Darn That Tom Peters!
post # 219 — October 19, 2006 — a General post
Last year, I was asked to contribute to a book commemorating Tom Peters’ 60th birthday. Here’s what I had to say:
Tom, whatever impact you have had on global industry and commerce, it may be that your biggest impact has been on people like me who saw your success and said “I wanna do that!”
Goodness knows how many consulting, speaking and writing careers (of highly variable quality and success) you are responsible for. Countless young academics (like me) dropped out, were liberated from the confines of dry scholarship by the example of someone who made a difference by being provocative, focusing on idea generation, challenging people to their face and, in general, acting like you were having a lot of fun.
Trouble was, it wasn’t as easy as it looked! Not everyone can get away with attacking people’s cherished beliefs and have them respond by giving you a standing ovation! Tom, why didn’t you warn us that they’d be more likely to throw us out of the room? (And, in vast numbers, proceeded to do so!) Eventually, some of us figured enough of it out to survive, but, hey, you could have warned us!
Then there’s that issue of writing. OK, Tom, we got it, writing works. Gotta do a book! So, like a million other clones, we went through the process. As in real life, the conception part was fun: about the most fun we were gonna have for a long time. Then came the morning sickness, the constant burden (which lasted more than 9 months: it was elephantine) that we were carrying around something that was supposed (eventually) to have a life of its own. Then came delivery: we stretched and we squeezed, until we Tomclones finally produced something that we hoped was a beauty, or at least not totally ugly. Only to discover that while the rest of the world made polite noises, no-one really cared. Tom, why didn’t you tell us not only how hard it was to do a book, but how hard it was to get anyone to notice, let alone care! You made it look so easy, you son-of-a-gun! Do you realize how many lives you ruined? How many trees were cut down to print imitation-Peters volumes that no-one ever read?
And then what did you turn around and do? You wrote another bloody book! And another! Oh, Jeez, what game have you suckered me into, Tom? I just about had a few good ideas for one book, and now I’m supposed to start over? You led us down the garden path, Tom.
There’s a vast horde of us, Tom, who couldn’t be Elvis or Paul McCartney, so we tried being you. I know you’ve had a big impact on the people you’ve met, Tom, but what about all the people you’ve never met, whose lives you changed, not always for the better, by your example? Net, net, net, Tom, are sure your influence has been benign?
PS. Thanks! I couldn’t have had my wonderful life without you!