If 50 million people say something foolish, it is still foolish. 

Legendary novelist William Somerset Maugham’s ageless saying is easily one of my favourite quotes. The abrasive manner of the quote adds a deep sense of  gravity to it without changing its simplicity. 

A simple experiment carried out in the 1950s by legendary psychologist Solomon Asch shows how peer pressure can warp common sense. A subject is shown a line drawn on paper, and next to it three lines – numbered 1, 2 and 3 –one shorter, one longer and one of the same length as the original one. He or she must indicate which of the three lines corresponds to the original one. If the person is alone in the room, he gives correct answers – unsurprising, because the task is really quite simple. Now five other people enter the room; they are all actors, which the subject does not know. One after another, they give wrong answers, saying ‘number 1’, although it’s very clear that number 3 is the correct answer. Then it is the subject’s turn again. In one third of cases, he will answer incorrectly to match the other people’s responses.

In our world of abundance where we have 500 varieties of a product, seldom do we compare our choices. We tend to purchase that what is in vogue, quality notwithstanding. We feel the need to buy that what everyone is buying, acquire that what everyone already has. Most of us have at least once tried imitating a person we adore, a person whom we look up to, right? The advertising industry is the biggest beneficiary of our behaviour because people like ‘you and me’ appear on the small screen and catch our imagination unawares.

Another classic example is that of a student. He is required to study with piety. Whether he wants to study that what he is actually studying is an altogether different question, which is of least concern. He has to study what everyone else is studying. Once he completes education, he is required to take up a job. There is prerequisite for taking up the job. It should be a respectable job, which the society doesn’t look down on. Whether he is motivated by the job, is again a different question. He is expected to continue with that job for the next 40 or so years till he achieves the legal age to retire like so many others before him and most probably a horde of people after.

This urge to follow others (society in particular) has reverse evolved. In ancient times, people followed what other fellow human beings did because those times demanded it. Everyday was dangerous. Every second was a constant tussle between life and death. Moreover, one couldn’t expect a man then, to stand in front of a charging mammoth with an air of audacity, right. He was supposed to run away as his fellow brothers did. But today, times have changed and yet we haven’t. There is no longer a need to run in the direction of the crowd. Infact, today we all have a chance,  which humanity at other times, seldomly had. The chance to stand up from a crowd of people and shine. The chance to break the shackles which are pulling the society down and yet not be looked at with a frown but with approbation and cheering.

So let us all take an oath today that we will henceforth always think rationally before taking any step and not just follow the crowd. And if that happens (and I am sure someday it surely will happen), then another great quote by William Somerset Maugham will find sanctity and that is ” Tradition is a guide and not a jailer“. 

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Is stress required in life?  

Well, most of the readers will obviously say a big NO. I mean, why take stress and bring home all the diseases which accompany stress. Only a fool would believe stress is not bad. And mind you, such fools do exist. 

I am one among them. Personally, I believe that stress is as important in life as salt is in food. Just as food without salt is useless, so is life without stress. It is in moments of stress and pressure that the mind functions optimally. In fact, it would not be wrong to say that stress acts as a stimulus for greater efficiency. 

Take any list which contains influential people. You will not find even one person in that list, who reached where he/ she is now before undergoing a period of stress and utmost pressure. There is an old adage which goes: every carbon molecule can get converted into a diamond, but very few, which take on the pressure finally become one. 

However, just as a lot of salt can poison the entire food, similarly, a lot of stress can harm a person. One should not keep on taking stressful tasks one after the other. Stress is just a part of our life, and yet we tend to make it our life. This can have  serious implications across various dimensions of life. 

To conclude, I would like to urge the fellow readers to remove the perception that stress has a very negative connotation. We must learn to use stress to our advantage. We need to learn, how to use it to navigate through unfavourable situations and turnaround our losses into our gains. And be very sure, this is quite possible. In fact, not just possible but rather probable! 
Happy Reading !! 

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If fishes were allowed to swim…

Albert Einstein once said, ” Everybody is a genius. But if you ask a fish to climb a tree, it will lead it’s whole life believing that it is stupid.” 

And today, that fish is not just being asked to climb a tree, it is being asked to climb down again and then go for a 5 kilometre sprint too. And you might be wondering whom does the fish refer to?Sadly, that fish today is us, all of us. 

Ever since we were born, we were  expected to climb trees,i.e excel in school, excel in college, excel at work, etc. But doesn’t anyone understand that fishes aren’t meant to do that. Sure, some may be birds. But what about the rest.

Every person has different strengths, different needs, different interests, different dreams. Some are painters, some are singers, some are good with numbers, some are astounded by the cosmos. But the system in which they are, ensures that the fins of these fish are brutally clipped off and replaced by imaginary wings.

Children are trained right from their infancy to pursue careers that are remunerative. But what about the interests of that human being. Probably, the next Picasso now works at an IT back office in some obscure setting and the next Aryabhatta is wasting his time in the cockpit of a commercial airplane.

Everybody is a victim of this charade of a system that we call The Education System. It teaches us to be in line, speak when asked to, eat when allowed to and infact, express only when it wants us to. There is no respect for the spirit of humanity. Fishes are taught to climb trees but  tested by asking them to run a 100m race. This is our evaluation system. 

No regard for talent. No regard for creativity. No regard for knowledge. You are judged on the basis of how much matter you recollect of what you read on the previous day. Appalling, isn’t it. It is the death of understanding- slow but one which is certain. It needs an urgent overhaul before it is too late. 

Come now, let’s tend to the needs of the fishes. Let’s give them a system which allows them to dream. A system which helps them in getting to the path that they wish to tread on. Because, they may be 30% of the present population but they are 100% of the future. This is the world I believe in – a world where no fish is ever asked to climb a tree.

-(Inspired by a video)

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