Elizabeth Holmes is just a person.

Outside of all the incredible things we can and will accomplish as human beings, at the end of it all, we are all just people. Our being “just people” is not an oversimplification but rather an effectively simple way to address those that miss the mark by a wide margin with the best intention. We have all been guilty of this to some degree, whether we know it or not. But because the scale of most individuals isn’t as public as those we see in the public eye, one’s instinct when seeing public damage is to be self-righteous. It’s effortless to attack people in the public eye and spare ourselves the same scrutiny. In defense of myself and those who pride themselves in the growth of discipline, understanding, and growth, it can be one of the most demanding challenges to see a result of hurt, dishonesty, and insecure power grabs based on envy and delusion and not feel a self-righteous impulse to defend what is not our place to safeguard. I know this very specifically because before I matured, I would defend and confront everything I believed to be incorrect. While no one and nothing could get me to behave in this manner in the present or the future, my past speaks for itself in terms of showing my character in all aspects of what character means. I have never seen my defending what I believe to be correct. I have never seen confronting what I believe to be incorrect or bad. It is, rather, an incomplete aspect of how I synthesize information. While I will never be an authority on logic, I am an unintentional participant based on my Behavioral RNA™. Therefore, I have found constructive ways to avoid using logic to justify being self-righteous. This is a hard endeavor — more than can be explained in words — as it takes very intense daily self-evaluation, consistency, and perseverance to think critically while never erring on the side of criticism. Most are unwilling to participate. Not based on better or worse, but rather because it is unreasonable to ask, much less expect, most to be up for that task.

As a result of my intense approach to myself, I believe that my perspective is noteworthy. That belief is based on dealing with personalities like Elizabeth Holmes on several levels, both personally and in the private sector of my life. In the public sector, I’ve had many challenges with powerful people who — with the best intention most of the time — make grand vision claims with little to no data to back them up, granular details to explain, and/or the ability to teach the ones they lead to teach to learn. These are not just red flags, but they are very common to certain persons of status that got into power in random ways as opposed to skillful ones.

While I am not one for comparison, the exception to my rule is this context. It’s eerily similar to a king who rises to power based on his fighting ability and diplomatic skills in contrast to a king who rises to power based on nepotism, money, and inciting fear. This dynamic exists to this day. Elizabeth Holmes and her cohort represent an archetype in the public sector that is very similar to those kings hundreds and thousands of years ago who rose due to nepotism, wealth, and intimidation. This is in contrast to those unique persons with equal or more power that got there through strenuous, stressful battles that yielded the respect of the people. It is not based on the idea of good or bad, as no one is immaculate at those levels of power, including myself. Rather, it’s those who are or are not honorable, reasonable, kind, and considerate of the well-being of others.

In the private sector of my life, I’ve unfortunately and fortunately had several persons close to me in the past or present unintentionally (and, in some instances, intentionally) take my IP, my likeness, and many other granular aspects of who I am. They’ve done so for public recognition, private recognition in their families, and self-recognition. They’ve done so without taking the appropriate time to evaluate that what they have attempted to take isn’t theirs to take. Emulation has never been a bad thing to me or for me. One of my favorite musicians in the world is my father. Another one is Steve Gadd. Also, Buddy Rich, Max Roach, Dennis Chambers, Gerry Brown, Dave Weckl, and Vinnie Colaiuta. My father and Steve Gadd have always been at the top of that list. You can hear a lot of emulation of them in my playing because I admire them. I’ve learned certain things on the drums by emulating specific individuals. That’s a very positive and clear thing that even I have needed and used myself. It gets convoluted and takes on an unhelpful tone when we lose our identity within the emulation, which has happened to many of my peers. Unlike the people I was looking up to, my peers did not have the same gap in age or known accomplishments with me that I did with the people I admire. In defense of my peers, because of this level of familiarity, they may feel I simply influenced them as any friend might. But it went beyond influence and became severe because they took on my identity traits, musical approaches, and business approaches as a direct result of me as an individual without their character involved. I explained that the level of emulation displayed was disrespectful to them as individuals because, although it may feel like you’re succeeding at that moment, you’re not succeeding at being yourself. You’re succeeding at using someone else’s individuality to project as your own. I was simply their peer — not someone famous or well-known. That familiarity creates an illusion of safety as if emulation is simply a result of being close when, in fact, it is appropriation. It is taking someone’s likeness and losing yourself. That’s why this Elizabeth Holmes case struck such a chord with me, specifically. I can see in her emulation how she lost herself. I saw similar behavior in many peers. Just as she was succeeding and people were buying into her presentation after one-on-one interactions, I saw my peers doing that with loved ones and the people surrounding them. They were using my personality traits and ideas that had nothing to do with them. They were putting their personalities aside to emulate things they admired in me. When I would raise and confront the issue in a respectful manner, there was always a denial…until there wasn’t. When we got older, there was more acceptance because of my empathetic approach. I only want them to be the best they are. They released the emulation and discovered themselves because of this early confrontation. This experience is why I feel confrontation can be positive when done with the right mindset and heart. I’m not saying I was always perfect, but my intent has always been for the individual to be an individual instead of feeling successful in the moment by taking from someone they admire to project a level of confidence and ability that they didn’t necessarily possess. I’ve never felt so important as to be emulated, so to me, the pattern was easy to identify. Most people say they would love to be so admired. That was not my experience. My concern was about the individual and how they were being lost in that process.

