Recently I had an awesome conversation with one of my connections. We talked about physics, academia, education, and the mythology of nerds and scientists. I have no doubt it will forever remain a benchmark conversation of my COVID-19 lockdown.
Amongst the conversation, I was asking about / referencing scientists such as Neil Degrease Tyson, Brian Cox, Stephen Hawking, et cetera. His response really got me thinking:
“Beware the Celebrity Scientist.”
The conversation went on to clarify, expound, and explain a truth that extends to almost every sector and industry: the best and brightest, most talented, most noteworthy, or most groundbreaking does NOT equate the most successful or most popular.
This plays into something I’ve been championing for years:
The Communicator and the Conqueror are the only people who really ever “matter.” Your brilliance, your breakthrough, your brilliant tactics and strategies only ever matter if you are able to articulate them to others. The ability to challenge and excite the mind of others is the absolute crux of progress.
Almost every one knows who Sir Issac Newton is. Many people know him as the father of Calculus. Less people know that Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz actually simultaneously developed calculus, causing a massive controversy and cry for credit. Less people than that seem to realize that whereas the Royal Society ruled in favor or Sir Isaac Newton as the true father of calculus, the calculus we use today is in fact, far closer to that of Leibniz…. but you see, it doesn’t matter.
Leibniz “lost” the battle. History doesn’t remember the famed polymath nearly as dearly as it does his contemporary, Sir Isaac Newton, why?
Leibniz was a Polymath and a remarkably important person in our development and history. But Isaac Newton was a better publicist. Aroused more support, aroused more recognition, and therefore was elevated to higher status and opportunity.
“Beware the Celebrity Scientist” is great advice. There is 100% always someone smarter. There is 100% always someone who thinks that they are wrong, stupid, misguided, or a hack. 100% always.
But here is the other side of that warning. Communicators and Conquerors are the only people who achieve their goal. If your science, program, plan, or tactic is significantly better, cheaper, and more accessible… it doesn’t matter — at all — if you can’t communicate, articulate, and publicize your idea.
Being the smartest person in the room is worthless if people don’t understand what you’re saying. Being 100% right does you no good, if no one listens to you.
Beware the celebrity scientist. Find the best information. Research everything. But remember, intelligence only becomes progress when it is communicated.