Let me tell you a story of a young boy bullied as a child in South Africa in the apartheid era. The boy was born into a wealthy family and went to a traditional private boy’s school. He does not quite fit in with his sensitive nature and dreams – he likes reading sci-fi books. And at some point during those tender formative years – a group of gangsters break into their house. They threaten him and his family with guns. Nobody gets hurt, but some scars are not visible. Does it surprise you if I told you that the boy grows up with a sense that there is no safe place? He needs to be in control all the time. He is paranoid and wants to prove his doubters wrong.
What would you feel about this child, man? Maybe sympathy, compassion – right? Now, what if I told you that this is the story of Elon Musk? Does this change how you feel now? Do you label him as evil? Do you think he is an arrogant man who wants what he wants?
Elon Musk has a lot of willpower, resulting in him making electric cars a reality. Getting governments, infrastructure, individuals, and companies all aligned to this goal and making it happen is no small feat. He was able to control the elements and make them happen. Two things to note here – he was lucky, and willpower is another word for violence toward oneself. But control is an illusion and a strong one. It has worked for Elon Musk so far – will the illusion break with Twitter? Who knows? But, an illusion can only last so long.
I am not defending Elon Musk. I am not saying that whatever he is doing is right. All I am doing is explaining the backstory a bit more. Why am I doing that? Because knowing where he came from may change how we react. If we told him the world is a safe place for him and he does not have to be in control all the time – we would have a chance of getting through to him. But all we are doing is enforcing his need for control more and more. We are so focused on the victims that we forget the aggressor needs our help too.
Now, a personal story. At work, we are doing a conversion project – basically moving analytical algorithms from an old system to a new system. It sounds simple, but a lot of complexity is involved – so much that we could not convert even one model for almost eighteen months. We recently had a breakthrough, and the team converted ten models (fingers crossed). At some point during this process, we ran into issues – and I swooped in on the team, telling them what to do. Asking for minute details and then not being happy with the results. I went into my fight mode, which is micromanaging the hell out of everything. Thankfully, I meditate, and I have people who care about me. They pointed out gently that what I was doing was not helpful. And for the first time in forever, I objectively looked at what I was doing. The team knew more than me. I was a hurdle for the team and an obstacle by asking these questions. I was not trusting the team – completely. And trust is either 100% or not. In summary, I realized that micromanaging something will not get me the desired result.
It may sound like common sense to you, but this was a big Aha for me! Now, when I also strive to control, how can I judge Elon Musk for what he is doing? Maybe he also needs people who can get through to him and hold the space for him to listen.
How do you strive for control in your lives?