words, that the entire family lay
in the direct line of descent and had always, with very trifling and
very temporary variation, so lame. It was
this deficiency I considered while running over in thought the perfect keeping
of the character of the premises with the accredited character of the
people, and while speculating upon the possible influence which the
one in the long lapse of centuries might have exercised upon the other.
It was this deficiency, perhaps of collateral issue and the
consequent undeviating transmission from sire to sun of the
patrimony with the name which had at length so identified the two
as to merge the original title of the estate in the quaint and equivocal
appellation of the House of Usher. An
appellation which seemed to include in the minds of the peasantry who used
it both the family and the
As we were just talking about, this is part of the melancholy of
place, right or subtitled. Never go visit
your sick friend whom you haven't seen in many years. You don't know what you're
going to be running into
geography like we were just talking about and just kind of breaking down in place
where you happen to be on the map carries as much meaning in
your life as other elements do. And I want to talk about this, yes, in
the context of the Northeast, which we've kind of broken down,
but then also because I'm as well traveled as Tom is in the
context of the rest of the United States. I, too, have visited
almost every single state in the Union. I've been to
haven't been fortunate enough to go to Central America. Oh, yes, I have. I've been
to Central America and the Caribbean. I have not been to
alaska, but I have been to Hawaii, most recently this year, so we're kind of
flip flopping on that. But
geography and place mean things to people. Geography
shapes. We don't in our
very modern, very sophisticated world, we don't really pay too
much attention to this. And I think that's one of the knock on effects of
globalization. And if people do
think about it, it's sort of in a transient, flittering sort of thinking that
doesn't really land on the whole of the problem or the whole of the nut
to crack. Where you are on the
map matters for who you are as well as for what you like,
and it matters for what you write, if you're a writer. So
you have a country, and this is the big thing to consider here, and for
my international listeners as well, you may want to think about
this. The United States of America
spans a third of the okay,
I believe it's the second largest continental
landmass on Earth after
okay, we're a third of that
landmass. And so the United States, of
course, is going to produce writers as varied as Edgar Allan
Poe all the way to Charles Portis. And we just
sort of take that as being well, we take that for granted here in this
country. We just do. And yet think
about it with other countries. Indian writers you can definitely identify
as being from India. Russian writers,
Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy and Chekhov, like, those are the big
three, right? And then you come to the 20th century and you've got
solzhenitsyn. I'm not going to say
that that's about it, but you've got solzhenitsen, right, in the 20th century.
And maybe there are more excellent Russian writers that I'm
unaware of, but they would be clearly distinctively Russian.
Swedish writers, like the guy who wrote or the person who wrote
the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, they are distinctly
Swedish. Or amitav ghosh. Right?
The Indian writer who wrote a series of
books that has been compared to the Moby Dick of books from
India. Right. He's a distinctly Indian
writer, or other international writers that we've covered on
this podcast from places as varied as Nigeria and
Brazil, Japan, and, of
course, Germany. But those
writers coming from those places have distinctive voices. But America.
The United States of America, specifically. My God,
we're all over the map. Literally all over the
map. So, Tom,
we've got a country that's got Cormac McCarthy, that could hold Cormac McCarthy,
who just recently passed away, who can write about
being in New Mexico and being in the high desert,
but who can also hold the creepiness of Poe. Right. Or the judgmentalism
of Nathaniel Hawthorne all in the same bucket.
Right? For leaders, this is a real challenge, right. And leaders
don't really think too much about it, but talk about
the power of place. And again, this is something I think maybe you resonate with
from your background and your experience you resonate with, but talk about the power of
place in geography and how that all has come together for
the United States. Well,
and also how it changes
you and your interaction with those other places, right? So it's not
just about you and your place. It's about you and your place interacting with them
and their places, right? So what I mean by that is, it's
brought up to me often that literally born and raised here in
Boston, but people have a hard time hearing the accent that they're
thinking should be coming out of my mouth. But that's very
purposeful, right? Because the very first so
for those of you who don't know me, I also spent a lot of time
in sales and marketing. But my very
first sales job was fine. It was a local job, so I was only
talking to local people, and I can say CAD and whatever,
but the very first role that I took, where
I interacted with multiple people throughout
the country and multiple layers of people throughout the country,
it hit me. Like, it hit me really hard. Where so I was a
major account rep. I had very big companies as my clientele, and
they were scattered throughout the United States. And I was talking to somebody from
Irvine, California, or another person the very next day was from
whatever, right? So but this woman I got on
the call with, and she's like,
oh, how's everything doing up there in the in the Northeast? Or whatever? And I
was like, oh. It was literally the first time I ever had ever heard somebody
single me out, because listening to the sound of my voice, right?
And again, I was a kid, so, again, in fairness to me, I was a
kid. I was, like, 25. I didn't know diddly squat from anything.
And and I was like I'm like, oh, how did you know that? She was
like, oh, I can hear it in your accent. I'm like, I don't have an
accent. You have an accent. Like, I can hear your accent a mile away. It's
some Southern accent or whatever. And she's like, oh, sweetie, we all
have accents depending on where we're from. And I went, oh. And it made me
think, right? Like, it really made me think. And I went, first of all, let's
get this Boston accent right out of my mouth right now.
Somebody be able to tell where I'm from just because of the
word, a single word that comes out of my mouth. They go, oh, I can
tell. But I will tell you, as much as I've tried to
work it out, it still pops up every once in a while. Either if I
get super excited or super mad, or if any emotion goes
to an extreme happy, sad, mad, glad, doesn't matter. Any
emotion goes to the extreme. My control of the English language
goes right out the window, and the Boston accent just comes flying
to I just wanted the listeners to understand where I'm coming from when I
this is where. You get Matt Damon in goodwill hunting. This is where in the
bar when he's like, go get your.
Like, you want to hear me talk about my car and have it? Like,
I never realized how odd it sounded until
she said that to me. And then I was like, oh. I was like, oh,
damn. I'm never letting that happen ever again. Right? So I started making
a very conscious effort to enunciate pronunciate
all that stuff better. Now, that being said,
I didn't want a Southern accent where they're
over accentuating certain vowels and
letters either. And then I'm told the
Midwest has no accent. So I was like, well, I don't want that. I
want somebody to know I'm a person like, that. I come from somewhere in the
United States. But anyway, but to your
point, back to the question again, I just wanted to lay some foundation for why
people that being said,
I do think especially in business, right? So if you're talking about business
leaders, I think it's super important, even with the
globalization of things, even with the commodity of communication
that we have right now, right? So I, as a consultant,
can do business with anybody in the world real time, right? Like, it doesn't even
matter. I have clients right now around the globe. I have clients
in India. I have clients here in the US. Southeast,
as a matter of fact. Anyway, just thought I'd bring that up for
you. That's fine. I'm okay. That's fine.
They're not going to care anyway. They're not going to find me. Yeah, that's
true. But the
globalization of communication, I think it makes it really interesting.
Now, again, that being said, I
think it's interesting that my attitude,
my thought process, the way that I approach
problem solving changes depending on who I'm talking to
from around the country, people down
south. Again, when I'm talking down south, my brother moved
from here in Massachusetts. My brother moved down to North Carolina,
and after being there for about 15 years, I mean, to me, he's north
Carolina. I'm sorry. He's a hurricane now. I don't care. He's not from
Massachusetts anymore, because his whole
mentality of how to deal with things changed, right? They have a little bit more
relaxed attitude. They have a little bit more relaxed way of
approaching things. They have a little bit more relaxed. So when I deal with a
customer that's down in that area of the country, I can't come at them
with the Northeast mentality of bull in the China.
