Tolerate Genius

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. Isn’t it time we made it just a little bit easier for geniuses to do their job? Isn’t it time we Tolerate Genius?

I passed by a postcards-counter in a restaurant recently, and one particular card caught my eye:

“Tolerate Genius”, David Ogilvy.

Think about it. How many of us actually do?

Albert Einstein once said, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” If we examine our own experiences, we are more likely to find that a reality. And that’s what a genius faces each day. Opposition. Violent opposition. In spirit, in thought, and in acceptance. Yet, if we look back in history, we would not have moved beyond the Stone Age if it weren’t for unconventional thought. We would spend the rest of our lives in the belief that the Earth is flat and we are at the centre of the Universe. No discoveries to be made. No inventions. No nothing.

Isn’t it time we made it just a little bit easier for geniuses to do their job? Isn’t it time we Tolerate Genius?

Why Nerds Are Unpopular

You may not have been a “nerd” in your school days and you may think you don’t need to read about them now. But this essay is much more than that. It will give you a perspective on the importance of education in life, the role that parents and institutions have in it.

Mark Twain once remarked : “Never let your schooling interfere with your education.” And I am sure that all of us, at some time or another, have agreed that truer words were never spoken. I, for one, have always felt that the things that really ought to be taught in our schools and colleges are not even dealt with superficially. When do we teach our kids communication skills or the importance of relationships in life? When do we teach them to follow their calling and find their own path? How long before we tell them that “memorizing meaningless facts” is not the key to success? How long before they can even define what “success” is on their own terms?

We continue to go through life, putting our children through a system that does not work, and then blame society and the government for all that is wrong in the world. When, in fact, the fault lies with us – with our actions and our inactions.

Paul Graham recently wrote an article called Why Nerds Are Unpopular. In this insightful essay, he describes the various causes that make some kids nerds and about the “degeneration of society”. But in doing so, he also makes same very pertinent observations about how things came to be the way they are now, and what can be done to change that.

According to Graham :

Officially the purpose of schools is to teach kids. In fact their primary purpose is to keep kids all locked up in one place for a big chunk of the day so adults can get things done. And I have no problem with this: in a specialized industrial society, it would be a disaster to have kids running around loose.

What bothers me is not that the kids are kept in prisons, but that (a) they aren’t told about it, and (b) the prisons are run mostly by the inmates. Kids are sent off to spend six years memorizing meaningless facts in a world ruled by a caste of giants who run after an oblong brown ball, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. And if they balk at this surreal cocktail, they’re called misfits.

…Those who suffer most by this are the kids who would be the happiest if the school’s purpose were really what it’s claimed to be.

Read this article. You may not have been a “nerd” in your school days and you may think you don’t need to read about them now. But this essay is much more than that. It will give you a perspective on the importance of education in life, the role that parents and institutions have in it.

It will tell you how you can make a difference…

A Perfect World

I have often wondered about a peculiar question : Is “ideal” necessarily “impractical” ?I know there is no such thing as the perfect world. And I am not aiming for one. But I sincerely believe that the world would be so much better a place if we aimed for the sky and not landed the stars, but didn’t fall on the ground either…

I have often wondered about a peculiar question :

Is “ideal” necessarily “impractical” ?

There was a time in life when we as a community used to call something ideal when we had to aspire to achieve it, and when it was deemed as worth achieving. But every day that goes by, I get the feeling that we now pass off something as “ideal” only when we wish to consider it as “impractical” – and not even try to achieve it ! And that is a scary thought…

It does not augur well for our future, that our society regards most of what is ideal as impractical. It lowers the bar on most things in life worth fighting for. And every thing we have today, we owe to people striving towards a higher goal. Not settling for that which came easily to them.

But today, we don’t even try for it. We just dismiss it off as “too ideal”. And with that goes most things worth achieving. And that is a scary thought. Because, intentionally or not, we will pass on these values to our children. And our children’s children. And in doing so, we will set in motion a downward spiral, resulting in the death of values as we know it.

