I hope you’re all doing great today. As for me, I’m sooo excited to be here! I couldn’t be more excited! This is sooo exciting! Ahem, okay, I admit it – I am not that excited. I am very happy. I am well pleased, I am honored, even enthused… but not really that excited. Is that so bad? Should I be excited? I mean, most of the world’s best loved speakers and thought leaders start their speech on stage with the words: I’m so excited to be here! For all I know, maybe they really are that excited. Maybe I’m in the wrong “mindset” as they would probably say.
Here’s what I found out. After reading Susan Cain’s excellent book: Quiet, I began to ponder what makes us say these words. Basically, we are catering to an overly extrovert, loud, noise seeking, and entertain-me minded public. At home, I have Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. It is one of my favorite books and I love to skim through its pages regularly. To be fair, we must acknowledge that most of its amazing and history changing words are found before the 1950’s though. This brought me to the same conclusion as Cain: Success used to be measured by how deep and far you could think; by how soul-searching you could be; by how knowledgeable you could become. This is NOT to say that people today are not capable of revolutionary thinking and deep pondering. Most thought leaders I follow and admire are actually waaaay smarter than me. But I realized that the public they serve are still very much into the “entertain me or else” mindset.
Take Jonathan Edwards for example. The puritan preacher who ignited the great awakening in the 1700’s with his “Sinners in the Hands of an angry God” sermon left an undeniable legacy as a powerful thought leader.
Numerous books have been written about Edwards’ life, his work, and influence on American history and his powerful professional legacy.
The scholar Benjamin B. Warfield of Princeton has charted the 1,394 known descendants of Edwards. What he found was an incredible testament to Jonathan Edwards. Of his known descendants there were 13 college presidents, 65 college professors, 30 judges, 100 lawyers, 60 physicians, 75 army and navy officers, 100 pastors, 60 authors of prominence, 3 United States senators, 80 public servants in other capacities including governors and ministers to foreign countries, and one vice-president of the United States.
Edwards was a premier thought leader in his day. He still is revered by Theologians as an incredible thinker and scholar. And yet, when he spoke and preached publicly, what was his style? Was he entertaining? Was he ‘so excited to be here’? Actually, he was utterly dull as a speaker. Someone once qualified his style in a biography as the style of a funeral director. Yup, that’s not very exciting.
All this to say that if Edwards was doing his work today he would have had little to no recognition. Why? Because he was a deep introvert – not too comfortable in public. He probably would have been booed off stage. We have become so enamored with the packaging that we neglect the content. We want excitement, entertainment, and yes, even fluff. We want our speakers to entertain us and tickle our ears. And yet, we often seek this to the detriment of true, deep, impactful, and lasting teachings that could change our lives.
Now, I am not saying that a speaker shouldn’t be entertaining. Nope. Not at all. In fact, I believe that if you are a speaker, the greatest sin is to be boring. I myself aim to be entertaining when I am speaking. What I am saying though, is twofold:
1- Thought leaders who are speaking shouldn’t try to get overly hyped up, pumped up, über excited – or worse of all: fake excitement to please their audience. they should just be justly entertaining and genuine.
2- People should seek out from thought leaders what made men great in history: life changing content, depth, and knowledge that could change their lives if applied. Because greatness is not always exciting, but we should nevertheless be able to hear it.
I hope you all found this exciting to read and that you’ll be excited to excitedly share it with others who will find it exciting. Nuff said.