We just are the Northeast is very fast,
very highly motivated, very challenged. We just think and it's not just
Boston, by the way. It is that I tell people all the
time, if you take the Northeast from Philadelphia north,
we're basically the same people. I'm sorry. I hate to tell you that in New
York. But you're the same as us. We're the same as you. So is Philadelphia.
We're all the same people. But if you go after
Philadelphia and down toward that southern part of the country,
minus Florida, and I'll explain in a minute if you minus
Florida from that, you talk about the southeast. You
talk about, like, south of Pennsylvania to Florida line,
to the Georgia Florida line. Florida is its own little entity
because Florida has its influx from a lot of different places.
There's a tremendous amount of northeasterners that retire to
so Florida's a little different. Florida's got, like, a weird mix
mentality. But again, so northeast, southeast. But if the northeast is dealing
with the southeast, and again, the perspective of are you the
customer or the client? Matters, because if the
customer is in the northeast and I need to make sure that I mold my
viewpoints to try to match their viewpoints or vantage points. I
shouldn't say viewpoints, their vantage points, so I can at least see and understand
where they're coming from, right? So I can't come for example, I have a
gentleman down in the south east right now that I'm dealing with. I can't just
hit him between the eyes with something that I feel like that I can do
with. Somebody here from the northeast, right? I'm going to sell you this phone. I'm
like, listen, dumbass, this phone is what you're asking for. I'm going to sell you
the phone. Give me the $1,000. Take the phone, you're done.
You gave me all the parameters this phone fits. You're selling it.
The guy from North Carolina says the same thing, and they're like,
so here's the
it. Why don't you take it out of my hands? You hold it. You hold
it for a minute, and you tell me how that feels. Does it feel good?
All right, we're ready to do business now, right? And I'm not making fun of
them. I'm not. That's not my intent. My intent is just that
the point of business is a little different now. Again, same
thing. You can say the same thing going across the entire country, right? Where you
grow up and how you do business as a young
entrepreneur matters. Like where you go to school matters. Again,
we have people. My daughter's first roommate come from
La. Her first winter in Boston, I thought the poor girl was going to have
a heart attack. She was like, what is going on right now?
This stuff coming from the sky. I don't know what
she's like, what? I didn't realize the thermostats went down
below. That's actually an honest to God statement, by the way.
She thought that the thermostat went to zero and stopped like nothing went colder
than zero. And I was like, what? Are you kidding me?
The wind chill out there is negative 22. The thermostat has to tell you
but again, back to the point at hand, right? So
I think it's important not only to understand where you
are and where you're from and how business happens where you're
from, but I think it's also important to understand if you're going to go
outside of that comfort zone and you're king to sell from the northeast to any
other part of the country, it's up to you. It's your responsibility to know and
understand how business is done. In the rest of it, you cannot force them to
fit your if they're the customer, if they're the customer, you can't force
them to fit into your box. You have to make sure you fit into their
box. And the sale goes a lot faster. The
interaction goes a lot better. If you are the seller and you
understand the buyer, you understand the buyer better. Now,
again, the other way around, if somebody from outside of the northeast tries to call
me and sell me something and they do what I just did with the cell
phone, I'm hanging up on just I'm hanging up on them.
I don't need to hold the phone. Tell me what it does. Tell me what
it does. Tell it how it works, if it works, if it does what it
I'll do it. I'll buy it. I'll buy it, and then let me buy it
and go away. So it's interesting that you're bringing this up,
because I just had
not a revelation.
So here's how I'll frame this. Somebody gave me feedback about
doing business. So I'm in texas,
right? Different than tom and I came out of the northeast and came to texas
in the great american move around known as
so I was part of the great american move around, right? And so I
came here three years ago, and I am in a
spot in the core training and development business right
now where, weirdly, I'm back in startup mode
because of having to re
move my business out of the northeast, the business structure, and move the structure
into texas and do all those kinds of transitions. And tom
is exactly correct. The way business happens in texas
is radically different than the way business happens in the northeast. And
the thing that struck me was that I was actually told this by a
real estate agent when I was shopping for a house here. And one of the
things he said was and he was exactly correct
he's like, you in the northeast, you do the business first,
and then you have the relationship. US here,
we need to have the relationship first before we do the business. And at the
time, I was like, oh, that's a good piece of feedback. I'll keep it, and
I put it in the back of my head. But it took like three years.
It's like yeast working its way through the dough. It took three years for the
yeast to work its way through the dough. And I had a revelation. Gosh.
Probably about two or three weeks ago. So this is interesting that Tom is bringing
this up because I had the exact same revelation. Now, the emotional impact of
that statement has now hit me where
it's not necessarily about the relationship. It's the
way in which trust is established is different in different regions. Here
you talk about the southeast Texas. For all of you who are
listening, Texas is so big, it's the size of
Germany that it can actually be divided up into four different regions.
And the region that I live in is closer
in posture to the northeast,
closer in posture to the northeast, but it's still Texas.
So you still have guys walking around in cowboy
hats and cowboy
boots and jeans in, like, 110 degree heat,
unironically, and they're doing just fine
with no irony at all whatsoever. This is how they dressed this
morning when they got up to go to work,
like they just do. And so
the piece of feedback that I got from that person, that real estate agent, now
clicks together in my head with something that I heard from, and Tom will like
this, from the great sales coach and leadership development and
motivational speaker guy or not guy, but professional,
who died probably about ten years ago now. Twelve years ago now.
Zig Ziglar. He's a huge zig ziglar
guy. Huge, love Zig Ziglar. And he was telling a story because he was from
Yazoo City, Mississippi, which Mississippi is fundamentally
different even than Texas. My God.
He wasn't from Yazoo City, but he was born there, and he went to Arkansas
and spent a lot of time his sales career back in the 1950s and 60s
when you had to drive around to talk to people and knock on doors
and go do demonstrations in people's homes and things like that,
selling what was it? Cast iron cookware, door to
door. And Tom's a salesperson, so he'll
appreciate the difficulty of exactly how hard that was. No, thank
you, but what are you. Going to do back in the day? What are you
going to do? There was no Internet. Like, no phone. Like, what are you going
to do? You got to get out. There no ecommerce platform. What?
I got to go to people's house. It's insane.
Can't just go to Amazon. Anyway, so
Zeke told a story about his wife, and this
is how this relates about his wife and how she supported him during the time
that he was launching basically Zig Ziglar Industries and turning himself
into a speaking and motivational person. And he know during
the five years that I was doing this, all I was in was
deals, no money, exchanged hands for five
years. And at the time when I first heard
this, I was a young person, relatively young, younger than I am
now, driving around upstate New York trying to make deals happen, right? And I heard
this, and I couldn't comprehend because I was in the Northeast. I was in upstate
New York. I couldn't comprehend how you could just have deals for five years and
not have any money exchange hands. Because I was in
deals for four months or nine months or six months or eight
months, and then money would exchange hands and it would be fine. Like, how do
you hold on for five years? But when
I moved my business here to Texas, then all those
three data points started to click together in my head and they started to layer
together. And it's true in north
central Texas, the relationship has to come before the
business and no one's really too concerned. I won't say no one's really
too concerned how you eat for five years is your business.
You didn't get the sale today. Sucks to be you. Good Luck.
