In a recent newsletter, I referenced a book; Everything I Know About Business I Learned from the Grateful Dead which unbeknownst to me was written by a friend of a friend. Turns out the two friends used to swap Grateful Dead stories and on reading my post this story came to mind. When I read the story, it seemed a perfect addition to my Travels Without Charley series – so please read on and enjoy the first ‘guest post’ in the series.


One favourite was about a concerned father and his 16 year old son.

The affluent, NorCal dad arrange to meet with a well-regarded psychiatrist and youth councillor regarding his son. The father was troubled and anxious that his son lacked motivation. He further arranged for the son to also meet with the same Doctor. After a few months, they all agreed to have a face-to-face sit down.

During the course of the intervention, the Doctor learned the son was a Deadhead. The Doctor apprised himself of what that meant, and the recent activities of the boy. The Doctor immediately concluded his diagnosis and recommendation.

During the three-way meeting in the Fall, the Doctor asked the dad if he knew what his son was doing for the last three summer months. The dad really didn’t know. The Doctor explained that his son, his only spawn, had recently travelled to 30 different cities, in nearly as many states, saw around 20 Grateful Dead shows, all with no money, no car, and no visible means of support. The Doctor quickly allayed any fatherly concerns about ‘motivation.’

Eventually, the dad became a Deadhead, went to shows with his son, all while his son graduated cum laude from Leland Stanford Junior University aka Stanford, in Palo Alto, the ancestral home of the Grateful Dead.


I use this vignette to rail on the emetic notion of managerialism. The fact is the Deadhead kid was exceptionally motivated. It was just a different type of motivation. It was foreign to the father. Eventually and fortuitously it was embraced. Unfortunately, this metacognition is sorely absent in most orgs.

John Maloney