The reality distortion spell

In the final days in Hitler's bunker after his suicide in April 1945, his inner circle and top generals described feeling as though a spell had been broken. With their leader dead, they snapped out of the trance-like state that had gripped them, causing them to ardently believe Hitler's increasingly delusional plans and proclamations, even as the Third Reich crumbled around them.

The "spell" Hitler cast is what we often call a "reality distortion field"—an ability to bend perceptions, convincing followers to believe the impossible and disregard facts and reason.

We've glorified this trait, especially in charismatic business leaders. We marvel at their ability to inspire devotion and conjure game-changing innovations through sheer force of will. We talk about it in biographies and breathless LinkedIn posts. As though the ability to manipulate the worldview of our fellow humans is a positive trait.

We shouldn't celebrate or strive to emulate reality distortion fields, because that's exactly what they do—distort reality. Convincing yourself and others to ignore truths you don't like is a dangerous superpower. That way lies fanaticism, delusion, and bad decisions.

Progress doesn't come from distorting reality to match your vision. It comes from clearly seeing reality and then working to improve it. You need a bold, ambitious vision. But you also need honesty, self-awareness, and some connection to the facts.

Reality distortion fields are alluring. But in the end, as with Hitler's bunker, reality always wins. Don't weave a reality distortion field. Build a reality improvement engine.

See the world as it is, not as you hallucinate it.

Not as some charismatic salesman hallucinates it.

Then, get to work making it better.

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