Chapter 11: Greg Lindberg Reveals the Great Thinkers Who Influenced Him
Greg Lindberg’s story is the embodiment of the American dream. Growing up as the youngest in a middle-class family, he was a first-generation university graduate. Always a critical thinker, he started on his pathway to success by questioning the quality of a medical newsletter he came across while at university, which inspired him to create a better one.
In Chapter 11 of his new autobiography, 633 Days Inside: Lessons on Life and Leadership, Lindberg discusses some of the influential great thinkers who inspired him, particularly regarding their attitude to adversity and failure.
Greg Lindberg’s Approach to Adversity
As the father of analytical psychology, Swiss psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Carl Jung had an impact on multiple sectors — including psychiatry, philosophy, anthropology, and religious studies — endures to this day.
Lindberg wrote: “As Carl Jung said, ‘Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate.’ Are you prepared to get out of your comfort zone and examine what unconscious beliefs are driving you to a fate that you might neither want nor deserve? Are you ready to embark on a path of self-awareness, of making the unconscious conscious, and to form new thoughts, actions, habits, and a new character? These are critical steps toward turning adversity into advantage — and they must come first. You can’t skip right to the end.”
In 2020, Greg was convicted of bribery. Sentenced to Federal Prison Camp (FPC) Montgomery, he served almost two years before having his sentence overturned. But during this hardship, and what many saw as “failure,” Lindberg not only persevered, he thrived.
He taught business and entrepreneurship classes to fellow inmates. He diligently performed the most menial of tasks. He discovered fasting and began reprogramming his body and mind. He became extremely fit. And, of course, he wrote an inspirational guide to overcoming difficulties and using it to one’s advantage.
So who were the great thinkers who influenced Lindberg? Well, as a prolific reader and researcher, the list is long — but here are four great thinkers who have helped mold Greg Lindberg’s attitude toward adversity and failure.
In the classical Greek philosopher’s “Allegory of the Cave,” prisoners are chained from birth to the wall of a cave and are unable to look at anything else. A fire is burning behind them. People and objects moving behind the fire cast shadows on the wall. For the prisoners, that’s their reality.
A prisoner escaping from the cave and entering the sunlight (or truth) is dazzled and confused until he realizes this is reality. But unfortunately, after he returns inside to tell his fellow prisoners what he learned, he’s blinded in the darkness, and they murder him, preferring the comfort of their known shadows to stories of a world of 3D and sunlight.
“Are you prepared to separate perception, ego, bias, and intellect from your view of reality?” asked Lindberg. “Or are you entranced by the shadows of your mind? This is, perhaps, the most important step in turning adversity into an advantage. Those who successfully turn adversity into an advantage force themselves to confront reality — however isolating it might be.”
Thomas Edison needs no introduction. But many don’t know that one of America’s greatest inventors and businesspeople only spent a few weeks in a formal educational setting. Edison was a sickly child. When he finally got to school, his teacher pronounced him “difficult.”
Edison’s mother, an accomplished teacher, took him out of school and taught him from home. It was the perfect education for this curious, energetic child. He developed a love and ability for independent learning that would propel him through life.
“Edison also had a great gift of learning from experience,” admired Lindberg. “As he famously believed, ‘Most people miss opportunity because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.’ By 22, he had sold his first invention and earned enough money to devote himself to discovering needs and creating solutions. It is an unthinkable education for so many of us now, but we can see the lessons of perseverance, inquiry, experimentation, and innovation that Edison learned on the road.
Entrepreneur, CEO, and author Susan Scott is another one of Lindberg’s aspirational heroes.
“The process starts with what Susan Scott calls ‘interrogating reality,’” Lindberg wrote. ”She describes this as a ‘fierce conversation … one in which we come out from behind ourselves into the conversation and make it real.’ Fundamentally, seeking objective truth is about not being afraid of what you uncover.”
Lindberg shared Scott’s three “stages of ‘interrogating reality.’” First, identify the issue and proposed solutions.” Next, “Check to see that everyone understands, and finally, check for agreement. ‘Be sure you get everyone’s input and resist the temptation to defend your idea,’” she says. “‘Real thinking occurs only when everyone is engaged in exploring differing viewpoints.’
“Steve Jobs is another example,” notes Lindberg. “Jobs dropped out in his first semester at Reed College without telling his parents. He attended classes — famously, Robert Palladino’s calligraphy class — slept on the floor in friends’ dorm rooms, got money from returning Coke bottles and ate for free at the Hare Krishna temple. Formally, not a lot was going on. But, informally, Jobs was learning about electronics besides his father, a machinist, making personal connections that would found Apple, exploring ways of thinking, learning about digital technology and finding out what products sell.”
One thing’s for sure: Greg Lindberg’s journey is inspirational to many and a reminder that all of us are only ever standing on the shoulders of giants.