“When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip.’ ” -David Ogilvy
I can honestly say that my quality of life has been greatly improved from studying the teachings of the men and women who came before me. Since most of them are dead, I may not get the chance to personally thank them. However, I can do something even better and share some of the things which I’ve learnt with others and that will qualify as my way of saying thank you.
I am upset that many of the eminent people of our generation do not write more. Azim Premji, Li Ka-Shing, Elon Musk, Larry Page are all very accomplished, they have provided many lessons through the actions they have done with their lives. I would love them even more if they put their thoughts and ideas into writing so that posterity can be benefitted and we can get a more intimate understanding of how their minds work.
The first reason is the articulation of ideas. It’s really interesting how ‘you know what I mean’ is really just a translation for ‘I have no idea how to explain what I am thinking, please say you understand so I can stop talking’. There are those who have convinced themselves that as long as they have good ideas in their head, being able to actually bring them into this world is a pointless exercise. I am beginning to realize that being objectively correct is arguably just as important as convincing people that you are correct. I hope that by me taking these ideas from brain to paper, I develop a more organized structure of what I am thinking and how to communicate it to others.This transitions well to another reason.
Iron Sharpeneth Iron
Welding of the mind. Similar to how metal becomes stronger when placed through fire, I believe that reasoning becomes stronger when placed through dissenting opinions. When I have an idea or hypothesis I actively seek out people who disagree with me so that they can tell me why or where I am wrong and I can develop stronger ideas. Keynes is useful once again, “When the facts change I change my mind, what do you do?”.
This reason is partly self-serving and probably superficial. Benjamin Franklin used to push wheelbarrows back and forth through the streets of Boston, merely to develop a reputation as an industrious, reliable young man. I hope to push my ideas through society to develop a reputation as a young man with interesting insights, who is very receptive towards criticism and a great appetite for learning.
This is another one of my exercises in self-discipline. I have realized that my default state was slothful complacency and left to my own devices, I used to be perfectly content sleeping long hours and I am very proficient at procrastinating. But by diligently forcing myself to do difficult things I am slowly developing a habit which hates laziness and sloth.
Finally, Virgil says in his Fourth Eclogue that eventually society will run out of different ways of doing things, (“the ingenuity of change having been exhausted”) and will closely resemble a period which came before it. I will borrow part of this idea and say that perhaps my first or second articles may not be good, but if I write enough, the ingenuity of writing poorly in different ways will be exhausted and there will be no other options left but to write something decent.
I finish with Rousseau*, “I have resolved on an enterprise which has no precedent and which, once complete, will have no imitator. My purpose is to display to my kind a portrait in every way true to nature, and the man I shall portray will be myself.”