Tag Archives: talent

Steve Jobs And The Nature-Nurture Debate

a-young-steve-jobs-smelled-so-bad-he-had-to-be-put-on-the-night-shift-at-atariMany years ago, I dropped out of college. People have often asked me whether I felt fear when I dropped out of engineering college. But, people are cowards. They do not understand college dropouts. The night I decided to drop out, I paced on the terrace of the college hostel, throwing stones, watching their trajectories. I felt exhilaration and a great sense of relief. Then onward, I had all the time in the world to read whatever I wanted to read.  Everything I did since then—and before—was rooted in my absolute confidence in creating a world of sublime beauty and tenderness by pressing my fingers on the keyboard.  

In the years I spent there, I cut myself off from the outside world to read the tall pile of books in my otherwise Spartan wooden room. My hostel mates called it “The Eiffel Tower”. All they could hear was me shutting the door loudly behind their backs. So, they often loosened the screws of my room to see what went on inside my room. Each time they did, I filled those holes with my large collection of ancient pens and pencils. Once, they did not allow me to sleep till 2 past midnight because they wanted to know what was in my briefcase. It was a battle I won.

In one of those days, I read a speech by Steve Jobs on dropping out of college. It was beautifully written. If Steve Jobs were not a visionary leader, he would have been one of the greatest writers of our times and of all times. The impulse that drives men like Steve Jobs to lose everything for their beliefs is the same that drives me to burn inhuman energy to create a work of unparalleled beauty. Over years, I read his speech many times because what kept me going was that I loved to write. Nothing else mattered much to me. Years later, when I was working in a run-down building in Safdarjung, I wept reading a beautifully written eulogy. It was the most beautiful tribute written when Steve Jobs died. It was written by Steve Jobs’ sister Mona Simpson, a successful novelist who was unaware of his existence for the first 25 years of her life. Mona Simpson’s husband is a writer for The Simpsons.

Similarities do not end there. Steve Jobs’ biological father ran a popular Mediterranean restaurant in Silicon Valley. Once Steve Jobs’ biological father told Mona Simpson without knowing that Steve Jobs was his own son: “Even Steve Jobs used to eat there. Yeah, he was a great tipper.” Steve Jobs called his biological parents his egg and sperm bank. But, it was his egg and sperm bank that shaped him, and not the working class parents who raised him.

When Steve Jobs’ high school sweetheart visited his home for the first time, she wondered “how these hardworking, blue-collar parents, these people with common sense but so few books, gave him the space to be completely otherworldly. To be extraordinary, in fact.” But, Steve Jobs’ biological father was a PhD in Economics and Political Science. He was his mother’s teaching assistant when she was a doctoral candidate. Steve Jobs was born when his father was 23. When Steve Jobs was young, his girl friend gave birth to a child he was not willing to raise. He was then 23 years old. Jobs’ biological parents wanted him to be adopted by a wealthier couple that rejected him at the final moment because they wanted a baby girl, and not a baby boy. So much for the belief that parents prefer baby boys. Anyone who has read enough about gender knows that parents prefer to adopt baby girls.

Is Steve Jobs’ case exceptional? No. As Bryan Caplan points out:

“In early 1979, a pair of identical twin brothers who had been separated at four weeks were reunited after 39 years. Both named Jim, they discovered that they smoked the same brand of cigarettes, vacationed in the same town and both called their dog “Toy.” Struck by the story, psychologists at the University of Minnesota started studying separated twins that same year. Their efforts blossomed into the Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart, which ran for a quarter century, attracting world-wide fascination and antipathy.  The Minnesota researchers tracked down every pair they could find—and measured traits related to almost every aspect of life: health, cognition, personality, happiness, career, creativity, politics, religion, sex and much more. The Minnesota study reveals genetic effects on virtually every trait. The breakdown between nature, nurture and everything else varies from trait to trait. But Ms. Segal emphasizes the uniformity of the results—the consistent power of genes, the limited influence of parenting. Some findings go down easy: As most would expect, identical twins raised apart have virtually identical heights as adults. Some findings seem obvious after the fact: Genes, but not upbringing, have a pretty big effect on personality traits like ambition, optimism, aggression and traditionalism. Other findings perennially cause outrage: The IQs of separated identical twins are almost as similar as their heights. Critics of intelligence research often hail the importance of practice rather than inborn talent, but a three-day test of the Minnesota twins’ motor skills showed that how much you benefit from practice is itself partly an inborn talent.”