I know someone of you will think : Naa, this guy’s just paranoid. But think about it. What happens when we see small instances of wrong-doing in our own lives and disregard it as “a way of life”? What happens when we hear of a business practice that seems unfair on the face of it, but convince ourselves that it is, after all, a business and must make profits to survive? What happens when we face issues that affect the entire world, but are no one’s responsibility? What do we do about global warming, environmental pollution, a bureaucratic government, corrupt politicians, the population explosion, and disappearing rainforests?

And the problems don’t even need to be so big. We face difficult situations all the time. We are forever at the crossroads of deciding which path to take – the right one or the easy one. And yet all of us, almost always, take the easy way out. Sure, we justify it by telling ourselves : “Life is hard enough as it is, and I don’t need to take on additional troubles.” Some of us even rationalise it by saying : Life has been hard to me, and I deserve this much of wrong-doing ! Still others convince themselves by saying : “This is not a one-man task and I will not get the support of others on it. So let me not even try.” So where does it all end? If it all, it does…

I say we give the other path a try. For once, let us try and do something, because it is simply worth doing. Let us at least give it a shot, and then say : I tried, but it didn’t work. Let us at least try to achieve the ideal… We just might achieve it !

I know there is no such thing as the perfect world. And I am not aiming for one. But I sincerely believe that the world would be so much better a place if we aimed for the sky and not landed the stars, but didn’t fall on the ground either…

Book of Questions

I have a little book called the “Book of Questions”. It has nothing but questions in it ; No answers, just questions. Each question is meant to make you think about your life and your approach to it. One specific question from that book has done a lot to the way I look at life.

I have a little book called the “Book of Questions”. It has nothing but questions in it ; No answers, just questions. Each question is meant to make you think about your life and your approach to it. Some of them are pretty thought-provoking. One specific question from that book has done a lot to the way I look at life. It goes like this…

“If you had just the end of the day before you die, and from now until then, you could not even say one thing to any one, what would you regret most not saying? And why haven’t you told them yet?”

Think about it. We always live as if life will go on forever, each of us fully aware of the fact that death will come without warning. Yet, the secret to a good life is to live each day like it will be your last. That way, instead of putting off for tomorrow, we will do / say it today ! If each of us did that, wouldn’t the world be a far better place?

What would YOU regret most not saying? And why haven’t you told them yet?

Sigmoid Curve

Have you ever wondered when is the right time to launch something new? When is it right to change tracks? When is it a good time to take a leap of faith into an unknown future? Should you not wait till you reap the rewards of the efforts you have put in? If these questions have bothered you endlessly, a little tool called the “Sigmoid Curve” might help.

Have you ever wondered when is the right time to launch something new? When is it right to change tracks? When is it a good time to take a leap of faith into an unknown future? Should you not wait till you reap the rewards of the efforts you have put in?

If these questions have bothered you endlessly, a little tool called the “Sigmoid Curve” might help. I owe this one to Charles Handy, a wise old British economist and author, who wrote about it in his book the Age of Paradox. (See this article for an interesting perspective. And click PDF for a one-page note on the concept.)

According to Handy, the best time to start a new “curve” is before you reach the peak of your existing one ! That way, you will be starting something new when you still have the resources, and the spirit, to take it to new heights. In contrast, most people think of doing something new only when they have reached the bottom of what they are presently involved in.

Though, I must also point out that Handy’s recommendation is easier said than done. There are several difficulties that come up in its implementation. For one, it is very difficult to determine where one is on the sigmoid curve. Another big problem is that it is against conventional thinking, and you are most likely going to face resistance from your peers and those around you, making it difficult for you to stick to your plan. I mean, why would any sane person want to give it all up when the peak is yet to be reached ?! But that’s precisely what the model suggests.

(If you think about it, that’s kinda like what Sting did when he broke from The Police at the peak of their career. Sting once said in an interview that he left Police when they were touring all over, and were on the top of the charts for several weeks in a row. What else was there to achieve?!)

Why am I writing all this? Because my life till date has been kinda like a lot of sigmoid curves ! I have always believed in constantly learning…evolving…growing… And this concept has helped. In all honesty, it was more good fortune than well-planned strategy that led me to where I am now. But this concept has helped.

If this write up helps you in even a small way, it would have achieved its purpose.

So, go ahead. Carpe Diem. And, may the force be with you !