Elon Musk is today’s Paul Revere

Genius Reputation Cometh Before A Fall.

Like Elon, Paul Revere could do anything. Before and after the Revolution, Paul Revere amazed Americans with his abilities as an artisan, metallurgist, engineer, dentist, spy, public policy wonk, social influencer, and, of course, human alert siren.

Historians point out that while Revere wasn’t the only one who went out on horseback to alert the eastern Massachusetts countryside to the imminent British incursion, he was the only one who was successful in getting patriots out of bed and into position. That’s because the word of Paul Revere was just so highly respected by the whole community.

Less well known is his earlier momentous horseback alert ride, when he trotted up to what is now New Castle, New Hampshire, and got the locals to overpower the small British garrison at Fort William and Mary. They confiscated stores of gunpowder and armaments, just before the arrival of British ships that would make use of those resources. It was a bold and brilliant move that materially helped the colonists and once again illustrated the genius of this extraordinarily capable person.

But then there's this…

Two years before the British surrender at Yorktown, Massachusetts decided to attack the British garrison on Penobscot Bay, Maine (which was then part of Massachusetts.) Paul Revere was made a commander of the artillery units because, you know, the dude can do anything; no need for, you know, military experience.

(Cue the Chuck Norris memes.)

It would be unfair to blame Revere for the utter, abject failure of what has been called the Penobscot Expedition, as it seems the experienced naval and army officers were also to blame. However, Paul Revere was the only one who had charges, including desertion, made against him.

Whoever decided that Paul Revere could serve as an artillery officer, never having been closer to military conflict than in the making of armaments?

Paul Revere and Elon Musk, each in his own special way, provides yet more evidence of the validity of  the Peter Principle, which holds that people rise to their level of incompetence. It’s what always seems to happen when the world tells you that you can do anything, that your innate omni-superiority eliminates the need for the one thing that’s needed by those sadly deficient mere mortals. Poor souls, in order to do anything well they need, you know… experience.

It turns out that we’re all in that boat, we all need experience in order to excel at demanding tasks. At the same time, we’re all vulnerable to the delusions of invincibility that are the effects of profuse praise.