This meme really gets it wrong.

When I first saw the meme, I was certain the creator meant only to inspire. I’m sure the message intended is something like, “Hey, take a look at what this guy did this week. Are you sure you’re living up to your potential?” The trouble is it’s just not true. Elon Musk did not accomplish what the meme claims. I don’t know Elon Musk and yet I know he did not do these things.


News Flash: Iron Man is a movie. There is no such guy. There is no superman or superwoman or any other superhero. It’s a fun watch for a couple of hours at the movies, but it can be a dangerous narrative out in the world of action.


I’m not in any way diminishing the hard work and (likely) genius of Elon Musk. In fact, my thoughts here aren’t about Elon Musk at all. They are about the fact that we can’t seem to shake our feelings of worship for a larger than life “figure” who hides in the shadows, accomplishes five times the amount of work as a mere mortal, and changes the world before breakfast.¬† The only trouble is, it’s not true. It’s never true. Of course, there are some humans that have a singular genius. To deny that reality is to simply prove I have my head in the sand. But singular genius didn’t accomplish everything listed on the meme. Neither does singular genius accomplish the most stunning of human endeavors. That is reserved for collective ingenuity.


Tribes change the world. Tribes of people accomplished all the activities attributed to Musk in the meme. I’m not just splitting hairs here. It was a collective not an individual that accomplished the work. It’s collective genius and action that moves our endeavors forward.


[Tweet “It’s collective genius and action that moves our endeavors forward. @davefleming360”]


Does that mean individual genius does not exist? Of course not. We should celebrate the prowess of individuals. We should be grateful when leaders– through their own work and energy–invite others to the table of possibility. But we should never attribute to one person the accomplishments achieved by a tribe–even if that one person is really smart or really any other quality that we admire.

And if by some chance Elon Musk single-handedly accomplished all of the activities attributed to him in the meme, then I apologize. If it’s true, I will comb the night skies for Elan in hopes of catching a glimpse of him as he zooms across in his suit of armor.