Where is Jonah Lehrer?

It happens: we screw up.lehrer_rect-460x3071

With any luck we own up to any mistakes and move on.

Life continues, the metaphorical business version of an invisible scarlet letter and all.

Jonah Lehrer, whose gifts as a writer (best sellers such as Proust was a Neuroscientist,  How We Decide, and Imagine as well as writing for Wired and The New Yorker) unfortunately included making up facts and repurposing material, is missing in action.

Lehrer’s career blew up in June 2012 when it was discovered that he had self-plagerized (taking material from one article he’d written and using it another) for work for the Wall Street Journal, Wired and The New Yorker. Shortly afterward it was discovered that Lehrer had made up quotes attributed to Bob Dylan in Lehrer’s book Imagine.

Imagine was pulled by publishers Houghton Mifflin (you can still get the [good] book but only through third-party sellers on Amazon). Lehrer got canned from writing for his column Frontal Cortex at The New Yorker, his writings appended with the equivalent of a tar and feathering.

Lehrer apologized – badly it appears – and has been otherwise mostly off the radar while working on a new book on love. No speaking engagements, nothing on his Twitter feed, and his Facebook page is dark, his “about” and “contact” website link to his agents, is empty. Nothing; looks just hunkered down.

What does this mean to you?

The world abounds with people who screw up from small to large acts and recover: Martha Stewart, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, and Henry Blodget all to come mind as people who have stumbled and bounced back.

It likely hasn’t been easy for any of them, and it’s likely been done with the support and help of those close to them.

But it can be done. So the next time you make a mistake or have a blow-up, realize that there’s likely a path back with hard work and applied talent.

Jonah Lehrer is a really gifted writer who made some really dumb mistakes. Would I take him on as a coaching client? Sure, he’d be on the list; I’ve helped others with similar challenges.

He’ll be back. And I look forward to his next book.


Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub.

Image by None via CrunchBase


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