Prophets and Loss

What’s the most valuable attribute of successful people? We can find lots of answers to the question from lots of sources: Courage. Vision. Imagination. Persistence. Willingness to fail. Iconoclasm. Lunacy. Every one of those attributes is a factor in the equation that yields success. But none of them is the most important. The most important attribute of every successful person is objectivity.

Think about it: In every job you’ve ever had, in any business you’ve ever founded, in any set of circumstances in which you’ve created or revealed value, how and when did you do it? In all likelihood, you did it by seeing things that other couldn’t see. And in most cases, you did it early in your tenure, at a point at which you still retained an outsider’s perspective.

At that point — whether it was recognized or not, whether it was characterized this way or not — you had the status of a prophet. You were a seer, an oracle, a breath of fresh air, a font of wisdom and knowledge, a source of new perspectives and sound advice. And then you weren’t. What happened?

What happened is what always happens. It’s why every honeymoon ends. It’s why today’s heroes are tomorrow’s wallpaper. It’s why people get taken for granted. It’s why ordinary becomes acceptable. We lose our objectivity. Our preoccupations become subjective, be they ego, power, ostensible correctness, or garden-variety selfishness. And the straight lines we once intended to follow to our objectives become directionless circles.

In case you’re curious, this isn’t a new phenomenon. As this excerpt from Luke 4:14-29 indicates, we’ve been ignoring our prophets forever:

I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.

Nobody’s perfect, and nothing lasts forever. But if you’ve been wise enough to acquire the objectivity your business needs, running your prophet out of town too soon may be your loss.

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