You need to have my trust before I'll give you
money. In the Northeast. They don't care. I won't say
don't care, but in the Northeast, the
business and this is to Tom's point the business brings
the trust, and the relationship can come later if it's going to
come at all. But here where I live now. And this is,
again, something that I had to get my emotions around because it is an emotional
state. You got to get around, too. In sales. The
relationship has to happen to build the trust
before the business can just
it's a major adjustment. It's taken me, like, three years to kind of
really turn that boat in my head. And
it does shift, by the way, to Tom's point again, how I deal with people
from other parts of the country. So if I'm dealing with people from the Northeast,
I can literally go right to, like I'm having a sales meeting this week with
someone from the Northeast. I can literally go to
well, I won't say, like, goodfellas. I'm not king to say f you pay me,
but pay. Like, I can literally say that,
but I would never say that to a client in Texas.
The door closes. Well and by the way, it's not that
not to contradict what you're saying, but there's a little bit of, like
I think there's a sped up process. Right.
So here in the Northeast, I'm not going to just hand somebody money for a
phone. Like I used the phone as an example earlier. I'm not just going to
hand somebody money and take their word for it. The phone's going to
work. There are certain things that we do. And
again, to your point, building a relationship with somebody first
and really getting and understanding them and trusting them and all that stuff. And it's
wonderful. And it's great. In the Northeast, we're like, no, show me.
There's a guarantee. A warranty? I can return it. If it doesn't do what you're
saying it's going to do, I'm giving it right back to you. And I want
that in writing. I Don't Need To Trust You I just need to trust that
that legal document is going to give me permission to go take my money back.
Right, but the relationship
after the fact is when it does what you say it's going to do, when
it does work the way you promise it's going to work now, they'll buy anything
from you, it opens floodgates
where you guys do that in reverse. Right. So, again, there has to be trust
involved, but we get our trust in the Northeast from fact
figure legal, right? Fact figure legal. It's like if you
can prove it, you can show it. We can do all right, I'll buy it.
I don't care. Because quite honestly, the other philosophy that we have up here
is I don't need to like you to do business with you. If you solve
my problem, I will give you money to solve this problem, even if I
don't ever have to talk to you ever again. I don't care. I don't need
to like you. Now. If I happen to like you after the fact, all the
better. Which is where the relationship after comes.
If you if you do what you say you're going to do and it works
and everything's great, and I like
like you. We don't have to like you to solve a problem.
And in major cities, I would argue Texas, and
in the west, yes, in major cities, it
works. Kind of like that. Similar. Yeah, absolutely. But I
live adjacent to Dallas Fort Worth and doing business in
a town that's adjacent to Dallas Fort Worth where it is a touch
Sorry, I'm not going to give you don't.
And by the way, this is why I like Westerners, too. I like people from
the west, too, a little bit more than people from the Northeast, because people from
the Northeast will sometimes snow you with the smile and be like
and the Upper Midwest, oh, my God, they'll do the same thing. I lived in
Minnesota for ten years. Oh, my God. They'll do the same thing. But here
they'll tell you straight up, I don't like you.
I like that. I like the directness I'd be like. All right,
now at least I know where I stand, right? Thank you,
sir. I will get right in my truck and drive away. You have a good
day. And after that, they're
basically done. And by the way, they won't give you a
bad review. They're not going to go do some passive aggressive stuff on like,
Yelp. They're not going to do any of that nonsense. They're going to tell you
I don't like you. I don't like the way you showed up. I don't like
the way you presented yourself. I had a person tell me, you're a
little bit of a fast talker. I don't like that. And I was like,
this is just a speech. Okay, you know what? You have a good day. No,
you have a good day. I'm having a good day. I'm leaving about.
You kind of have. Those conversations
from a sales perspective, but this also applies to how you
lead leaders or how you lead followers, right. How you lead groups. Because
if you're leading a group of people who are maybe from it's easy
to pick on Texas. Let's not pick on Texas. Let's say rural Montana, right.
You're going to have to understand the geography of rural
Montana and how that has led to, particularly in a country like
the United States, how that geography has led to
not arrogance and not hubris, but it's more like a sense of
self reliance, because who's going to I try to explain this to folks in the
Northeast. The reason and this is parallel to a lot of things with like you
see in gun culture in the western United States, who's going to show
up to save you?
The cops aren't four minutes away. The cops are 28
minutes away. I mean, let's face it, though, downtown. I mean, if
you're in New York City, the cops aren't four minutes away. Well,
yeah, the cops aren't showing up anyway, right. That's another thing for another day.
But we're being broad. But I know what you mean. Right. And so
that gets to a sense of self reliance. Well, how are you going to lead
a bunch of self reliant people from Montana? You're going to have to make
appeals to that in some kind of meaningful way. Well, it kind of goes back
to something. So I've made this comment on your podcast
now probably at least two times, probably maybe three, and this
might be the third or fourth, but again, if
you're leading people from different parts of the country so I'm here from the Northeast.
If somebody picked me up and said, tom, we love how
you we're going to hire you. We want you to come lead our sales team
in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, pick a state, doesn't
matter. And if I have the mentality of, well, I'm the
boss, I'm the leader, I'm in charge, I'm going down there and I'm going to
tell them to do this and that you're going to fail, you're going to fail.
So I've said this a couple of times on your podcast, whereas don't just do
something. Stand there, which is the complete opposite. We're taught when we're kids, right?
We're always taught, don't just stand there, do something. Like, oh, people are freaking out.
Don't just stand there, do something. Well, I was always taught the opposite
effect, which is don't just do something, stand there. Meaning don't just go in there
and start making policy changes and changing processes and all that
stuff without knowing and understanding the dynamics, the landscape, the whatever. That's not
to say that you can't, but it's weird. This
is going to sound really funny because I literally just had this conversation with a
client at noon. I got off the call with. Them at about 01:00 today
because she said, I was on a call with a salesperson. This is a
sales engineer. So they have sales engineers and BDR
type people, whatever. So they called me because they wanted my
advice. The BDR was just talking to talk,
and they wouldn't let the customer finish their sentences. They wouldn't let
how do I deal with that? And I go, well,
first things first. Don't just go at them with it. Don't just go in there
and be like, listen, don't do this, don't do that, don't do this. If you
just beat them up, you could potentially lose that person as an
employee. And before you do that, ask yourself, do I want to lose
that person? Do I care if that person? If you don't care, then go ahead
and hit them with a ton of bricks. Like, go ahead and hit them with
everything. If you do care, if you don't want to lose this person, if this
is the first time that you've had this experience with them, you have to
stop and step back for a second, maybe ask them a few questions.
They might know something that you didn't. For example, they're a
BDR. They've been on the calls with this particular customer two or three times
before they bring a sales engineer into the call. So for all you know,
that's normal interaction with them. So why are you going to ridicule a
salesperson for doing what is normal for their relationship
with that client, with that customer? I said, so don't just react.
Listen, ask some questions. Understand. Make sure you understand
the dynamics of what's going on before you just go in there and say so.
I would say the same thing to leaders going into different areas of the
country. Don't just go in there like a bull in a china shop. Don't just
go in there and King from the Northeast, believe me, it takes some
reserve. Like, it takes some talent for you to not do that, because I walk
in there and I'm like, no, I see 100 things I want to change because
these people suck. Whatever. But I can't, right? I go in there, I
stop, take a second, understand the dynamics, understand the
landscape, make sure I understand who they're selling to,
because who they're selling to may make a difference in the way I react to
process changes or process improvement or whatever. Right? So,
again, the landscape matters.
