To speak the truth is a nice thing to have in one's pocket but to have people embrace what you say as the truth is better still. Standing in front of a podium with several hundred paying customers staring at you with both open pockets and rapt attention is to speak from the position of absolute truth: what I say it is. People seek truth the easy way; by people telling them what to think and what to say and there are people who are more than happy to take your money and spin difficult and complex issues into ten second sound bites. A great man said, "Just because ideas are held tenacious doesn't mean that they are worthy" and a smarter man said, "I will tell you the truth for one hundred dollars."
Adam Hetfield was a lazy individual fueled only by paths of least resistance and the ideas of others. Throughout his academic career, he cut and pasted himself from one class to another with no interest in original thought or unique insight. Everything he said, had been said before and everything he thought had come from someplace other than his brain. A fan of recency and shallow reasoning, Adam avoided thinking about all things and only reacted to questions; initiating conversation to him as a lose/lose proposition. He wanted to either re-use quotes of smarter people or parrot back some tired old idea to an audience and if successful, embrace it as his own. Being original sucked; one might as well just use what works, why take the chance?
Adam wandered out of college exactly as he came in: rudderless, bored and without a clue why he went in. He left clutching a Bachelor's degree in something (he honestly had no idea) and stumbled through a series of job interviews with complete lack of preparation or interest in what they were selling or servicing or whatever the people were doing. He had to get a job because he had graduated and everyone else was leaving to new adventures so his choices were simple: find some graduate school with fairly low standards or jump into the real world with absolutely expectations. He landed a job with a large company that was in the middle of a frantic hiring peak; their acquisition of their number one competition forced everyone to bolster their staffs with cheap, young exempt employees with the hopes that the acquisition actually made money. Adam barely remembers the interviews but he remembered he was on time, clean and demonstrated good listening skills. Within two weeks, he was sporting a headset in a training class parroting out of established training scripts. When he had realized that he was not responsible for any unique thoughts and everything he said came from a canned script, he knew he was just where he wanted to be....in the middle.
As a new employee, Adam became exposed to generic training resources: vague online training classes which allowed the viewer to gain internal training credits by passing a generic online training assessment to document their successful attendance of some topic. It took Adam one class to realize that all he had to do was to pass the test to prove (definition of "prove" is used loosely here) that he was now proficient (definition of "proficient" is used extremely loosely here) in that particular subject matter. As a result, Adam would fast forward through a variety of subjects and pass the tests thanks to some patience, persistence and a forgiving testing rubric. His success through the online courses got the attention of the internal training department who (incorrectly) assumed he was some savant by demonstrating his impressive appetite for learning.
After a few months, he transferred to the training department where is online and remote training chops grew to legendary levels which brought him to the attention of the online vendor. Adam Hetfield was the auto-didactic online version of the smartest man in the world: part Srinivasa Ramanujan, part Superman and part Tadao Ando, the company had to have him work for them as the embodiment of all things second hand. His ability to fly through online curriculum combined with his talent to instantly learn (definition of "learn" is used....oh, you got it now) made his a force to be reckoned with by all who crossed his path. He felt it was not going to be in his best interest to explain that he learned nothing with these modules but rather demonstrated his understanding of the content through brute force and a thick skin.
After a few short years and aided by legitimate technology advances, Adam was the living embodiment of the new world of enlightened learning. As the point person for the training company, he would go to conferences and trade shows and paint the picture of ongoing education bordering on the edge of magic and osmosis. Adam learned not to over-promise or over-state anything but rather make general and enthusiastic comments and let the sheep-like listeners connect the dots all by themselves. He did not train anyone (nor did the company say they did so) but he allowed those who wished to train themselves the opportunity to do so. By applying conversational mathematics to those type of statements, it was clear that the points and counterpoints crossed each other out only to leave the listener with the hope that they heard what they wanted to hear (sorry legal system....you can't help here) and whatever they did hear, it was easy to do so (step right up and develop your own flavor of truth).
"Who wants to learn?" shouted Adam with a dark suit and a subtly obvious head microphone.
The crowd has been waiting awhile and Adam's show at this educational conference was one of the featured attractions. "We do!" shouted the crowd, "We do!"
"Great," said Adam. "Education is important?"
"Is learning a shared responsibility?" (the lawyers always made him say that one but he usually buried it after the lead)
"Who wants to struggle at learning?"
"Who wants to use technology as a tool for learning?"
"Who wants to learn something?"
"So do I," said Adam as he walked to a podium to begin the sales pitch.
For the next thirty minutes, Adam talked in circles about learning and education and the importance it serves in a growing community and aware culture. At no time did he imply the products he represented would aid in that quest nor did he use the proper name of any of the products. He was too busy cutting and pasting in inspirational quotes from a variety of sources, punctuating them with an exciting music soundtrack and kept the momentum moving at a high, frenetic level. By the time the pitch was finished, people literally rushed the stage and side booths for the chance to purchase the products but Adam never said these products would do anything for the amped-up audience member; he allowed the spectators to make those connections individually and he just remained on the sidelines, careful not to block the sight lines to the impressive and colorful stacks of computer-generated learning aids. Any transcript of his speech would should a speaker who did not promise or imply anything about the quality or effectiveness of the products he was or was not representing. In fact, as the scam grew strong financial momentum, transcripts were created and covert recordings were made of his pitch but it was obvious they didn't have a leg, legal or otherwise, to stand on as Adam never said anything which was not true. The problem was that while he said nothing damning or did nothing damning, the psychological lines he drew between his products and the passive belief within each listener to satisfy their internal wishes were straight and true.
After the pitch, Adam sat in a small green room off the stage decompressing. Whether the message was vague and vacuous or insightful and inspiring, it did take a lot out of him to remain focused for the duration of the time on stage. As he slipped off his shoes and hung up his suit coat, there was a knock on the door.
"Come in" said Adam. He had just taken a sip of water so his voice was a bit deeper than usual.
In walked a serious looking woman, wearing dark colors from head to toe, like a corporate ninja with a strong fashion sense. The monochromatic nature of her overall look was unique enough for Adam to pause to take it all in. He stared at her politely but had still stared but it didn't seem to register with her because she moved in towards him and began to speak.
"I think what you do is fantastic."
"I mean, the content is immaterial; I am speaking of your ability to talk about things we want to hear and in a manner that it feels great to hear it."
"Thank you again," said Adam. He was well aware of his skills and was sincerely chuffed that someone had seen the beauty of the entire presentation."
"I think you can make millions of dollars and I think, with the help of someone like me, we both can make many more millions of dollars."
Adam was interested; this gig was adequate but he was getting tired of the small rooms and the questionable connections between these products and the health and welfare of the somewhat desperate customers. He would rather find something that made good money but didn't hit the heartstrings of someone who was in true need of medical (both physical and psychological) attention. Adam was more interested in tapping into the greed of people, that would be fun.
"And how would we do that?" asked Adam.
"Greed" said the woman. "That is the promised land....the major leagues of the human condition."
"How so? I have no argument with the topic but how do I fit in?"
"You will be the Sensei Mack Daddy of some great message. I want to be part of it."
"Okay, what are the next steps?"
"If you agree, I will be back in touch in about thirty days. In the meantime, keep doing what you are doing and think about how you make the jump that goes right for the greed gene."
She stuck out her hand, "Do we have a deal?"
Adam said, "Yes. I look forward to our next meeting."
It is fascinating what you see when you are not looking for anything in particular.
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