I Stand By Deepika Padukone

Finding Fanny?

Finding Fanny?

“Yes! I am a man. I love breasts. I stare and share. You got a problem! Don’t talk about patriarchal culture if you do not know how to respect men!”

If the Times Of India reporter had said this to Deepika Padukone, would the twitterati have said, “I stand with the Times Of India reporter”?

The truth is that men’s right to stare and share has the same moral status as Deepika Padukone’s right to flaunt her boobs. A truly liberal society would recognize and celebrate both. But, the Indian society celebrates only Deepika Padukone’s rights, not that of the innocent men who love to see her boobs. Isn’t that mean?

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Why are many Indians selectively liberal? Perhaps because the mass media, universal education and popular literature have created a minority that can at best memorize, mouth and repeat cue words.

But, I suspect this is a clever trick to get people to see her new movie, “Finding Fanny”. But, Finding Fanny? (Good God!)

Read:

“When I see condemnation of the journalistic standards of “The Times of India” filling my newsfeed, a question posed by Gail Wynand whose media empire spread like bubonic plague comes back to me: “Do you think it took no talent to create the Banner?”

Sameer Jain’s Times Of India And Gail Wynand’s New York Banner

And: Gail Wynand And The Times Of India

The Office Gigolo

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-fat-man-image23016516When I met Mr. Individual, he was standing besides his masters, like a slobbering golden retriever. They were all mediocrities, but I did not mind that. Individual was not even a mediocrity. His IQ was lower than that of a symidae. For many months, I was at the beck and call of this contemptible nonentity who oiled his way into a middle-class job by being totally ruthless in performing the moral equivalent of a blowjob for his eternal masters.

When the reporters come back in the evening after a hard day’s work, he looked like a happy man. They stood behind the desk of this cheerful fellow, giggling, with their hands covering their mouths, when he occasionally stopped to wonder, “Ideology ka spelling kya he?” If it were productivity or talent that mattered, an ambitious college smarty would have long replaced him. His masters had no intention to do so, for reasons best known to them. Useful idiots too have their uses. 

Everyone wanted to believe that Individual was simple and humble because he was as dumb as a mule. A colleague once told me, “Individual is very, very dumb. He is also spineless. But, everyone thinks that he is nice because he is such a contemptible moron. I hate him more than anyone in the office.” Everyone was enduring the truth, but only the strong would have seen the obvious.  Continue reading

The Anatomy Of Greatness

Robert Greene understands people really well.

“Robert Greene thinks intelligence is the most sensitive trigger point for envy. A sensible man would regard this “insight” somewhat suspiciously, because intelligence is also his greatest strength. But Mr Greene can say in his defence that he understands people really well. When he writes about the faults and foibles of little people, he does it with the authority of the highest level of scholarship. His erudition would put most academics to shame.”

“As much as he understands people, Mr Greene ignores some elementary facts of human nature. He claims that talent is not inborn, nor it is a product of privilege. But one is confronted by an embarrassing fact: “Success often runs in families.” This cannot be explained away by the claim that talent is a matter of practice or will. Unfortunately for Mr Greene, you cannot have it both ways. Geneticists had long established that many of our differences are innate. Perseverance cannot explain why Steve Jobs thought that his products were a fusion of scientific and liberal arts thinking, and why a designer I once worked with could not spell “Cleopatra”.”

“Another important truth is that most people are conformists. They do not want to achieve mastery by breaking free from all precedents and traditions. Even when they convince themselves that they are being rebellious, they are just replacing one form of conformism with another. There are perhaps people who attempt to go against the tide, but when push comes to shove, they will be back to where they were. Our society punishes non-conformism, and this is beyond reform because conformism is essential for a division-of-labour society. But it is possible that that introspection failed Mr Greene. Before he wrote his vastly popular books on power and strategy, Robert Greene had 80 different jobs. In the longest job he ever had, he lasted 10 months.”

Read my review of Robert Greene’s Mastery in Business Standard

What Does My Detractor Say?

People are never clear in their heads.

I am feeling a little shy to admit that I still read the things my detractor Manu Joseph says. I hear that his novel is being read, unlike his Magazine. But, I read it on his own Facebook wall. I suppose I should take such claims with a grain of salt. He says that his novels are too good, and that he does not emerge from any particular tradition. But, that is not true. I will tell you where he lifted many things from—As soon as possible.

But, what are the interesting things he thinks about these days? His interviews are full of “stimulating thoughts”. Continue reading