Nobody Knows Anything: Leadership is Hard

Marvin Liao
3 min readJun 4, 2024

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No surprise I grew up watching Star Trek Next Generation as a teen and it definitely was a big influence on my life. I loved that show because it was not just action but explored a lot of philosophical, societal and life issues. There was one specific episode called “Attached” (Season 7, episode 8 if are you interested) where Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher accidentally end up in an alien prison cell with devices attached to their necks that mysteriously allow them to hear each other’s true thoughts-whether by choice or not.

During their escape there is a scene when they become lost. Captain Picard takes charge and sets the direction. Dr. Crusher, because she can read his thoughts, realizes and says “You don’t know where you are going do you?”

Paraphrasing Captain Picard: “I’ve found as captain in a leadership role, being confident and pretending to know, is important to setting direction.”

This seems to be telling of life, adulthood and leadership. I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older and having met so many people, that everyone is making it up as they go along. Joining established companies and venture funds, that from the outside looked beautiful and pristine were true disaster zones on the inside. Top business leaders, investors, media luminaries, mentors, parents and folks you look up, are mostly winging it. They are just more experienced in doing it and are able to act more confidently. Basically, everyone you think has it all figured out or looked up to is probably muddling through life like you. There are no adults in the room.

I’m not saying you should not pay attention or listen to advice/guidance from them. You should because they have seen more than you have. But you need to learn how to get advice and knowledge from a wider range of sources and learn to think for yourself.

As Romeen Sheth wrote:

“To go from nothing to something takes hard work, intent and skill.

To go from something to amazing takes the same, but it also takes luck.

If you are lucky enough to be great, take it with a dose of humility.

And if you are looking up to greatness, take it with a grain of salt.”

It’s also true that most people just want to be led. Making decisions and taking responsibility for yourself is hard. It’s just much easier to just follow your boss’ or an authority’s orders. But this is also the road to inevitable mediocrity and despair. Remember if you want to take charge of your life and be more happy, “agency” and ownership is a key piece of this.

And if you are a founder or a leader, even if you are not 100% confident, it still helps to act like you are certain, set a clear direction and have a good vision. Most people will still follow along unless they hate or don’t respect you, which is a whole different issue. Everyone is thirsting for real leadership in the world today and now is the time to step up if you think it’s you.

Alexander the Great was reported to have said: “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.”

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Marvin Liao

Ever curious: Tsundoku, Reader, Aspiring Shokunin, World traveller, Investor & Tech/Media exec interested in almost everything! www.marvinliao.com