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“There is no talent” – Scott Dikkers of The Onion

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Image of Scott Dikkers


This past week, I attended a Leadership lecture by the very chill and insightful Scott Dikkers. He is the founder editor of The Onion, and the longest serving editor-and-chief. The Onion is an American media company and new satire organization. The Onion comments on current events, both real and fake. They run satirical articles reporting on international, national, and local news. They started in Madison Wisconsin then moved to New York and are now based in Chicago.

The main lesson I learned from this lecture is summed up into Scotts following statement, “there is no talent.” Scott left us hanging. I wanted to know what exactly he meant by this? I’m thinking this guy has something really cool to say, (and he did). Scott means, that none of us should solemnly rest on our talent to be successful. People who are passionate are the ones to model after. I asked him what he meant. Scott explained with an  example about a former member of The Onion. He was a talented guy but depended on his talents and doesn’t share the same success stories as other Onion writers. I suppose “there is no talent” means there needs to be passion.

The lecture was full of cool humble beginnings stories. Stories about how they started The Onion in a dorm room and how Scott eventually bought The Onion. Scott hired some really odd writers, (who are now really successful.) His stories seemed endless (in a good way) we couldn’t get enough of them.

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Image of Austin Sellers and Elif Grs (on left)


The story I found most interesting was of how he ended up homeless and at the same time felt so fulfilled. The story goes, at some early point of The Onion’s history, lasting a couple years, The Onion decided to invest any money they earned back into their business. The idea was to spur the growth of the paper. The effect was his business partner and Scott had no salary or income from the paper. Scott couldn’t pay for his rent and began couch-surfing. He slept in the studio where they record The Onion radio, he showered at the YMCA and ended up crashing in the basement of his “little brothers” family. He was part of the Big Brothers program at the time and, (this is awesome) the family of his “little brother” took pity on him and decided to take him in. His only belongings were in a knapsack and he slept on a mattress next to their furnace. At a point their dog peed on the mattress and at that moment he realized this should be the lowest part of his life – even though it wasn’t.

Scott goes to say that he was so fulfilled professionally that he really didn’t care. Material things weren’t important to him. He makes a good point that here in America we say we believe money doesn’t buy us happiness. We say material goods aren’t important but who are we kidding, we live in ‘Merica, and so we do believe money leads to happiness. Socially we learn that, a house, a paying job, etc. is the path to be happy. Scott says we just need to be living our passion. Duh, that’s why homeless people are so happy (nah).

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