I’ve been fascinated to watch the rise of teen climate activist Greta Thunberg as she makes her debut in the US. Setting aside the topic of the climate crisis for a moment (although I do endorse the book The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells as a jarring and kaleidoscopic survey on the topic), I want to explore Greta’s approach to communicating her message. She speaks with powerfully austere and stripped-down simplicity (like this). Her messages aren’t packaged with prose or stitched together with incendiary poetry. She communicates blunt truths in self-effacing style, telling congress, “I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to science, and then act.” She seems less interested in using her platform for advancing her personal brand, and she avoids the tendency to combine her projected image with her proclaimed message.
This conflation of identity and truth is easy to do in an age of personal brands, Instagram images, and influencer cause-marketing. Our identities, as humans, are very much compositions of the truths we believe. But I’m reminded of what one of my friends (and master speech coach) Erin Weed has said for years: “Our own stories sometimes get in the way of the truth we need to speak.”
To be sure, truth can be spoken through story, but there is something arresting about the unpackaged truth, divorced from story, standing in naked profundity. All of this, of course, makes me think about the stories and truths that Uncharted is speaking, and how we might refine our messages and our methods to be deeply heard.