Why Do Elites Die Young?

March 17, 2009

swiss_army_knifeWhy do some scholars take a bad turn? To paraphrase in direct terms: how did it fuck up? Does it have something to do with the venality of online games – I mean, it makes sense right! When you consider to get to the seventh level of war craft one has to vaporize at least ten thousands aliens and a few penguins – I am sure that’s bound to have a scouring effect on ones character.

Nope, I don’t buy into that straight line logic; anymore than I believe all women drivers are bad motorist because of late auto manufacturers seem to be provisioning cup holders.

 

Fact of the matter is; the reason why some scholars screw up isn’t so different from how many of us and even big juggernaut firms manage to egg it up – you’ve be surprise how remarkably democratic and class blind the laws of cocking up really is.

 

And it matter little whether you’re running a juggernaut fortune 500 firm or just trying to trying to chalk up the years to finish your miserable scholarship bond or even if you’re an average Joe like me, who is basically just trying his level best to get the best deal in life – the rules of success and failure apply just the same irrespective of class, color or creed.

So that’s the first myth out of the window; the low down is we all compete under one and the same sun.

 

Having said that do you notice the folk who usually take it the hardest are those who are really smart? If you don’t believe me just cast your mind back to your averagely miserable campus days; who were the ones who usually landed all the hot chicks? Was it Mr Ace-all-the-grades or the bad boy?

And just in case you think that’s another one of my crack brained theories; erase it from your mind; there’s even anecdotal evidence supporting the contention smarties have it rough and tough. Yes, according to Dr. Alex Benzer, a Cambridge and Harvard-educated hypnotherapist who had a piece in the Huffington Post last week called “Why The Smartest People Have The Toughest Time Dating.” There you go proof.

 

But why is that so? Well if you really want to understand why the dice is loaded against smarties; it just boils down to one theory; they aren’t that smart to begin with – that’s to say when we use the word “smart.” Its conceivable, we may be just applying a very narrow band of intelligence that bears little or no relations with the whole idea of using ones brain to carve out competitive advantage in life.

And what we should all consider is whether the whole idea of smart hasn’t been somehow scripted, packaged and sold to everyone of us since the day we are born – we are all told for instance – good grades = the good life. As a consequence most of us aspire to be scholars.

 

But what are we really producing?

 

Well if you consider that the word smart is synonymous with specialization – and specialization is just another word for focusing on one area of your life till it squeezes out everything in between and the middle to roughly the diameter of a pin head – then I don’t think that’s a very smart way to go through life; I am not saying everyone that gets good grades and manages to land a scholarship is narrow minded; but I don’t believe that’s necessarily the best way to build a better human being – besides there is more to life; then getting a string of A’s or making they the mythical tape line whenever one decides to take to sports.

 

My feel is there has to be a cost associated with being so focused in one area of interest that it excludes everything else.

 

And this bears out only too clearly when you speak to really smart people; they can tell you everything you want to know about lets say what happens if you throw a golf ball into a black hole; but the downside is when lets say they cornered in alley by a bunch of gay militant bikers bent on spot of free ass – they have absolutely no street wisdom how to talk or fight their way out of it – in short, they’re pretty lousy survivors.

 

Bear in mind; this is just my theory; based on my personal observations – smart people in my opinion have to be myopic people; they tend to get fixated on one point; they suffer from severe tunnel vision and it matters little whether its an object of interest in their research field or getting by in life; and if you really look through the life and times of smart people; they all have one thing in common; most of them don’t even make it past 40; they just seem to burn out and drop dead for some strange reason – again it matters little whether they are really smart composers; artist, scientist or even businessmen – it all reads like the curse of the Pharoah’s.

 

One reason why some of them seem to go down the dodo hall of fame is because being smart may not be the best way to get ahead in life; I mean if you look carefully at the animal kingdom – the most resilient species aren’t specialist like Koala bears who can only climb upside down and munch only on Eucalyptus leafs or Russian Sturgeons who only seem to be so manja (spoilt) they can only spawn when the temp hovers between the narrow band of 21.5 – 22 °C in the Caspian Sea.

 

Survivors are generalist par excellence; like rats and roaches; they can survive any where; in the case of roaches; the more you spray them; they just develop more immunity and come back twice as strong – all you’re really doing when you try to kill them is create the ultimate pest – my point is they are very versatile creatures – they don’t cling to fixed assumptions like the smart losers.

 

And one reason why the generalist wins is because he cannot afford to live in his make belief world of no regrets; generalist as the term implies have to always to pop up their heads like a periscope and take a sweep of the bigger picture. They learn to get by with plenty of duct tape, rubber band and super glue – since things never go their way most of the time; they just need to adapt, improvise and overcome and that could just as well be not having the right paper qualifications or like me graduating from a tin pot university that no one has ever heard of before – and in some cases they even get marginalized, discriminated and looked down on – but that doesn’t kill them off; it just makes them stronger; but elites can’t do that.

 

For one they’ve all bought into a shitty master plan where they’re told they’re infallible and the best in the world – and soon even the best of them get caught up in the gyre of mythologizing their existence, ratio and being – and when you buy into that shitty plan where failure is no longer an option – that’s simply trouble.

 

Because in real life shit happens whether you like it or not, airplanes drop from skies; your ipod doesnt synch and even your girlfriend may decide to open her legs for another man or show her bush to the whole world in the internet – that’s life man ; so you better get used to it.

 

The problem with elites is they cant roll with the punches and get up and fight again; that’s what happens when one becomes terminally fixated – things just have to work out their way, one way and our way; if it doesn’t they just pull the pin on the grenade and say bye bye.

 

In short elites dont take failure very well – they rather do themselves in then to admit that they have failed – it matters little whether what they once egged up happens to be running a business, relationships, career or the whole idea of being a man  – THEY RATHER DIE THAN ADMIT FAILURE. In short, they no longer possess the ability to see the world in the right scale and perspective – that probably means their judgment has become so warped, its worthless.

 

You could just as well take this kernel of an idea and just superimpose on lets say the question of why big firms go bust; you could even use it to explain stuff – like why do firms fail? Sure you can say it’s poor execution – bad planning, poor design, sloppy handling or just plain lousy market intelligence – but at the end of the day, if you really boil it down to one sentence it just comes down to – having a lousy perspective.

 

Somewhere amid the medley of making money they got carried away with not 100 or even 10 or 5 ideas that got them into a hole – but usually, they got so fixated on only one idea – could well be putting all their chips on one market niche like banking; or maybe deciding to spend hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars to build a vehicle that can just run on fuel cells like the Segway.

 

In game theory; we call this the all or nothing game and it’s not so different from walking into a casino and putting all your chips on one number. The long and short of it; that’s no way to win unless you consider dying in the speed a light some way to get ahead in life.

 

It always pays to remember life is valuable only because it can be lived in so many ways; it’s so versatile –   – makes far more sense to buy into an idea of a multi-tool Swiss knife that has everything from box cutters to a cork opener; may even be slightly clumsy as we all know Swiss knifes don’t seem to do any of the things they are supposed to do very well; may not even get you the first prize when it comes to a book shelve race – but that could just be what separates a real winner from the losers – the all rounder, that is.

Only losers kill themselves.

 

Darkness 2009

 

Brotherhood Press 2009

 

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