It matters geographically. It matters
hierarchically. Depending on where in the hierarchy that you're
selling to, you could be selling to direct managers, could be selling
to, you know, mid level, C level C
suite, whatever. Like, Allan, that you you need to really know and
understand before you absolutely.
Absolutely. Well, back to the Fall of the House of
Usher by Edgar
Allan Poe. We're going to kind of switch
gears a little bit here. We're going to talk about well,
let's talk about depression. With a New England
touch, which you have to when you're talking about
Edgar Allan Poe.
Upon my entrance, Usher this is him now walking
in and first meeting Roderick. This is where we're at in the
story. Upon my entrance, Usher rose from a sofa which he had
been lying at full length and greeted me with a vivacious warmth which
had much in it. I at first thought of an
speaking of going directly to the thing overdone cordiality of the
constrained effort of the enui man of the world.
A glance, however, at his countenance convinced me of
his perfect sincerity. We sat down, and for
some moments, while he, poe not I, gazed upon him with a feeling half of
pity, half of awe. Surely a man never before so terribly
altered in so brief a period as had Roderick Usher. It was
with difficulty that I could bring myself to admit the identity of the man before
me with the companion of my early boyhood. Yet the character of his face
had been at all times remarkable.
A cadaverousness of complexion that's a word,
an eye large, liquid, and luminous beyond comparison, lips
somewhat thin and very pallid, but of a surpassingly beautiful
curve, a nose of a delicate Hebrew model, but
with a breath of nostril unusual in
similar formations, by the way, pause. That's Poe's gentle
way of telling the paying attention reader,
or the attentive reader of the 19th century that Roderick Usher is
Jewish. Just want to point that out. Going
back. A finely molded chin, speaking in its
want of prominence, of a want of moral
energy, hair, of a more than weblike softness and
tenuity. These features within inordinate expansion above the regions of the
temple, made of altogether accountenance not easily to be forgotten. And
now, in the mere exaggeration of the prevailing character of these features, and of the
expression they were wanted to convey, lay so much of the change that I doubted
to whom I spoke. The now ghastly, pale pallor of
the skin and the now miraculous luster of the eye above all things startled and
even awed me. The silken hair, too, had been suffered to grow
all unheeded, and as in its wild gossamer
texture, it floated rather than fell about the face. I could not even with an
effort connect its arabesque expression with any
idea of simple humanity. In the
manner of my friend, I was at once struck with an incoherence and
inconsistency, and I soon found this to arise from a series of feeble
and futile struggles to overcome a habitual trapeendency and
excessive nervous agitation. By the way, pausing. What that
means is the guy was suffering from anxiety. Going back
to that for something of this nature, I had indeed been prepared no less by
his letter than by reminiscence of a certain boyish trait
and by conclusions deduced from his peculiar physical confirmation
and temperament. His action was
alternatively vivacious and sullen. His voice varied rapidly
from a tremulous indecision when the animal spirits seemed utterly
in abeyance to that species of energetic concision
that abrupt, weighty, unhurried and hollowed sounding enunciation that
leaden self balanced and perfectly modulated guttural utterance
which may be observed in the lost drunkard or in
the irreclaimable eater of opium during
the periods of his most intense
Let's have a chat
So Poe there is describing
Roderick Usher, right? And he's describing and by the way, a lot of the
sentences in Fall of the House of Usher and Tom Can attest to this, as
he did his homework before this podcast and read the
story. A lot of the lines in there are
complicated, multilayer sentences, right, with a lot of
semicolons, a lot of M dashes being used to
separate ideas radically different than the ways in which we
consume written material or even the ways in which we
speak now, right? It's almost written in a
Shakespearean fashion, or, if you will, a poetic fashion,
which is why, again, Poe got fame for The Raven
and sort of laggard in fame for his prose. I think he was
probably a much better poet than a prose writer,
but he was also a Romanticist. And this goes along
of the Second Great Awakening and the ideas that came out
of the Second Great Awakening religiously that led, of course, to the
creation of the Baptists and the Episcopalians and the
Pentecostals and other folks in the
19th century. But the
subplot underneath there, right, was a plot
of or the sub idea underneath the Second Great Awakening was this idea of
Romanticism. By the way, this was even a thing in Europe at the time, right?
So the Romantics were folks who believed
in the ability of
feeling and emotion to overcome
rationality and logic. And
they believed that feeling and emotion were a better particularly
feeling and emotion through art were a better measure of
the impact of a piece of literature, a piece of
art than rationality itself.
Romanticism in literature showed up in Poe. Romanticism in the visual
art showed up in a guy like Gabriel
Rossetti over in Europe. Let's
see. Romanticism in music showed up
early in a guy like, I would say,
well, no, I'll go a little bit later in German music, in Wagner. Actually,
that's where Romanticism showed up, was in Wagner, in music. So kind
of think of Romanticism in that arc, as I mentioned, these kinds
of ideas that I have here. But Romanticism also had a dark side to
it, and Poe explored a lot of this. And it was a dark side that
was focused around depression, around anxiety, nervous,
agitation, anui, which we would just call
a depressive state, basically, and existential crises
that were kind of welded onto this feeling of Romanticism,
right? It was this idea that you could romanticize
depressive feelings and depressive states that they would become part of your character and make
you, in essence, interesting.
But there was a tool for these depressive states that was
used. And David Courtwright,
the author of Dark Paradise a History of Opiate Addiction in
America, estimates that the annual total of opium
imports for all of the US. Ports between
1827 and 1842 was over
27,000 pounds a year.
That's insane. And Boston merchants,
according to Mr. Court Wright in his book, were the dominant
American opium traders.
Boston was ground zero. All right.
Untrambled opium addiction in the 19th century.
Let's just clarify one thing here. At that time,
people thought of it as medicine. I understand it was an addictive thing. I
understand it was a property. But they were used in hospitals and
Boston even to this day. So before you get all defensive,
the Bostonian gets all defensive, let me point out that,
yes, you are correct.
I just want to make sure it's different than the opiate imports today.
These are legal imports because they thought they
were doing the right thing. Medicine. Again, I'm
not defending Boston per se. I'm defending the country as a whole at that
point. Well, opium was importing a lot of opium. The
country as a whole was importing opium. Poe lived and came to his
maturity in his writing on the edge of the beginning of
an untrammeled opium addiction problem that was beginning in the 19th century.
And so he got to see ground zero, this sort of develop.
And by the way, he had personal experience with this because the typical
treatment for maladies such as
anxiety, and by the way, his 13 year old wife that he
married, his 13 year old cousin, that he married. More on that
later. But he married his 13 year old cousin, she eventually
died eleven years later of tuberculosis or consumption.
And the number one treatment, or not the number one, but one of the main
treatments for tuberculosis, if you could not go out west to the Western
territories and dry yourself out and this is where
folks like, oh, what's his
name that rode with Wyatt
Earp after the Civil War anyway, doesn't
matter. It'll come to me in a minute. But the gunslinger that rode with Wyatt
Earp back in the day, he went west, right, because the New Mexico territories
had opened, but there was no territory at the beginning of the opium addiction
or the beginning of the opium importation in the 19th
century. So you just died of tuberculosis. Well, there was a ton of
pain involved in that. And so, of course,
the doctors opioid, prescribing opioids, exactly. Were
prescribing opium. Now, the other thing,
it's not that dramatically different than today. Than today, that's right,
exactly. Or you have some sort of surgery
and the first thing they give you is some sort of painkiller after the fact.
Right. Like, oh, you're going to be in a lot of pain. Take this opioid.
