One illusion we often face is the constant search for heroes while assuming the role of a victim, as if those were the only options. In conversation with Josh, my Uber driver, this week, we talked about this at great length. And as we sank into dialogue, his shoulders relaxed and he said, it’s so great to talk and not to have to take sides. But have an actual conversation.
What if there are no new messiahs, heroes or prophets to follow? Is there anyone so perfect that we must idolize and imitate? Maybe when we stop seeking leadership or inspiration from others, we’ll realize that everyone has our own unique gifts and flaws.
We might think someone possesses qualities we desire, but is their success genuinely real or is it an illusion? I’ve met many celebrated and iconic business leaders, athletes, politicians, philanthropists, musicians and actors who have cult-like following. And they don’t embody the god-like status we give them. We often imagine they have it all, only to find when we get close that the emperor has no clothes.
What many do know is how to persuade the masses to adopt the newest must have shiny object without question. It could be a product, a service or a belief. While we usually associate addiction with substance abuse, our society also fosters an addiction to success and suffering.
Sheryl Sandberg’s time at Facebook demonstrates this duality. In her 14-year tenure, she helped grow the company’s value from $500 million to over $500 billion. She also became a role model for women, and participated in charitable work. However, her tenure was marked by controversies. Facebook experienced issues that contributed to a dangerous decline in girls’ mental health worldwide, as revealed by internal research.
Did you know that that some tech billionaires are constructing floating cities in the ocean just because they can? Many people admire them, but their real motivation is to avoid government interference, taxes, and regulations. As they develop new AI technologies, they also have a backup plan to flee to New Zealand in case of a global collapse.
We often forget that we are the ones who create heroes. Billionaires rely on us to buy into their latest innovations, perpetuating wealth inequality. Without our constant consumption, where would our world be? Would we still argue or fear AI, or would we focus on creating what we need and integrating AI ethically and responsibly?
The riskiest mindset we can adopt is blindly accepting what’s presented to us without questioning its roots.
Can we be discerning about why we choose to worship is the first question. And the second question is, can we understand why we need to worship anyone outside ourselves? And, thirdly, why worship or idolize an illusion?
When we shed our illusions and embrace reality, we contribute to the collective human experience and work towards a healthy future for all.
By questioning, we can make informed choices about our role in shaping this healthier reality. Imagine a world where we introduce ourselves and connect by what we care about; not our status, title or bank account.