Writing Your Own Ill Fate

I have written earlier about Moammer Gaddafi pulling out of Libya too late and also a bit about the mistakes he had made. Well, it turns out he did not have enough friends to accept him and apart from that, he never really wanted to pull out of Libya anyway. Therefore, he lurked around his hometown of Sirte and was brutally murdered, or executed if you will, after public humiliation on October 20, 2011, which went on till his funeral in an unknown place. Maybe that’s how he thought he would have died honorably. But I have my doubts.

This brings to light even more lessons. One thing is for certain. Gaddafi was the architect of his own ill fate and if you ask me, it was he who chose his way of death. Now consider this.

 It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.

                                                                      – Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527)

                                                                         from The Prince

While you may consider Machiavelli evil, there is almost a consensus on his unmatched understanding of politics, as writers and political advisers in history go. Unfortunately, not many dictators are able to keep all that wisdom in mind. From a report in The Time Magazine, the Chinese version of this quote, though said a lot earlier, from Laozi was the favorite of Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf, the then new front line ally of the United States, in its July 22, 2002 issue.

When the Master governs, the people are hardly aware that he exists.

Next best is a leader who is loved.

Next, one who is feared.

The worst is one who is despised.

                                                                                        – Laozi (c. 604 BC)

                                                                                           From Tao Te Ching

Musharraf had had this quote inscribed on a plaque adorning his residency in Rawalpindi, according to the report.

There is a good reason why Machiavelli and Laozi said this. These dictators may have these quotes inscribed on a plaque or may sleep with a copy of The Prince underneath their pillows, but they often forget the wisdom when the moment of truth arrives. A relatively smart dictator like Musharraf did well as far as studying political retreat strategy is concerned but I don’t think Gaddafi really had any concept about it whatsoever, not that I am underestimating his abilities. The moment your people stop fearing you, you cease to be a dictator. This goes to show just how delusional Gaddafi was. As I have maintained before, he was probably the bravest of the international leaders, but yet he was delusional to the extent of being suicidal.

Source: Al Jazeera English (english.aljazeera.net)

The longer he stayed in Libya, the greater became his chances of being lynched to death by a crowd. And that is precisely what happened. He had the option of giving himself up to the Western powers had he been interested in living for long. He also had the option of shooting himself before arrest, as we are told that Adolf Hitler did, but he chose not to do that either. As I wrote before, his perfect diagnosis was being stuck in the middle of being scared of losing his throne and being scared of losing his life. His son Mo’tassem Billah Gaddafi was also murdered by the rebels. Looking at their end, his other son Saif-ul-Islam has announced that he would be ready to face the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. Maybe a smart move.

As for the rebels, while some people would have disapproved of his murder like that, but expecting anything else would be a little too idealistic and unrealistic. That is swift “justice”, if you will. Who has the time for trials for crimes against humanity? They knew he was guilty and instant justice was served, the revolutionary style. The rebels celebrated and the photographs of the killed Gaddafi, which I bet would have been far more gruesome than those of the dead Osama Ben Laden, were making headlines in the mainstream media around the globe.

The Libyans were celebrating, as they should. The rebels were ecstatic. President Obama said that Gaddafi’s death was a warning for the iron-fist Arab dictators, probably passing a hint to Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad. Surprisingly, in fact not surprisingly, some publications around the world, which otherwise have a pretty “liberal” record, published celebratory headlines on Gaddafi’s death. Still, there are a few who have been disturbed by the images of the incident. While it was a moment to celebrate, it was also encouragement to people around the world to kill the leaders they do not like once they get their hands on them. Not that anything is wrong with that. It is justice after all. But many of them would be upset and outraged if many other of the world leaders, who have committed similar or even worse crimes against humanity than the Libyan dictator, are brought to a similar end.

I wonder if he we have more bloody coups and revolutions waiting to happen. And more dictators dying a bloody death. As I said in my earlier posts, if you are upset at it, think of the Romanovs.

Smart dictators around the world still have a choice to make.

Repeat Gaddafi’s mistakes and you would be writing your own ill fate.

The Good Old Peace Protests

Source: we-celebrate.com

People like John Lennon remind you of the prominent peace activists of the last century who have changed a lot of minds. I sometimes wish I had lived in the 60s and the 70s. At least it was fashionable to root for peace back then. Now, after all these years, do you see the same number of peace protests while we still have all the wars? People look at you as if you are a moron if you talk about peace. Maybe it is just me or maybe the world has become a much more realistic place than it used to be. As a matter of fact, the world has become more prone to violence and wars. The economy is in turmoil, class inequality is at its worst, unemployment except for a few countries in the world is at record levels and what else.

The modern world has becoming the breeding grounds for intolerance in the age of information, despite the age of information. There is terrorism, yes. But that is what the terrorists do. The terrorism is further spawning violence and intolerance to the extent that sometimes it seems we are approaching a point of no return when it comes to acceptance. The terrorists are turning all the people into terrorists in their own domain and that is the most terrifying thought. The world needs the hope for peace again.

But who wants to be crucified again?

Making an effort for Peace.

This is something you can never achieve by distributing the Nobel Prize for Peace every year and make a mockery of it. However, people like John Lennon can do it in this way very effectively.

Wars cost a lot of money. Peace costs nothing.

Today, on Lennon’s birthday, here is the song that I am reminded of again and again. It is a good description of our world and of ourselves.

None of us really wants to, it seems.

Happy Birthday John Lennon in no Hell below us.