And if they're not careful with getting you off of it quickly, that
transition from percocet or Demerol
or any of those other can very quickly turn into something that's
uncontrollable. Absolutely. And then you wind up in the bottom of
fentanyl, right? So then you have literally the same problem in
2023 that they had in 18.
It's insane to me. This is the point that David
Courtwright makes in his book, where I pulled that statistic from
talking about how basically and you've said this on the podcast,
you know how more things change the more they are the same. Right?
It's literally the exact same cycle. The only difference
between now and then is the pharmaceutical companies are
now, shall we say, or were anyway. Well, and
it's been proven in court, too, compensating doctors
for the pushing of these prescriptions. And the other major difference
is when the prescriptions can no longer be had these days, people
immediately or not immediately, but people can go to fentanyl,
which, by the way, interestingly enough, most opium
came out of China and was imported back into China by the British in
order to addict the Chinese. And now the Chinese
have turned around and are making fentanyl and exporting it through
Mexico into the United States.
Just think about that, folks. So opium addiction and
poe. So he was around all of this, right? And the typical treatment, by the
way, for tuberculosis was laudnum. Laudnum was almost, I think,
like 80% opium. It was just literally straight opium that you could
drink. You could just go get it if you were a person who
needed it. Mostly women were addicted to opium. And
so that's the other sort of insinuation that he's making
about Roderick Gusher, is that he is sort of a feminine temperament.
This is one of those things where every detail in the story matters. This is
one of those stories like no detail is sort of thrown
away or wasted. And so the question
becomes, Tom, why do Americans like their
addictive substances? Why do we seem to
like, if it's not bad food, that we shouldn't be eating from,
like, McDonald's? And no, we shouldn't be eating McDonald's. They're not a sponsor on the
show. So I could say, like, we shouldn't be eating McDonald's. Like, fried foods are
like, everybody knows this. Everybody knows. And yet from
fried foods, which are socially acceptable, by the way, no one's boycotting McDonald's or
shutting down McDonald's, but from fried foods to
fentanyl and that's gap, we really
like our addictive substances. And by the way, with social media, we really like our
addictive TikToks. We really like our addictive Netflix
shows. Why are we so
well, first things first. I don't think that's an
American thing, right? For those of you who don't
know, my son moved to Spain, so he lives
in Europe right now, and he deals with similar things over in Europe,
right? So I think it's a human thing. I don't know my point. I think
it's a human thing, right? Not an American thing. But I think and
if you watch the movie The Social Dilemma, I think that does actually
explain a little bit of it. I think that movie
explains the addiction to social media, but I don't think the rules are
different until you get to a physical
addiction. Those are a little bit different, obviously. Like when you're talking about
Opioids Fentanyl, that's a physical addiction, that you need
medical help to get rid of those addictions. But
habits can come across as addictions.
I get into these conversations with my kids a lot. They're like, I'm addicted
to this, or I'm addicted to that. And I'm like, no, you have created a
habit around that that is not an addiction. Because if you stop doing it right
now, nothing happens to you, right? Addiction addiction is when
you have a physical reaction to the stopping of something that you're doing,
right? So, again, Opioids Fentanyl, that's truly an
addiction. That's a problem. You go through withdrawal symptoms. You go
through real hardship on yourself, on your body, on your
psyche. There's hardships involved in that when you try to come off of those
substances. I guarantee
you, anybody listening to this podcast right now has had some sort
of experience with this, whether them themselves or a family member.
But I don't know a single person I do not
know a single person that has never had experience or been through some sort of
addiction problem with a family member or something like that. It's heart wrenching. It's
heart wrenching when you are not the one that's addicted to these things. And you
have to watch your family member go through this. It's terrible.
But I want to change this conversation a
little bit to be more productive about your
question, which is, like, why do Americans like their addictive?
Why do Americans like their habits? I'd like to talk because
I think that's more appropriate, right? Because.
Let'S talk about why we like our habits, right?
This goes back hundreds of years, right? Because everything that we
do has to be systematic, right? Like, you want to change a law, you have
to do this, you have to do that, you have to do this. There's like,
these systems involved. So in order for you to get this
habit, you have to form this habit into a system. Because,
again, your TV program I'm going to watch this TV program because I like this
TV program. I'm going to watch it. I'm going to watch it. I'm going to
watch it every night. Tuesday, Tuesday, 08:00.
I'll use myself as an example because I am a lunatic
when it comes to Jeopardy. I love it. I watch Jeopardy every night. I
have to I plan my dinners around it. This is a habit of
mine, not an addiction, because if I stop doing it, it's not going to cause
me any visceral harm, right? Like, it's not going to cause me any problem, but
I love it. I love jeopardy. I'm going to watch it every time. Now, I
justify this by saying I learned something. I learned stuff. When I
watch Jeopardy. I learn it. I learn stuff. Do I really? I don't know. But
I'm just going to go with it because that's
my justification. That's my justification for forming the habit that I
formed, and I don't think anyone's ever going to talk me out of it.
Now, when you form habits that are not able to be
justified that easily, and you defend them based on
emptiness, I e. I'm king to eat McDonald's because I love McDonald's.
McDonald's is awesome. I'm addicted to McDonald's. I love no, no, you're not addicted
to McDonald's. If you stopped eating McDonald's tomorrow, nothing's going to happen to you. And
what exact argument are you using for eating McDonald's? Because it's useless. It's
pointless, and it's not going to work. You're not going to be able to justify
What justification could you use? I
really like the yellow and
red logo. You can't take
that away from me. Sure I can. What if McDonald's changed their logo
tomorrow? McDonald's could change their logo tomorrow. You don't know it's not the
logo you're attached to. I'm going to go to Long John Silvers.
Exactly. Because it's got the yellow.
But you see where I'm going with this, right? I see where you're
like, we form these habits, and then I
think the bigger problem is how we've
manipulated the idea or concept of habits to
addiction. Okay. Because addiction is a
real medical problem. It's a real problem.
Do you think that this is because do you think we've mapped addiction
to habits? Because now this is something that occurred to me. Has now occurred to
me a couple of times while you've been talking. Do you think that we've done
that? Because unlike the romantics
of the last of a couple of centuries ago,
we don't really romanticize habits,
and we don't romanticize addiction. We don't think
that there's some higher good that we can get to by doing
these things. Now, partially that's because we live in the wake of in the 21st
century. We live in the wake of the death of God. So we've talked about
that on the podcast. Before you kick out the transcendent, then what do you got?
Right? You just got your addictions, and you got your or
your habits. That's all you have. But they don't raise you up to any
higher level. And by the way, other people know that,
and so they have no appeal to
you at a higher philosophical level. So if I come to you and
you really like McDonald's, what arguments am I going to make to you to get
you to stop eating McDonald's? Exactly. Yeah.
That's the point I make, right? Yeah. But if you give somebody
an alternative habit so, again,
if you said to me, I don't know, Tom, did you know
that in order to get all those hamburgers, McDonald's kills little
babies in Afghanistan? I don't know, whatever, right? And I went wait, what?
And you go, but yeah, Burger King doesn't do that. Burger King. Same food. You
can eat the same shitty stuff. Burger King
donates money to those same children's organizations, and you're like, Screw it, I'm
in Burger King now. My habit changed like that. Right, but that's the
power of right, right? Yes, yes. But
addiction addiction, tom, you're hooked on cocaine.
Take, know, pseudophed or whatever, like this
pill, because, no, it doesn't work. That
addictive. If you're truly addicted to something, you can't get off of it by replacing
it with something else. Okay, so how do
we a better. Example of that would probably be heroin and, like, Suboxone and
methadone and those kinds of things. Yeah, you're just trading one addiction for the other.
