Thoughtscape: Entry #2 The Valuable Lesson From Joe Rogan's Interview With Elon Musk Is Not About Smoking Weed
Now that we’ve all taken three seconds to recover and take a breath after the apparently shocking phenomenon of Elon Musk smoking weed on The Joe Rogan Experience, I would like to shift people’s attention away from joints and onto Elon’s communication skills.
Before I even had the chance to listen to the show, a handful of my friends told me it was weird. I asked why, and they responded with something along the lines of, “well, he sounds like a super bizarre dude/he’s out there/I think there’s something wrong with him/he’s a robot.” I was curious about these labels. Of course, a man who doesn’t sleep, shoots his car into orbit and spends 98% of his brain energy meditating on tunnels and becoming an interplanetary species is not going to be exactly...normal. But people seemed to be taken aback by how out there he was. As in this dude is already ON Mars. Something about him seemed to be making people uncomfortable.
So I went into this show with the mindset of expecting a public intellectual and innovator’s reputation to be tarnished - he might not be the romanticized, suave real life version of Tony Stark we all thought he was.
But, 15 minutes into the conversation and I was confused by listeners’ commentary and reviews. Joe Rogan is not an easy person to sit across from, he asks tough questions and has interviewed some of the world’s biggest names. Even with this MMA behemoth of the podcast world as his opposite, I felt that Elon was doing an excellent job thinking through his answers so they were sculpted to be both genuine and informative.
Then it dawned on me. The reason why people thought he sounded weird, the reason he was being called a robot, was because he was taking time to think before responding. Woah. It wasn’t in what he was saying, it was the silence that festered between each response and in today’s world, silence is unacceptable. As if long form conversations aren’t a rarity alone, toss somebody into the mix that takes more than one second to respond and he’s immediately dismissed as an enigma. He must be a robot.
But the truth is, we’re just not used to hearing something live that allows somebody the chance to think before they speak. News shows and interview platforms only allot a small segment of time for their subjects to gather their thoughts and respond appropriately to whatever prompt they’re confronted with. Before you even know the question, you’re expected to know the answer. Due to this, it seems like we’ve been conditioned to anticipate and value quick responses over thoroughness. So much so that a person is interpreted as a weirdo, an alien, if they take a moment to ruminate before they make an assessment. We’ve actually been programmed to aim for, idolize and experience computer speed processing as the norm. We are the ones trying to function at the speed of robots. Elon is the one utilizing and tapping into the contemplative, complex and, frankly, moderately slow human mind.
So there is more to learn from this interview than how to make the lamest face ever while smoking weed. Instead of listening to Elon’s words (which, you should also pay attention to), be mindful of the gaps between them. This is the space where ideas are cooked, examined, carved and perfected. This is the space we’ve forgotten about.
We’re so used to the accelerated forms of communication that have become integrated into our daily routines, we’ve forgotten that instantaneous responses are not required for communication. A desire for speed, in actuality, will raise the chances of distorting whatever you are trying to say and your words matter because they are the intrinsic links to and external symbols of your inner thoughts.
On the past few episodes of the Twenty Somethings Podcast, I’ve been advocating for an evolution in communication. I believe it is a necessary step in the sequence of the emergence from the era we are currently living in. I don’t know exactly what a new age of communication will look like, but perhaps it can start with all of us becoming comfortable with space and inner dialogue before vocalization.
Pause and process. Be meticulous with your utterances. If being quietly critical means judgement and being labeled as weird, then don’t be afraid to be a mute peacock amongst the chatty suits. People are often baffled by the sheer amount of ingenuity that has emerged from the busy and chaotic mind of Elon, but perhaps his secret of production lies within a fearlessness in and capitalization on moments of silence.