RIP Steve Jobs – Lessons From the Inventor

Steve Jobs (1955 - 2011) - Source: The Apple Tribute

Woke up to the terrible news of the demise of Steve Jobs, arguably the most innovative and brilliant entrepreneur of our times. His works have been monumental in computer technology and probably he is greatly responsible in part for starting the revolution which has made it possible for you to read these lines right now.

While Steve Jobs made record revenue and profits for his organization, as anyone in his place should, he is an inspiration for much more than that. His impact on the modern day technology, from software and personal computers to tablet computers, from mobile phones to portable digital music players, is immense and hardly needs any mention because then the post will look more like an Apple ad. But his creations were mostly about design and utility. No nonsense.

That is one marketing lesson.

For a man who talked frequently about death, he certainly knew how to live and showed that to everyone else by example. I am deeply moved by his death and most of all, of his attitude towards it. It is hard to be strong when you see death coming your way. It is remarkable if you defy the fear of it and go on to live the way you love.

The following piece offers a great insight into his life.

The Spiritual Side of Steve Jobs

It is only fitting that Steve Jobs be allowed to complete this post himself, as his words will surely be remembered in history as great and inspirational. His philosophy was that we are here to put a dent in the universe. He has certainly put a dent in the history of human civilization. Advances that must be recorded for the generations to come.

The following is the text of his commencement address at Stanford University delivered on June 12, 2005, which can be found on the official Stanford University website here.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

Source: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html

The text says it all. It is overwhelming, personal, emotional, engaging, strong and most of all, effective. It is being shared all over the internet today, in tributes and in news. It tells a remarkable story of a remarkable man and offers lessons in each phrase for anyone willing to take them.  It is never too late.

But here is the greatest lesson of all from the man.

“Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish”

                                            – Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

Thank you, Mr. Steve Jobs.

Celebrating Gandhi’s Day of Non-Violence

Source: featurepics.com

I am often ridiculed, actively or passively, by sane people from all walks and dimensions of life, the realistic, the materialistic, the god-fearing ones, the godless ones, the believers, the skeptics, the patriots, the traitors, the scientists, the witch-doctors, the zealots, the nihilists, the politicos, the sophisticos, the councils of war and the councils of peace, for admiring Gandhi. Almost all of them either consider Gandhi evil or an idiot. I would still admire him if he were one or both of the two.

These two things have been pretty fashionable ever since the man had lived and died on the planet, that is, admiring Gandhi and hating Gandhi. The greatest thing about this phenomenon is that it is not confined to any particular nation, religion or race. If you think otherwise, you have probably missed a lot of things.

Don’t be impressed by the fact that the Republic of India admires and follows Gandhi just because she has his portrait on her banknotes. They are anything but his followers. I don’t blame them. No one is. At least not a state. Besides, they would not be able to run the kind of state that they want if they ever were to follow him. Maybe there are Gandhi’s followers in India, I cannot say for sure of course, but what I know of is that they do not matter. They surely don’t matter elsewhere.

I do not want to indulge myself into admiring Gandhi blindly. As Gandhi himself despised blind faith in anything. You must question your faith, he said. Doubting him and his apparently insane beliefs, probably he was responsible for many deaths, probably he was not at all. But then again, you can say that about most of the notable personalities in history responsible for creating and starting new religions, new political or apolitical movements, new ideas, philosophies and revolutions. But what I know about it is that I cannot do what he did. I can never do what he did, neither I think anyone else can.  It was superhuman to show what he showed.

It is one thing talking about it and another actually doing it. I am talking about actively practicing non-violence and leading by example. Try doing that, and it is not just that you should claim to be a Satyagraha guru by not killing even a fly, but establishing a coherence of your beliefs and your opinions about the world with the concept. Try doing that. It is not easy, believe me. We all know that Gandhi did not do that overnight. He never could have attained it effortlessly. He was not a Prophet from the Bible. He was a Prophet from the ruthless world that we know of. This is why it is so difficult to follow Gandhi. I have said it before and I will say it again, in some other way.

Now why would someone hate Gandhi, you would ask. People like violence. People actually love violence. Not everyone, but a lot of people. They have to. If they hate violence, they love it being used on those who resort to it. It is not really a pathetic generalization, though it could be taken to be one, but it tells you of an unavoidable fact. Perhaps that is how the fittest survive. This is exactly why people think twice before becoming Gandhi’s followers, which they never become in the end. Of course, Gandhi would have had a lot of temptation on the cross himself. He himself would have wanted to smack the people to death who wanted to smack him to death, but he didn’t. It does not matter if he was planning to do it. He didn’t do it and that is all what history cares about.

So while I cannot possibly be Gandhi’s follower no matter how peaceful and non-violent I may pretend to be, I can always be his admirer. Actually most people are his admirers. However,  even his admirers are horrified by the man. This is why I consider it necessary to at least acknowledge what the man did. This much he deserves. He could not have possibly driven the British out of his native land. But he surely showed the world, what others could not. Practicing non-violence. That is greater than creating any number of countries. There have been many others, but none with an impact as he had on the world.

However, it was a little impact. Nobody, not even history, remembers someone who had nothing to do with wars, who disapproved of them and who would want to keep a good distance from them. Greater impact than him was of the Manhattan Project, his admirer Albert Einstein’s letter about it to President Roosevelt, and of all people, of Fuehrer of the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler. The greatest than all of them combined perhaps, the impact of the Bomb. Some admirers would say that if Gandhi were the Christ of the age, Hitler was the Anti-Christ. But that is not really correct.

The Anti-Christ has always been here. It is you and I.

It is violence.

We celebrate the International Day of Non-Violence today, as declared by the United Nations in honor of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on his birthday.

But we really don’t.

Celebrating this day is as hard as following him.