Granted, one's probably a little better for your long term health, but
you're still trading one addiction for another. Sure. And everybody who goes through
or not everybody, but a lot of people who go through AA or
go through Narcotics Anonymous or
who. Exactly. And to your point,
I've had friends who have gone through those processes. I have friends who
have anyway, I've had my own personal history
with that, and even in my own family had history with
that. And even me, myself,
I flirted with being on the edge of addictive. Not only behaviors
that could have led to potential addictive problems,
but we're on that line of what you're talking about between habit and
addiction, where that physical need now kicks in, and now we're in another
spot. Right, okay.
And by the way, just for the purposes of our listeners, just so we can
be completely transparent here, alcohol
has always been, in America, the number one
addictive substance. It's always been, hands down going
away, ever since people.
I don't think it is anymore. I think today, if you look at the statistics,
it might be caffeine. Okay,
but alcohol, it's the big Boy, right? Yes, for
sure. And we did prohibition. Caffeine has never ruined
families, and alcohol has. So we'll just leave it at that.
Right. And we did Prohibition in this country in the
1920s that didn't work.
And then we sort of wandered into this area where we kind of
talk but don't talk about alcohol. Okay. Yeah, exactly.
We romanticize it. Now you're talking about romanticizing. Think about the
marketing commercials and stuff that come out after about alcohol.
We don't talk about the problem, but we certainly romanticize
the partying. Not even just that,
but the affluentness of certain alcohol marketing has
ruled the world when it comes to alcohol. Are you kidding me? That is true.
No, I agree with that. No, that's a point we're
taking. I'll take that point for sure.
So how do we
if we don't know the difference between our addictions and our habits and I think
your broader point is absolutely true. I think people don't know the addiction, the difference
between their addictions and their habits. I think people merge it all together because they're
merging different stuff in the hierarchy, in their head. Right. They're just collapsing it all
together. So when I'm I'll use myself as an
example, when I'm laying in bed at night watching reruns
of NYPD Blue on Hulu, which, by the
way, yes, ladies and gentlemen, I do sometimes do this
show instead of reading Moby Dick, and
my wife comes in and gives me this look like, what are you doing? And
then walks out. I have a choice
there that I can make. I can either turn off NYPD Blue and go to
sleep, or I can watch the rest of the episode
and then watch another episode, or then now I'm
into binge watching. Or I can turn off NYPD blue. I can pick
up my copy of Mopey Dick that I have by the side of my bed,
read a couple of pages of Moby Dick, and then I can leave. I can
go to sleep, or I can
turn off I can never turn on NYPD Blue in the first place, and I
could read Moby Dick. Right. And my wife will ask me a different kind of
question, which is, what are you reading there? You read Moby Dick. Okay. And then
she's going to walk out. Okay. Those are all of the options that I have
for various pursuing various
Is there an argument to be made that leaders need to
pay attention to their habits and the habits of their followers? Oh, good
God, yes. Absolutely. You know, the one
thing that we don't talk about anymore that I think when I first came into
the workforce was talked about a lot. It was valuable,
and for some reason, we don't talk about it anymore. And a lot of it's
remote working, and there's a lot of things. But do you remember talking about the
conversations at the water cooler? Right, and you didn't necessarily have to have a
water cooler, but I'm just saying leaders could learn a lot
by overhearing conversation from their employees,
talking to each other about what's going on, their habits, their
work. Absolutely. I think we can not only that,
we can learn a lot about our people knowing what
their personal habits are, like watching NYPD versus
reading a book versus whatever, because
let's talk about this for a half a second. When people
ask me, how do I motivate my salespeople better? Like, how do I get my
salespeople to do this, do that, more this, more that, whatever, and I go, we
have to find out what motivates them. And they go, well, they're salespeople. They're motivated
by money. Nobody is motivated by money. Nobody,
zero. People are motivated by money. You have to figure
out what motivates them to earn their pay. They make money
to live. They make money to do the things that they
want to do, to spend the time the way that they want to spend it.
I e reading Moby Dick or watching NYPD Blue or whitewater
Rafting or whatever the hell it is that they want to go do.
They work so that they have enough money to do that. You
occasionally will have somebody who has thoughts of grandeur and say, I'm going to be
the best salesperson in the world. I'm going to make millions of dollars selling whatever.
So my goal is to be the number one salesperson in the world because I
know that person makes $10 million a year. That's my
barometer. But think about what I just said there. What's really driving
that person is making $10 million a year driving that person
or being number one in the world driving that person.
Because everybody mistakes it for money, right? So to your point about what
leaders? I think leaders can learn a tremendous amount
about their people by listening to and understanding their
habits. And it doesn't even have to be their work habits, but it should
be. I'm just saying it doesn't have to be. It could be a lot of
things outside of work. But if you really, truly know and understand what motivates
people, and some people get motivated by different things at different places and different
times, meaning when I'm at work, maybe I just want
to be recognized as a good employee. Maybe that motivates me. Really,
I will go above and beyond my job every single
time somebody says something to me like,
man, Tom, that was unbelievable. You're one of the best employees we
have. Trigger habit. I'm going to go do it again. I'm going
to go find whereas at home it's different. My motivation at home might be a
little different. So learning and understanding all of those dynamics might be a little
much. Unless you're one of those kinds of employers
where you think of your employees as family. Great.
Then go figure out go know all their wives names and husband's names and
kids names and dogs names and what motivates them is go for
it. But at the very minimum, the minimum bar to hit
should be knowing and understanding what motivates them at work. And if it happens to
be their family, then let them know that you care about them, that you care
about that family. I know you're here to earn a paycheck, to take care of
have family. I'm going to help you do that. Here's how I help you be
an employee that's never going to be at risk of getting fired. You're always going
to have a job here because you're going to do this, this and this. Motivate
them the way that they want to be motivated. Don't motivate them the way you
think they want to be motivated. That's not a good leader. That's a
dictator. Come on.
You've seen these memes a thousand times. On social media, right? Where the leaders
standing in the sled whipping the people
sorry. The dictate like the boss, right? My way or the
highway. It's my company. I own it. I'm going to whip everybody into shade
standing up versus a leader that's in front of them pulling
the sled with them, right? There's a big difference to that. Well, that leader that's
in front of them pulling the sled with them is asking them about themselves the
whole time. How do I make you better? How do I help you out? How
do I help you help me? Mr. Jerry Maguire.
You don't know what it's like for me being out here for you. That's two
movie references in one podcast. I don't know what's going on.
We're going to challenge each other here about movies in a minute. But
back to the book. Back to Fall of The House of Usher by Edgar Allan
Poe. We're going to turn a corner here on this one because I think we
probably squeezed about as much out of this as we possibly can. But there's a
little more juice left in the bottom of the rind
on this one. And by the way, it is a short story. So when it's
printed out, it's only around seven pages. You can go burn through it really very
quickly. A short story that's going to take you 20 minutes to read and us
2 hours to talk about. That's right. Exactly. That's correct.
It's a little services that we provide here on the leadership lessons from the Great
Books podcast. All
right. The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe. Back to the
book or the short story around in the corner
here. I could not help thinking of the wild ritual of this work and of
its probable influence upon the hypochondriac, when one evening, having
informed me abruptly that the Lady Madeline was no more by the way, the Lady
Madeline is Roderick Usher's sister. He stated his
intention of preserving her corpse for a fortnight
previously to his final internment in one of the numerous vaults within
the main walls of the building. By the way, pause.
