Inspiration, ambition, motivation and potential

I'm in San Francisco today where I've just addressed the annual convention of the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Marketing Development (SHSMD) about the cult of the amateur. I usually don't use slides or other visual aids in my speeches, but as I was going into the auditorium, I came across four marketing posters which I grabbed as visual aids for my presentation (courtesy of the generous ladies at Spirit Health Group):

  • INSPIRATION: Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.
  • AMBITION: The journey of a thousand miles sometimes ends very badly.
  • MOTIVATION: If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon.
  • POTENTIAL: Not everyone gets to become an astronaut when they grow up.

Together, these verities explain why the cult of the amateur (either of Web 2.0 or of Sarah Palin or even, dare I say it, Barack Obama) won't and can't work. Yes, they are a bit cute and could probably be uttered by robots (thus putting me out of work). But I nonetheless could resist weaving them into my speech. These verities are as equally relevant for the Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 ages. The unfortunate truth -- with or without the digital revolution or our increasingly radical anti establishment democracy -- is that nothing replaces expertise, most things fail, and the majority of us will never have jobs that we like.

The challenge, I think, for progressive-realists is to integrate a respect for both human expertise and failure into their argument. The realism of these four verities shouldn't make one a cynic or even a pessimist. But they do help us get beyond the great seduction of everlasting happiness and the other popular myths of our age of dissatisfaction.