RICHARD H. RYDER (January, 2017)
It is common knowledge that Paul Revere was a prominent Mason and an even more prominent figure in American history. But there may be one part of his story that is unknown to most people – the reason he was the ideal person to spread the alarm “through every Middlesex village and farm”.
According to Malcolm Gladwell, in “The Tipping Point” , Revere was both a maven and a connector, which explains why the alarm he spread on that April, 1775 morning reached more people than the alarms of William Dawes and Samuel Prescott. Revere was extremely social and had a wide circle of associations, which made him very well known; but he also had a wealth of accumulated knowledge that made him, in MW Joseph Warren’s eyes, the perfect messenger that “The regulars are coming”.
REVERE, THE CONNECTOR
Paul Revere’s associations started at 15 years of age (Born: 1735) when he and six other boys formed the Bell Ringer’s Association at North Church in what is now the North End of Boston. Until his death in 1818 he continued to associate with men from disperse backgrounds. After he died his body was followed to the grave by “troops of friends.”
Revere involved himself in many varied associations, but five are noteworthy. He joined a political organization called the North Caucus Club, the Whig movement associated Long Room Club, the Tea Party, and the London Enemy’s List. Taverns were common gathering spots for men to discuss topics of the day and associate with others. It was not unusual to see Revere at the Green Dragon Tavern, which served as the meeting place for St. Andrew’s Masonic Lodge. David Hackett Fischer, in his 1994 book, Paul Revere’s Ride, lists seven significant groups in Boston where 255 men were in one or more of these groups. Fischer indicates none of the 255 belonged to all seven groups, or even six. Only two of the 255 belonged to 5 groups: Paul Revere and Joseph Warren.
These two Past Grand Masters leveraged their extensive associations on April 18, 1775, a critical date in the founding of our great nation. If someone was going to ride through the countryside in the middle of the night, waking citizens out of a sound sleep, and shouting that the greatest military force in the world would soon be marching through town, what better person for Warren to send than a man who was equally well known and well associated: Paul Revere.
As Gladwell mentions, Revere’s actions were the best historical evidence of a word-of-mouth epidemic, where extraordinary news traveled a long distance in a very short time, mobilizing an entire region to arms. Remember – this was two hundred years before Facebook. William Dawes and Samuel Prescott also carried the same message. Why was Revere more effective? The answer, according to Gladwell, is in Revere’s social skills and “the law of the few” that requires Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen.
Gladwell tells us that connectors know a lot of people or know people who themselves have a large circle of acquaintances. The connections are not necessarily through shared attitudes, but more through shared activities. Connectors have a knack of making friends and bringing the world together. “They are people all of us can reach in only a few steps because, for one reason or another, they manage to occupy many different worlds and subcultures and niches.” They are curious, self-confident, social, and energetic. Gladwell makes a distinction between friends and acquaintances: friends occupy your same world, whereas acquaintances occupy a different world and may know something you don’t. Acquaintances can expand your knowledge base and represent social power. The more acquaintances you have; the more powerful you are. Revere was a connector, Dawes and Prescott were not.
REVERE, THE MAVEN
Another trait of connectors is access to new things through their social network. They become specialists in new information. In Revere’s case he was a specialist in gathering information about the British, which he shared with the right people. In other words, he was a Maven. It is this rare combination of Connector and Maven that made Paul Revere so unique and so qualified to spread the alarm.
According to Gladwell, Mavens are socially motivated. They are not content with just accumulating knowledge; they want to share it, not to brag, but to improve others. Their knowledge is wide and they like to initiate conversation. Mavens don’t necessarily accumulate knowledge for the mere act of learning; they accumulate knowledge in order to spread it. Mavens are socially motivated. They want to solve other people’s problems, possessing the knowledge and social skills to start a word-of-mouth epidemic. They are effective not just for what they know, but how they spread it. It is this very social motivation that allow Mavens to draw the attention of others. It is the main reason why Revere was so effective in spreading the alarm, while Dawes and Prescott were not.
As talented as Mavens are, they are not persuaders. As Gladwell mentions, Mavens acquire knowledge and pass it on, but will not twist your arm to act on that knowledge. This is the role of what Gladwell calls Salesmen. He tells us that Mavens are data banks and provide the message; Connectors are social glue and spread it; Salesmen persuade even when we are not convinced of what we are hearing.
On that crisp April morning in 1775, Revere leveraged his social connections to pass on critical knowledge to key people in towns surrounding Boston. The result was the first formidable resistance to the British, eventually leading to the birth of our nation. It was Revere, the Connector and Maven, who played a key and pivotal role in turning the tide toward America’s independence.
What can we learn from Revere? Keep learning, share your knowledge, be social, and form connections outside your immediate circle of friends.