Poe really, really liked vaults and tombs and caves
and basements. The power of place.
Well, because in the northeast, all of those things are creepy. All of them are
creepy. All of them.
Back to the book. The worldly reason, however, assigned for this singular
proceeding, was one which I did not feel at
liberty to dispute. The brother had been led to his resolution. So he told me
by consideration of the unusual character of the malady of the deceased of
certain obtrusive and eager inquiries on the part of her medical men and of the
remote and exposed situation of the burial ground of the family. I will not deny
that when I called to mind the sinister countenance of the person whom I met
upon that staircase on the day of my arrival at the house I had no
desire to oppose what I regarded as at best but a
harmless and by no means an unnatural precaution.
At the request of Usher, I personally aided him in the arrangements of the temporary
entombment. The body having been encoffened, we too,
alone bore it to its rest. The vault in which we placed it, by the
way, he also liked vaults, and which had long been so
unopened that our torches, half smothered in its oppressive atmosphere,
gave us little opportunity for investigation, was small, damp, and entirely
without means of admission for Light King at great depth.
Immediately beneath that portion of the building in which was my own sleeping
apartment. It had been used, apparently in remote feudal times for the
worst purposes of a dungeon keep, and in later days as a place of deposit
for powder or some other highly compostable substance. As a portion of its
floor and the whole interior of a long archway through which we reached it were
carefully sheathed with copper. The door of
massive iron had been also similarly protected. Its immense weight
caused an unusually sharp grating sound as it moved
upon its hinges. Having deposited
our mournful burden upon trestles within this region of horror,
we partially turned aside the yet unscrewed lid of the coffin and
looked upon the face of the tenant. A striking
similitude between brother and sister now first arrested
my attention, and Usher divining. Perhaps my
thoughts, murmured out some few words from which I learned that deceased
himself had been twins and that sympathies of a scarcely
intelligible nature had always existed between them. Our glances,
however, rested not long upon the dead, for we could not regard her
unawed. The disease which had thus entuned the lady in the
maturity of youth had left, as usual, in all
maladies of a strict catalyptical character the mockery of
a faint blush upon the bosom and the face, and that
suspiciously lingering smile upon the lip which is so terrible in
death. We replaced and screwed down the lid and having
secured the door of iron, made our way with toil into the
scarcely less gloomy apartments of the upper
portion of the house.
Something interesting when you move to other parts of the country. So you mentioned
Florida. I do know people in Florida, and I've been to
Florida a couple times. Florida is an interesting state.
It is a conglomeration of about eight different things altogether,
all of which, I'm shocked, work in one geographic area
and are probably barely held together with spit and
tape and super string.
But in Florida, there are no basements.
Now, there's a reason for that. The reason is that Florida is
a peninsula. You try to dig a basement, you go down
15ft, you're going to hit the Gulf of Mexico, okay? Or the
Atlantic Ocean, depending upon which side of the peninsula you happen to be on.
In Texas, where I live, there are very few people who
are any expertise in building houses, in building
basements. And it's not because you couldn't build a basement in Texas. You actually
can. It's because the dirt that Texas sits
on top of is so fine and sifting that
concrete and cement actually don't hold up. Friend of mine actually just
put in a walkout basement and he had to pour in, get
this, $120,000 of concrete just to do a walkout
basement. Oh, my good Lord. Yeah.
Now, in the Northeast, you could have a basement from Vermont all the way to
Philadelphia because it's all granite. Well, not
only could you, but it's very highly recommended. Highly
recommended, right. But that's because you're
in the northern ranges of the Appalachian Mountains, right? The Alleghenies and
all of that, all of y'all geographically are placed up against that
rock. And of course, if you go out to Colorado
and points further west, which are closer to the Rocky Mountains
or the Sierra Nevadas, you will run into basements there. And this is just an
example I'm just bringing this up as an example of something,
a function of a house, a function of your home that
is fundamental to how people live. But
it's driven by geography. It's driven by place.
Roderick Usher put his sister in
a tomb. And I don't want to ruin the surprise, but let's I was going
to. Say something about that, too. I was like, oh, you left out the last
part of the story. I did. Let's
just say, in true Poe fashion. Well, what
is all things aren't what they seem. All things aren't what they seem? No. And
the mockery of faint blush upon the bosom and face in the strictly
cataleptical character well,
that strictly cataleptical character reveals itself towards the
end of the story.
We just took a story here that
on the surface doesn't really have that much, but allows us to jump off into
other things. And this is one of the conceits of this podcast, is that
we can actually do this. And in
thinking about the end of the
story, which we did not get to when we talked about addiction, a bunch of
other things, there's a poem in here about dragons,
right? And Poe does an interesting layering piece, not in the piece that I
was reading, but he does an interesting layering piece after Madeline is entombed
and tells an entire story about dragons and about
the lady, basically the lady fair being saved from a dragon.
There's a whole Poe in there. The lady fair being saved from a dragon. And
of course, Poe is bringing in elements
of this mythical story to indicate that Roderick
Usher was trying to position himself or
maybe it was the narrator trying to position himself, I can't really tell.
But one of those gentlemen was trying to position himself
as sort of a Sir Lancelot type, right.
He was going to save Madeline and then that all sort
of inverts on itself. When you're running,
the question becomes if
dead things don't stay dead. William Faulkner, infamously back in
the day, that great Southern writer from Mississippi who
served in World War I, he said, you know, the past ain't the
past. It ain't even done with us yet, basically.
It's not done right. Poe took that or began
really that idea and know longfellow and then
folks who came after the Civil War, by the way, point of order,
civil War is when opium addiction really kicked up in the United States because now
you could deliver it in syringe form to Civil War
folks, right? And it was the only thing that helped when you
were amputating people to stop infection,
which when I read that, I was like, oh, okay.
How do we as leaders, what do we as leaders
take from the Fall of the House of Usher about geography and
place? A lot of this story is driven by
hypochondria. So it's driven by the idea that something's happening
when our scientific rational materialism in our
day tells us nothing's happening there. You're just winding yourself up over nothing.
It's hypochondria built up and ramped up to the level
of a mental illness. And I think this, by the way,
resonates in our time, particularly coming out of COVID I think this
resonates in our time because it's the things that we can't see that
get us and the things that we can't see. And by the
way we struggle with this this is the other aside thought here. We struggle with
this as postmoderns because we think that we've mastered everything that can be
seen, but we know or
we have an intuition in our hearts that there's all this other
stuff underneath the water
and at a certain point
Madeline's going to come up and she's going to want to have a conversation with
us. So how do leaders deal with
that dynamic on their teams? We'll kind of
close out with that question for you, Tom. How do we deal with that dynamic
of all the other stuff underneath the surface that could get us the boo? Creepy.
Mean, I don't mean to sound repetitive here, but
you don't know what you don't know. So don't create something that isn't
there. Which is what hypochondria is, by the way.
It really is. Yeah, but how
do you stop yourself from doing that? It's by asking questions
and getting involved with the right people and making sure you're
listen. I'm not a business coach, but I'm going to tell you right
now that the best
athletes in the world still have coaches. I don't care if you're a Tom
Brady fan or a Michael Jordan fan or LeBron James, Michael
Phelps, pick some all the Wayne Gretzky, whatever
sport you want. There's always like the greatest of the greats of the greats. Guess
what all of them have in common? They all have a good coach. They all
have coaches that were there for them. Even if it's not to
perfect them, even if it's them for them to bounce ideas off of and
say, again, I go back to business. Right? It's
like, go find a business coach that
you can use as a sounding board. Now, by the way, it doesn't have to
be a business coach. It could also be somebody. If you're a bigger company, use
somebody on your C level team. You're the CEO. President.
