This is the question I’ve been thinking about since we started Acorns On Glen. When did I become such a follower? Not when I was a kid. In fourth grade, in the comments section of my report card, my teacher wrote that I was good at leading other children towards a common goal…..and that I was a good talker. I was an officer in one of my grades in high school….I think it was freshman year. I was editor of my school newspaper for a few years. All signs were pointing in the right direction. I was still a leader in college. I was president of my pledge class at the fraternity. I was a member of the elite summer orientation staff for incoming freshman. Again, all signs were a go. So when, as an adult, did I stop producing original ideas and leadership potential? My vote…..when my sad ass discovered the internet and that damn do-it-yourself television.
Think back to your grandparents. How did your grandmother learn to cook something simple, say a meatloaf? She either learned by word of mouth or she learned by trial and error. The recipe could have been handed down from generations of hard cooking women in her family. She could have talked to a sister or a neighbor about making meatloaf and wrote down the ingredients and instructions that they gave her and then began to cook. She used real, live human interaction versus online social networking. She could have also gotten the idea in her head and cooked it through several different incarnations making sure to tweak things she didn’t like from the time before and remembering to keep things in it that were good. Old time trial and error versus instant internet gratification. With my family, maybe my father, aunts and uncle didn’t like my Grandma’s first shots at meatloaf making, but by the time I was a child, she had perfected her art.
The garden is the same story. How did my Grandmother know to only dig horseradish and grind it up in months that contained an ‘R’ in them? She was right. Months without an ‘R’ produce lousy horseradish…Julys and Augusts are just too hot. Again, she had an idea and either consulted a real, live person or experimented on her own. Somehow, she managed to figure things out. She must have talked with someone on the rules of horseradish or sat down to some sad tasting pulp, but she figured it out. She accomplished tasks knowing she had done her own research, made all the decisions and had done it her way. She was her own expert.
Now take me! I’ll confess. I look at all of the things that I do to my house, that I cook or bake in the kitchen or that I grow in my garden, and while I’m proud of my accomplishments, they have most likely come from someone else’s original idea. Ideas from others that I’ve said “Wow, I’d like to do that” and either copied or took the initial idea and tweaked it to fit my lifestyle. When is the last time I sat down and said I’d like to make a dish in the kitchen that contained a certain ingredient and then added it and other ingredients in a bowl trying to create my tasty little idea? Never. If I ever did do that, God forbid if it was bad tasting. Would I try it again with some new twists or would I just abandon the idea altogether? If the first time was a flop, would I try to think it through and make it a success a second or third time? I doubt it.
I’ve made meatloaf and worked in my garden recently, just like my Grandma did years ago. My meatloaf recipe came straight off the internet from http://www.MarthaStewart.com. I found the recipe in less than a minute. As I printed my step-by-step instructions out, I sat there in a panic thinking what was meant by “good” ketchup in the recipe. What the hell is “bad” ketchup? In the garden, I decided to plant artichokes this year and see if they would grow in Connecticut. How did I come up with this idea? A picture showing them growing in my area off of someone else’s iPhone. So what was my next step? I googled “artichoke growing” on the internet and received hundreds of sites with step-by-step growing instructions. So I then ordered the seeds (off the internet) from a seed company I saw mentioned on a TV show and then planted them in a growing system I heard described on the radio and then put them under a grow light I saw on another internet site. By the way, the grow light had four and a half stars attributed to it on the internet meaning it was a customer top favorite. How could I get the one that seemed better, but with fewer stars attributed to it? Do you see what I’m saying? Not one original idea in my head. No leadership; no innovation; no thought leadership. I’m a lemming just following the leader until I eventually fall off the side of a cliff.
In business today, there must be a slew of followers. Perfectionist people who scour for innovation and new ideas by reading the internet for hours. Site by site; post by post. Anything new and exciting is printed off or typed into their computer. They search on Google to find exactly how to make the idea a reality. They tweak the original just a little to call it their own. Then they introduce the final product to the world. In fact, aren’t followers in the business world now called great executors? This new term utilized in order to soften the blow to a group of people trained to follow others versus taking a risk on their own. An executor, that’s what I am. Not a leader or a thought provoker, but rather someone who can execute someone else’s idea to perfection. My meatloaf looked just like the picture in Martha’s recipe; my grow light artichokes are picture perfect.
Ideas=F; Execution=A+……that’s me.
I curse you, Martha, Emeril and Ina. Up yours, Vern and you Design Stars. May seeds never grow in your Victory Garden, Old Man Crockett!
So how do people of today change this course? How do we become thinkers again versus just executing? If my Grandma were here, I’m sure she could sit down and think up a solution. Me? I’m just going to Google it. What do you think about leaders versus followers in today’s world?