I just stabbed myself in the chest trying to cut through the military strength plastic that GlaxoSmithKline encases its over-the-counter version of Flonase in. Chainsaws and 9mm semi-automatic handguns I have no trouble with. Consumer packaging is another story (Don’t worry, I’m OK. “Just a flesh wound,” as Monty Python would say.).

I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if my little run-in with the Flonase package leads to some horrible life-threatening infection. It happens.

We’re all getting these nasty viral and antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections that will surely do us in someday, just as the late great Michael Crichton predicted in The Andromeda Strain. But all the pharmaceutical companies seem interested in is erectile dysfunction, depression, and toenail fungus.

Meanwhile, today I get this tweet:

The article he’s referring to explains the biology behind leadership. It explains that leadership is not about traits or habits but about animal behavior. And yet, he talks about enhancing his leadership skills. Guess he didn’t get the distinction between behavior and skills. After all, he is a student. Just a kid, really. I told him he should focus on doing great work first. Accomplish some stuff. Then maybe leadership will follow. Think he’ll listen? Yeah, I have no idea either.  

Then there was this tweet about the same article:

I know what he was getting at but, again, not what the article was about. Not even a little. But it sounded good, right? Played right into the popular meme about leaders versus managers and administrators. Yawn. And this guy appears to be a fairly accomplished pharmacist and associate professor.

So much potential; so little comprehension.

With so many real problems that need to be solved – so much opportunity to innovate, create, and excel in this crazy world – more and more people are following popular fads and feel-good advice that’s leading them all in absolutely the wrong direction.

Instead of focusing on their work, they’re getting sucked into all sorts of nonsense about leadership skills, emotional intelligence, positive thinking, inspirational quotes, content marketing, cause marketing, and personal branding.

I don’t know about you, but I would love today’s up-and-comers to break the status quo and do great things. You know, like coming up with consumer packaging that protects the product and keeps screwballs from tampering with it without threatening life and limb of actual customers. Wouldn’t that be cool?

OK, sure, cures for diseases and solutions for disabilities would be even better, but you know what I mean. I see this sort of thing all day long, every day. Everyone wants to be a leader or an entrepreneur who’ll change the world but the only way to accomplish that – to make a real difference – is by getting out in the real world and doing great work. By getting out from behind the computer screen and doing things that really matter.

It takes a lot of guts to turn your back on all the cultural norms, quit following the online crowd, and actually make some great things happen out there in the real business world. It takes courage and commitment, hard work and discipline, flexibility and perseverance. Above all, it takes critical thinking and making good choices.

I’m hoping you and your kids get the message. If you do, get the word out. I’m doing my part. Are you?

Image National Eye Institute via Flickr