CEO. Talk to your COO, your chief operator, or your
CFO. Make sure that one of those two guys are checking and
balancing your brain, making sure that you're not seeing stuff that isn't there
or you're not creating a mountain out of a
molehill. Maybe there's something small that you are all of a sudden thinking it's a
big deal or that kind of stuff. But it doesn't have to be an external
source. It can be somebody on your team. If you don't have that, go get
somebody outside of your team. If your team's too small or you feel
they're too close to the problem, go get somebody who is.
I'm sorry, I hate to say this, but pay them. Pay somebody
to be your Jiminy Cricket, to be your extra set of eyes or
ears. Fourth movie reference.
All right, let me make a fizz movie reference. Office Space.
Bill Lumberg did not know how to deal with Milton with
the stapler. Milton was considered a creepy guy. Milton was a character
right out of Poe. And if he hadn't been out of Poe, Poe would have
written him. Okay?
Lumberg had no clue how to deal with that guy other than to fire him
and put him in, ironically, the basement. Basement. Go
figure. And yet,
not to ruin the surprise on Office Space, one of the greatest work
movies of our time, bar none.
Totally agree. Bar none.
He burned the entire place down, just like he
threatened he would. But no one wanted to deal with Milton.
Why? Because Milton was considered to be what? By the people in
the office. It's a C word, and it rhymes with EP.
He was too creepy. That's right. Nobody wanted to deal with him.
So should Lumberg have gotten a coach? Definitely
deal with Milton. Well, no, in that case I mean, if they're that creepy. Come
on, dude, just fire the guy. I mean, you know, if you know, you know.
I was talking about jumping to conclusions about things that you don't
know, right? By the way, that was a game that was created in Office Space
by the guy who got his neck broken in the car accident. Jump to conclusions.
They would jump on the dots. Jump on the dots. Yeah.
But in all seriousness, right,
there's reasons why the best of the best still have coaches.
So even if you feel like you're at the top of your game in your
industry, that does not mean that a person with a fresh set of eyes
and ears can't give you something, something that's worth it for you
to make. Maybe it's not about making you or your company better. Maybe it's just
simply about making your people better, like making you a better
leader. Maybe you don't get more profit out of it, but maybe you
get easier profit. Maybe it's like something
doesn't come naturally to you so you figure out a way.
Again, I think part of it is just like,
listen, we all have blind spots. All of us have blind spots in everything
that we do. It's not a matter of being
perfect. It's just a matter of getting a little bit better every
day, improving every day, right?
That's really what it's all about. And if you can't do that on your own,
you can't do that by reading a book, by reading
or watching a motivational speaker,
listening to podcasts, whatever, then you should go and
find somebody who can help you walk through this. And again, it
doesn't listen. You don't have to pay them.
It could be your wife, your husband. It could even be one of your
kids. I found this fascinating at the
time. My now 24 year old son was about eight years old,
and I was going through this weird phase at work with like,
I felt like I had hit as many home runs as I was going to
hit in the job that I was in. And no matter what I did
was it didn't matter. Nothing mattered to what I did.
I was going to maintain that level of this is where I'm going to be
for money or for whatever. So my son eight years old
at the time. Him and I were I was bringing him to baseball
practice or something like that, and we're just shooting the breeze. He's like, what's the
matter, dad? I'm like, Work's just been tough. This is an eight year old kid,
and he goes, Tell me about it. I'm like wait, what?
So I told him. I was like, you know what, bud?
Screw it. I'll tell you. Because I
was also at the thought, like, if I say it out loud, if I get
it off my chest, maybe it won't bother me. Maybe it won't bother me as
much that I'm going to stay stagnant that whole therapy thing,
right? Whatever. And I'm not downplaying therapy.
You're just putting in it. You're just using a term that you're fine, right?
I tell my son about this whole thing, and I'm like, listen, and I
translate it because we're going to baseball practice. I was like they'll be like, do
you know how sometimes when you play a game of baseball, you only get up
to bat, like, four times? If you hit a home run all four of those
times, that's it, you're done. That's the game,
right? Like, you don't get to hit another time just because you hit a home
run, right? I go, that's kind of like the way I'm feeling at work. And
he goes, yeah, but you can't start the day like that. And I go, what
do you mean? He goes, what if you go into extra innings? And
I went, okay, but that doesn't mean anything to me, right? Whatever,
right? Okay. And I go, yeah, but what if you don't? And he
goes, yeah, but you don't know that when the day starts, when the game starts,
you don't know if there's extra innings. You can hit two more home runs. If
they hit two more home runs, it's like somebody else on the other team hits
two more. I'm like, okay,
now I'm exploring this with my eight year old son, okay?
I'm like, So tell me more.
But what I got out of that conversation honestly, what I got out of that
conversation had nothing to do with baseball. It had nothing to do with home runs.
It had more to do with my own preconceived notion
that I don't know what I don't know. I don't know
what tomorrow is going to bring. I don't know what the next day is going
to bring. But I walked into every day thinking I knew
I walked into every day thinking, this is it. This is the end. This
is judgment day. This is it. Not realizing
that I'll even tell you what ended up the
end of the story was so I was
at a maxed out client level, right? The way that the job that I had,
I could only have so many clients. I was at the maxed out job client
level, and they were at like, I maxed out their budgets, man. I'm like when
I figured out a way for them to spend all their money.
What happened about, I don't know, two months, three months after my son's
conversation was one of my clients split off
into another company and refused to work with any other person than
me. So even though, as a company policy,
we had a max at the level of customers that we were supposed to have,
I kind of broke that by the customer saying, we're
not dealing with your company unless we deal with Tom, right? So then I
looked at my boss, and I was like, all right, well, if I have to
lose, my first thought was, which client are you taking from me? And he's
like, I'm not taking any of them from you. They're all spending all their money.
If I take them from you and we drop our revenue because of it,
I'm going to get fired, right? I'm just going to add him to
your account database. But isn't that against the company rules? He
goes, Screw it. I'm like, oh, so in other words, there's no rules. I
was like, all right, now that I know that, I'm going to go find more
companies to do business with so I can be better at what I do.
Anyway, I guess the point I'm making here is
you should never be thinking you're alone in any of this. Because you can
use your wife, your husband, your kids, your cousin, your friend, go
to the bar and talk to the bartender. Don't give away trade secrets. But you
know what mean. But like, you need a sounding board. You
are only one person. You're only one human being. Your conceptual mind can only go
so far by itself. I don't care if you're Elon Musk or if
you're Mark Zuckerberg, as you talked about your celebrity death match
earlier. Those guys did not do that
by themselves. They just didn't. I'm sorry. Facebook was not designed by Mark
Zuckerberg all by himself, nor was
SpaceX designed by or Tesla or Twitter, whatever
the hell the Twitter thing is now. I stopped keeping track of it. But you
know what, guys? None of these people did
this by themselves. None of yep. So don't feel like you have
to. That's all.
I think that's a good place to stop. I'm going to ask Tom to
hang around a little bit here because we're going to have a little bonus
deal here. Talking about not being able to build something by yourself, you may want
to hang around for, but if you can't,
that's okay. So this is
our regular episode of Leadership lessons
from the Great Books podcast. I'd like to thank Tom Libby for coming on and
talking with us today, always. And with that
for right now. Anyway, we're out.