Our ‘tranquilizing drug of gradualism’

version of this essay was published as part of my monthly newsletter a couple weeks back. In its own way, it commemorates African American History Month. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.

Dr. King is likely the American thinker who comes to my mind more than any other. Not the populist who was culturally moderated over time into a convenient character for classroom posters. But the difficult and complicated and tortured man, the leader who was flawed and inspiring and masterful in so many ways.

When a MLK quote rattles in my head, it isn’t his iconic, if tired, classic: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Pulled from its context, that’s always seemed to me to be too universal to stir. Instead, it comforts, and I’ve found always found MLK misunderstood when he’s seen as a comforting.

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“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it:” Simon Sinek

Just came across this September 2009 TED presentation in which Leadership theorist Simon Sinek talks about what makes Apple, Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders different than their competitors: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

He also spoke of its relevance to the diffusion of innovation.”