On the Shoulders of Giants

by Brian SperonelloIcon

What if the Whole World Decided to Follow You Today?

"If the whole world decided, today, to follow you; where would you lead them?"

This question is posed as a motif throughout the song "Thinking About That" by Victor Wooten, and it resonated enough that I thought I'd attempt an answer:

The first thing that occurred to me was that, on a macro level, this is impossible to do with specific activities. If you demanded that everyone start exercising daily, which would help improve the health for everyone who needs more exercise, there would be large groups of people who, because of age, disability, or injury, would wind up worse off when forced to exercise. Almost every absolute decision like this hurts one group of people even while it helps another. Instead, the answer needs to be a broad framework that adapts itself to varying circumstances.

If the whole world decided, today, to follow me; I would lead us to these three ideas:


The first activity I would lead the world towards would be openness. Openness to new ideas, new people, new ways of operating, and anything that challenges the status quo and our way of thinking. When we encounter new information that is counter to our current worldview, we all try to find ways to undermine or reject it to avoid cognitive dissonance. This is just a bias of human thinking, but one that can be compensated for if you're aware of it and actively try to maintain your openness to new ideas.


Being open to difference is great, but I don't think it produces beneficial change on it's own. In order for that to happen, not only do you have to be open to new ideas when they come to you, but you also have to actively go to them. This is where I would lead people towards curiosity. Instead of just being passively open to change initiated by others, curiosity makes a person actively seek out new ideas. This change from being a spectator to a participant is crucial.


After leading the world to openness and curiosity, the last place I would take us would be to testing. Once we are open to new ideas and trying to seek them out through our curiosity, testing provides a framework for turning those new ideas into actions. Testing is simply the act of taking a new idea and proactively using it, while also tracking the results in some quantifiable way. By treating life as an experiment, it helps feedback the idea of openness and curiosity into our thinking, and also drives people towards action by providing some distance. It's a lot easier to try something new if you're thinking that you are "just testing it out," and that everything is not permanent but largely reversible.

In the song that inspired this post, Victor Wooten's answer begins "Before we can think about leading anybody, I think we should think about where we're leading ourselves." Even though there are plenty of times where I don't succeed, I would say that I do try to hold these three ideals at the center of how I live my life. And for all the times I fail, the impact of each success far outweighs the failures.

So if the whole world decided, today, to follow me; right or wrong, that's where I'd take us.

This post stands on the shoulders of:

"Thinking About That" by Victor Wooten - The question at the center of the post

Poke The Box by Seth Godin - The idea of curiosity as a key driving force in change

Tim Ferriss - Testing and self-experimentation (See his book The 4-Hour Body)

Ryan Holiday: Openness and cognitive biases


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