2013-03-15, Nerijus Celkonas

Think Big

Up to what point Think Big is safe?

Have you ever thought what determines which people become leaders? Historians analyze outstanding personalities all the time in order to determine what makes ordinary people exceptional and embraced by the elite? Is it personal qualities, circumstances or both? We all know the phrase – at the right time and in the right place. But let‘s not call it destiny and analyze the scientific side of the matter.

First of all let‘s remember what makes us, mammals, move forward. Most of you will probably remember Sigmund Freud and Andrew Carnegie who named two most important drive elements for mammals. It‘s material benefits and recognition (we won‘t discuss the strongest of all drives – the physiological one as it has little influence on leadership). Thus, money and ego are the driving forces of humanity. As we‘re not alone on our planet, Charles Darwin summed all of it up in his evolution postulates – this way competition and individual fight for those two elements was born. It’s still unknown for sure which one of these elements is stronger; are they managed by genes or are they elements of our spiritual world? Though, one thing is quite obvious – only 1% of society could become leaders. For precision, we should eliminate extremities and elements seeking material wellbeing such as frauds, or recognition elements such as exhibitionists, and shouldn’t consider them the majority. These extremities are influenced by the media, professionally masked and presented to us as the elite (if looking deeper, we should stress that leaders and the elite isn’t quite the same). Just look around you and you’ll see pseudo businessmen and pseudo stars wishing to get attention and recognition at any price. We should also limit ourselves from another extremity – social isolation. Every one of us can also name great businessmen whose names we don’t even know (“the guy that owns this or that”) or artists that get fame only after death.

So how is a statistical leader formed? If we analyze outstanding personalities, one fact will certainly surprise us. Many of them weren’t the brightest ones in school or even didn’t get higher education. Where could this fact lead us to? 

Let’s start from the physiological aspects and circumstances of human formation. These two facts probably play a key role if we don’t believe in destiny. Human brain works on the principle of associations. That is, according to the information “loaded” into the brain, a person creates new thoughts influenced by other circumstances (other triggers). It’s called logical thinking or cognitive psychology. What logical thoughts would come to two different persons with different primary thoughts?  For one person – the sky and the earth, to the other – a screwdriver and a screw. Our whole thinking is based on incentives – recognition and benefit. If the new thought gets a reward from environmental triggers (for example, through serotonin and dopamine in the brain), this means that one understands it as the correct decision and continues the behavior. If there’s no reward, this information is also stored in our thought library in the brain. To make it easier, let’s imagine our brain’s information formation as fractal thoughts. Complicated systems are “born” from primary thoughts. It’s like the “Butterfly effect” – if the primary thought was inaccurate, then what consequences await us?

Thus, the logical conclusion follows, that the quality of primary information and the surroundings (triggers and rewards) form the future personality. Education becomes the critical element to put young individual on the right track. Would it be brave to state, that the less specialized information, the greater the possibility to acquire the THINK BIG quality? Is the “Big picture” way of thinking only a general perception of information, without paying attention to lesser detail? Did this happen to modern leaders who dropped out of college for greater goals? You can’t miss the trait of starting something, but never finishing it, when you read the accounts of leaders’ relatives. They just keep on looking for new ideas or challenges. When the first idea doesn’t bring “rewards” anymore, they drop it and proceed to the next one.  Meanwhile, a physicist will spend all of his days closed up in a lab till he finds the Higgs boson’s secrets.

Most leaders intuitively understand that it’s easier to become President than get a job as a plumber. Even though it sounds incredible, but they perceive this as lesser competition.

Modern education system prepares “solders” and the “generals” evolve by themselves, we can’t blame the educational system for this, as it works on the most economically beneficial principle – 99% vs. 1%. Natural selection still dominates and we don’t have an answer or a way on how to recognize that 1 special percent and reveal its qualities, instead of making it into yet another one of the specialized “solders”. If you belong to one of the 99% of the “solders” – you should be proud, as it’s only because of you our world acquires form and isn’t just a patchwork of ideas. Someone has to do the hard work J.

So if nothing interests your child, he/she drops everything just starting or doesn’t know what he/she wants to do – it’s not all that bad. On the other hand, the prolonged non-receipt of the “reward” can become long-term “creativity” and then turn into chronic laziness.

A very common parenting mistake is forcing a child choose the parent’s way of life. If the father is a businessman, the son can’t be an artist. If we force children to cram information since early age, but don’t teach them to actually think, we’ll naturally specify them into “solders”. After all, there are also “lieutenants and sergeants”, not only solders and generals. A human being has to find its own path in life in order to become the leader of his/hers field, what makes him/her the real elite. Even if one becomes an elite slacker. The receipt of award is the real joy of life and that’s what measures happiness.

A paradox and a joke for the end of the column.

Probably most of you have notice that:

  • The most beautiful girl in class achieves nothing in her life or her life actually sucks
  • The class nerd usually doesn’t achieve anything or gets de-specialized
  • The ugly duckling turns into a swan or vice versa

Two classmates meet after 20 years. One of them was the nerd and the other – the guy with the worst grades ever. The stupid one asks how the geek is doing now: “Great”, says the geek, “I work for the government and live from salary to salary. And you?”. “Wonderful”, says “the worst grades ever guy”, “I buy cigarettes in Belarus for 1$ and sell them here for 2$ - and live from those 2% leftover ”.


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