We all have talents. Some people have excellent memories. Others are phenomenal athletes. A few lucky individuals are multitalented, and have an impressive array of finely honed skills.
Of course, we all have weaknesses too. Those are harder to recognize and accept. But a person who is very smart can also be self-centered. There is nothing inconsistent about a great writer also being a deadbeat parent. Many people simply won’t stop talking, ever, even though they are lovely in other ways.
In short, nobody’s perfect.
Yet, our society can’t seem to accept the obvious. We demand perfection from those in the limelight, and then are dumbstruck when they fail to live up to the impossible standards we’ve set for them.
This facet of modern America has been prominently on display since Elon Musk officially completed his acquisition of the social media giant Twitter. Everyone seems to have an opinion to voice about how Musk is going to ruin Twitter.
Putting aside for a moment whether it is possible to make the company that facilitated a Donald Trump presidency any worse, most of the handwringing is about comments Musk made, before the Twitter acquisition, promoting free speech. As part of his case for free speech, Musk said he thinks Trump’s Twitter account should be restored — remember, though, that Trump’s Twitter account didn’t get revoked until after Trump had already used to it to cause the January 6 Capitol riot. So, Twitter’s former leadership wasn’t exactly ahead of the curve in doing anything about Trump’s toxic social media presence at a time when it actually mattered.
Despite apparently not caring about how poorly Twitter was run up until last week, advertisers are now cautiously waiting to see whether Twitter turns into 8chan under Musk’s leadership. Musk even took a proactive step to reassure Twitter advertisers with an open letter promising that he does not want to turn the platform into a “free-for-all hellscape.”
I don’t know what, exactly, Musk is going to do with Twitter now that he owns it. I am fairly confident, however, that he’s going to make the best business decisions he can for the social media company whether or not those decisions comport with all the dumb stuff he’s said in the past.
Saying dumb stuff — quite frequently on Twitter — is kind of Musk’s thing. He got in a bunch of trouble with the SEC for tweeting that he had “funding secured” for possibly taking Tesla private at $420 per share (Tesla remains a publicly traded company). He called one of the cave divers who helped rescue children trapped in a cave in 2018 a “pedo guy.” Musk said he believes the Earth is facing a “population collapse,” even though there are more people on Earth than at any other time in history.
Musk has said enough dumb stuff over the years to fill volumes. It’s almost as if carefully thinking through and thoroughly reflecting upon everything he says before he says it is not Musk’s strong suit.
What is one of Musk’s strong suits is running successful companies. In 1995, he founded a company called Zip2. Zip2 sold to Compaq for $307 million in 1999. Musk then founded the company that became PayPal. He next went on to found SpaceX. Musk became one of the major funders of Tesla, and later ran the electric car company as its CEO. It is not merely a coincidence that so many different businesses have been so wildly successful with Musk at the helm. Apparently saying something dumb from time to time does not actually reflect poorly on one’s ability to lead a company.
Ignore what people say, and pay attention to what they do. Perfectly normal people say stupid things all the time. They exaggerate, they lie, they get emotional, they change their minds. Sometimes, later, they think it through.
We know Musk says imprudent things. That hasn’t stopped him from becoming the world’s richest man, or from running several of the most innovative companies in existence. In fact, it might actually make him owning Twitter, a platform entirely based on vomiting a few sentences onscreen whenever they pop into your head, kind of perfect.
Jonathan Wolf is a civil litigator and author of Your Debt-Free JD (affiliate link). He has taught legal writing, written for a wide variety of publications, and made it both his business and his pleasure to be financially and scientifically literate. Any views he expresses are probably pure gold, but are nonetheless solely his own and should not be attributed to any organization with which he is affiliated. He wouldn’t want to share the credit anyway. He can be reached at email@example.com.