As an introvert, the last thing I like to do is express myself. I spend time finding ways to avoid stating things as they are. Eventually, they come out sugarcoated or sarcastic. My expressions end up indirect, far from the point and thus confusing to others.
So, after a day of introspection, I decided to write a post about myself. I opened a new document, typed ‘Dissappointing’ and instantly, the spell-check was disappointed. Apart from spell-checkers and compilers, I have been disappointing people from a long time. So, here’s a guided tour of [my] Cape Disappointment.
“I think if anyone can beat Nitesh, then it is you,” said a friend, sitting next to me, as we were returning from a school trip. Nitesh had recently joined our class and consistently topped the class. I thought he was amazing but boring. I wondered why my friend thought I can beat him and more importantly, why he thinks I want to.
Those days, I was learning origami and pottery. I practiced making the Lucky Swan, one of which was always in my bag. My hands were dry due to repeated washing after playing with clay. I’d take a locket’s impression in clay and then make a copy of it from plaster of Paris. Yes, the same plaster of Paris that gives a true home to spiders and false ceiling to humans. We had taught Caesar to fetch a newspaper without tearing it to pieces. I was reading Bashir Badr and Hemingway. Neither made much sense but I felt literary. Poetry made me want to be in love and war made me fear loss. I often sneaked French phrases, from War and Peace, in English essays but my teacher never pointed them out.
None of this appeared on my report cards. The fact that I did not make it to an IIT, then IIM and move to the US to work for a software firm is a disappointment to my schools. They must have been proud of Nitesh because he did all that and now works for an investment bank. Unfortunately, he is still in India. Perhaps, if he works harder, he might get a chance to move abroad. Hope his check-in at the international airport will bring peace and relief to the unrequited expectations bestowed upon him.
Assumptions, associations and learning to be a spectator obsessed with success.
Assumptions flaw our understanding of many ideas, three of which are particularly interesting: motivation, creativity, and intelligence. We are always curious about how they work. Attention grabbing articles strengthen assumptions as they often describe research in an overly simplified manner. We look for recipes to become creative and stay motivated.
Then, there are associations. We associate idea to one another, like fairness to beauty, wealth to happiness, flags to patriotism etc. Together they form an inter-connected web. Stimuli trigger a chain of thoughts that travel from idea to its association. This is how we learn and begin to restrict our thoughts. This makes our personality. This tendency to form associations is easy to test but difficult to get rid of them. In careers, intelligence is associated with engineering and creativity with art. The problem is not limited to associations but how rigid they become. Say, if you are considered intelligent, then it is assumed you would become an engineer.
Children learn about everything around them. That is all we do until we have to pay taxes, then we merely conform. The subject and pace of learning vary. Since computers can help in so many subjects, they fascinate us. I did not learn computers because I liked them. On the contrary, using a computer was frustrating. Getting something done was joyful. It was a triumph. It was the possibilities that kept me going. Imagining what a computer could do made me sit and try. I saw an opportunity to bring exciting ideas to life without asking people for help. Looking back, the problem was not people but asking. I was hesitant, not shy.
I used to spend a lot of time on a computer and thus, assumed that a career in software is best for me. Currently, everyone spends more time with a computer than anything else. This might be true if you use a computer at work and carry a smartphone. I started using a computer to make something as amazing as The Matrix. Computers were slower and being left handed didn’t help. I figured the code can ease a lot of work. Instead of painstakingly moving objects with the mouse, you can define their path in code. The computer will then fill in the details. It is called tweening. I made the bullet dodge scene with stick figures. The Matrix was my motivation.
Creativity is considered like an organ, an extra thumb that whether you have by birth or not at all. Intelligence is something that can be quantified. You can be an intelligent engineer, doctor or officer but not an artist. Art is from creativity, problem solving is intelligence. These are not accurate. They are not mutually exclusive.
Rarely are school kids encouraged to make stories, they’re taught grammar and made to write essays. You probably don’t know when an idea hits you or what will motivate you. We spend a lot more time and effort trying to transform something that we are not. We have an image of what we should be and we chase it relentlessly until we are in a groove. It is a groove of monotony. It limits our capacity to observe beyond the obvious.
This is why anything outside of our sphere of comfort appears creative and sadly, unreachable. We interview individuals about how they do it. We continuously consume information and rarely try to create something new. After I watched Ratatouille, I did not try to create a 3d animation. I did not try, I thought I’d fail. Instead, I longed for another movie that would make me feel the same. This is the cycle which goes from one experience to another. Each must outdo the last or else the monotony kicks in. This is an addiction. Intelligence is not about being able to repeat. It is about being able to see the patterns.
We are not let down by achievements but expectations. We want to be successful; like the outliers who kicked open the box that caged their dreams. Still, we chase it in the most mechanical fashion. If you aim to be at the top of the ‘Pyramid’ knowing that there isn’t enough place for everyone then disappointment is a friend that’ll serve you long.
You may also enjoy being a spectator and obsess about those that made to the top. So, this didn’t turn out about how I let people down. However, I am happy to disappoint you by deviating from my shortcomings.
Also published on Medium.