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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How is Fawning a Type of Chutzpah?

At first glance, fawning – “giving a servile display of exaggerated flattery or affection, typically in order to gain favor” – seems like the opposite of chutzpah.

But because I’m a geek, and for all the geeks out there, fawning is actually something that requires chutzpah of us.

Why?  We want to be totally “honest”, meaning we don’t want to act like we’re seeking power or influence for ourselves.  And fawning – which is done in order to advance one’s own agenda – requires a certain amount of inner daring: “dammit, I’m going to get out there and get mine”.  In short, it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to fawn.

Plus, fawning is a performance. It requires daring to get out there and act like someone you’re not.  Half the appeal of “honesty” is that you don’t have to risk failure.  The excuse that you were just being honest is a fallback.

Thus, I submit that fawning is a weapon in the quiver of he-who-has-chutzpah, and I would certainly claim that the effort to fawn when it’s not your nature requires a certain stock of chutzpah to begin with.

“The 48 Laws of Power” recounts how Galileo had the chutzpah to fawn on Cosimo II, featuring him and Medici dynasty as the earthly counterpart of the moons of Jupiter he had just discovered.  As “48 laws has it,”

Galileo turned his discovery of Jupiter’s moons into a cosmic event honoring the Medicis’ greatness… Cosimo II made Galileo his official court philosopher and mathematician, with a full salary.  For a scientist this was the coup of a lifetime.  The days of begging for patronage were over.

If a giant like Galileo can make the chutzpah-to-fawn pay off for him, why can’t it work for me?