Even though one could reasonably summarize all these experiences as me being a victim (of identity theft, unreasonable behavior, others’ lack of self-belief, etc.), I have never and will never see myself as a victim of any of it. Rather, I see myself as a learner. I thank those people every day for showing me the extent human beings that are not only misaligned but feel inferior are willing to go. In my particular case, this is a very informative lesson as I’ve never known what it’s like to feel inferior in any capacity, mentally, physically, or otherwise. As someone who doesn’t know anything else, it’s taken other close friends of mine to point out that this is uncommon, especially in childhood. In my childhood, I had not one single feeling of inferiority. Of course, nothing is perfect. I had periods of self-improvement during which I was not yet able to do something I knew I could do or had something in my mind that I could not yet execute which was very challenging to me. But I have never felt inferior in my youth or adulthood. As a result of not feeling inferior, I’ve never felt the need to prove or validate myself to another person or entity. I am respectful of culture and norms, but I’ve never felt that I have to prove I’m as good or better than anything/anyone else. In my experience, when people I know see this quality, they respond in one of two ways. They either remark on how unique it is and pay homage to my parents and upbringing that helped me develop that way, or they take it almost personally as if it’s a challenge to their sense of security within themselves or that I think I’m superior. I don’t believe in the idea of being better or worse than another person. Just as I’ve never felt inferior, I’ve never felt superior. That metric is not part of how I think. Therefore, when individuals have taken action to appropriate my likeness and work, while I consider the moral implications of taking something that belongs to someone else, on a personal level, I have a dispassionate point of view of the human behavior and consider myself a student of it, not a victim. These actions of appropriation are the same attributes that Elizabeth Holmes has showcased on a public scale. Therefore, the public nature of her actions seems much worse than when one attempts these things privately, but they are essentially the same.

The irony of self-righteousness — which affects all of us — is that when I ask any of these people what they think of Elizabeth Holmes, they’re the first ones to crucify her without thought, as if any of us are so different and separated from errors in judgment. Daily self-evaluation reveals that we’re not separate from or as distant as we think we are from errors in judgment. Evaluation of oneself begets less criticism toward others when one realizes how similarly flawed we all are, especially when it involves power and things we think we may get away with without others knowing. No one in life, whether good or not-so-good, goes into a situation prepared or anticipating to be publicly humiliated, have their character assassinated in the media, or looked down upon in any public space. No one — even those who we deem the “worst person in the world” — makes any decisions thinking they’ll ever be in that position.

Holmes and the others I’ve referred to will have a lifetime to process why they’ve never attained, much less maintained, the level of status, impact, and sustainability they dreamed of when they were young. They will have to consider this implication due to a lack of knowing themselves and their true intentions. This does not make anyone in any of these categories good or bad. Instead, the categories would be either focus vs. focus without meaning, clarity, and internal vision. The former category, the “focus” category, is simple, clear, and doesn’t need much explanation, especially with the results that ensue. The latter category, “focus without meaning, clarity, and internal vision,” is overly complicated and has endless explanations based on the results that ensue.

In my view, the basis of most people’s regret in life is that they tend to view everything outside of themselves. But, unfortunately, doing so will leave one with an obstructed view that blocks all aspects of the true self, thus disabling the true capability that enables one’s purpose. While Elizabeth Holmes may not have a single home, we know her future address: prison. The harsh aspect of this situation is not the physical place she is going but rather the mental space that will be forever placed outside its intended realm. There is much to be learned here for all of us because we are all just people. Based on this fact, we can and will always need to learn from each other as one is no better than the other, especially in the realm of errors in judgment.

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Steve Douglas

Steve is a Canadian polymath whose pro music career officially began at age 4 when he performed live @ Wembley Stadium. His focus = tangibly benefiting youth.