Saturday, July 14, 2012

The other side of 3 idiots

After that post on education which got either too much praise or too much criticism, I'm back with another post I have long wanted to write, but didn't. Thanks again, to Lightning strikes everyday. He has written a post on 3 idiots, and it covers a lot of the stuff I wanted to write about. I strongly recommend you read his post before continuing. There is probably quite some overlap between the two, though I hope I have added my 2 cents to it.

So, among the many people who loved 3 idiots, I was one. (I admit I didn't like some of the cheap humor, but I liked the general idea.) I have always believed (and hopefully will continue to believe) that one must follow one's dreams in life. You get only one life and all that. And that is why I liked the movie. But like the post by LSE says, there are too many catches in that scenario. This post is about the other side of the coin.

1. Most people don't have a dream/passion or don't know what their passion is. -This should be obvious, but sadly isn't. Most people who conclude that software engineering is their passion in life, are lying to you or lying to themselves. Seriously, how can an entire nation fantasize about Java coding? 
But that's not the bad part. Remember the time when you had just finished your 12th and were trying to decide what to do. Did you know that programming was your passion? Rather, did you know that behavioral ecology wasn't? What about population genomics? Most of the people I know went through a phase of having to decide though they had no clue what they wanted. In fact, they didn't even know what options they had. They did not particularly like anything too much- Science was ok, math was not bad, history was horrible; or vice-versa. And luckily for them, the choice was already made. You could give your exams and like a slot machine, almost magically you would get the answer of what to do, based on your ranks. It was convenient.
While one half of the population doesn't know what it wants, there are a few people who want too many things. Like me. And some of my best friends. I want to learn everything, know everything, be a writer, singer, electrical engineer, biotechnologist, astronomer, traveler, economist, teacher, social worker, wealthy CEO, critic, politician, all rolled into one. Which is physically impossible. It is just that I enjoy too many things in life, especially associated with learning and achieving. Point is, it is hard for someone like that to decide what their passion is. So what do you do? You could try each of them and realize at 65 that you never found out. Or you could simply follow whatever appears to be your best one. Thing is the 3-idiots-philosophy simply doesn't cover this aspect.

Now, at this point, some of you are probably saying- "No, I am not in either group. I'm really passionate about painting (or music, or cinematography or whatever), but was forced into engineering." There are 2 angles to this. One angle is that-
2.  Most people are not talented in a way as to become super-excellent at something.
Most people who talk about following your dreams assume that you are good (if not exceptional) at whatever you are dreaming about. Which is not always true. In fact, it is not true 90% of the time. My dream could be to become a Hollywood actress but I probably speak in the worst monotone, have pathetic facial expressions and do not have a figure to speak of. Same with being the artist or whatever else. 
Think about it. How many artists are there in this world? How many became popular? Same with writers, scientists, actors, cricketers. It's simply because most things in this world follow a normal distribution. There are too few people who are exceptional or who completely suck. Most people are average. So, if something is your dream, and you are average at it, but you are average at software too, but the latter ensures you have a house and food and can survive on your own, which is the better choice? No, I'm not giving an answer to that, but the point is that this is not an easy decision to make. What if you are good at something that is not your passion? Movies like "3 idiots" and all related writing quite simplistically romanticize suffering for your passion. They make it sound like it is the system's fault that YOU ended up being a software engineer and not the awesome wildlife photographer who is featured on Nat Geo. It isn't anybody's fault but yours. Anyway, point is that not everybody who likes economics will become an Amartya Sen and not everyone who wants to be a hero becomes a Hrithik Roshan. Life is simply not that simple.
Also, it is not easy to excel. (To be continued...)

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