Thursday, May 15, 2014

altrusim? nah. probably not.

Now you have to pay close attention to something that's going to seem obvious at first. There's a difference between a great leader and a great salesman. There are also similarities, of course. A great salesman is usually charismatic and likable, and he can often get us to do things (buy things, agree to things) that we might not go for on our own, and to feel good about it. Plus, a lot of salesmen are basically decent people with plenty about them to admire. But even a truly great salesman isn't a leader. This is because a salesman's ultimate, overriding motivation is self-interest - if you buy what he's selling, the salesman profits. So even though the salesman may have a very powerful, charismatic, admirable personality, and may even persuade you that buying is in yourinterests (and it really might be) - still a little part of you always knows that what the salesman's ultimately after is something for himself. And this awareness is painful…although admittedly it's a tiny pain, more like a twinge, and often unconscious. But if you're subjected to great salesmen and sales pitches and marketing concepts for long enough - like from your earliest Saturday morning cartoons, let's say - it is only a matter of time before you start believing deep down that everything is sales and marketing, and that whenever somebody seems like they care about you or about some noble idea or cause, that person is a salesman and really ultimately doesn't give a shit about you or some cause but really just wants something for himself.
David Foster Wallace

It is one of those mornings when I consider, search for, find and then reread that Rolling Stone article Wallace wrote on McCain's campaign trail. I have used it through the years as a checkpoint of intention before I cross over into the area of devoting what could be massive amounts of time and energy and sanity into a new project. This time it struck me (it only took fourteen years) how selfish my intentions can be. Though I truly want the greater good, I am not so sure I am smart enough to know what that is. So sometimes I may just put everything I have into something so I can impress my kid.

Today I am, once again, grateful for how David Foster Wallace continues to make me think.
God rest his soul.


Anonymous said...

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

John Quincy Adams

Shea Goff said...

Sweet. A quote from John and Abigail's son. They have to be one of my favorite couples in American history.

It's funny, I think. Though clearly Wallace is differentiating between leader and salesman, all I could think about was intention. The labels, however we describe ourselves or how others describe us, are a byproduct of our actions…hence the quote from Adams.

If it's a big project. You know, months and months of work and sometimes exhaustion when you begin to question, "Why am I doing this?" That's when I have to remind myself of the intention, or should we say, the heart of the matter. It's not only about my kid, but he's always in there somewhere.