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Authenticity in a World of Thought Leadership

Nothing is new. Nothing is true.

This dictum may seem strange when advocating for thought leadership, but hear me out.

Let’s take the Pythagorean theorem, for example. In one sense, what better “thought leadership” than having a fundamental principle named after you?


  • It turns out to have existed at least 1,000 years before, used by Babylonian land surveyors, and found on cuneiform tablets.
  • It has not been definitively proven in a way that all mathematicians deem valid. It simply seems to reflect practical experience consistently.
  • It is not actually true. It only works in Euclidean space, which itself is a fiction (or rather, an approximation). It fails in curved space. The presence of mass and energy curve spacetime. In other words, it depends on how you decide to model things.

Back to thought leadership, what does this all mean?

  • Originality is not sufficient and not likely to be possible. Two thousand years later, there are predecessors to most insights. Playfully, you could say that Pythagoras did a better job packaging it and creating a movement than the Babylonians who just used it and buried it in a survey somewhere.
  • Practical experience and resonance matter. I see many thought leaders freeze up because an insight might end up being challenged or get lost because they can’t stop looking for more evidence. You have to learn where to stop.
  • Nothing is future-proof or valid in all contexts. Thought leaders are sometimes spooked by the risk of better thinking coming along. But the more you establish context, the less likely that fear is to materialize. Be clear about when and why your thinking applies. Just like Euclidean space is good enough for most purposes (measurement, basic geometric proofs, etc.), you simply need to make your thinking good and robust enough to drive the industry change you have in mind. No one needs or wants universal cosmic truths from you.

If becoming a Pythagoras in your industry niche is good enough for you, be in touch. I’d love to talk about helping you.

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