Success

Winner
Winner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everyone likes to succeed at their endeavours, but not everyone is able to succeed for a number of reasons. People have varying drives to succeed, with some having little drive and others have a high level of the drive to succeed.

Maybe “succeed” is not the right word here as what I am referring to is the drive to create a company, or an artwork, or some other goal. Some people seem to have this urge almost from birth, such as top sports people, and some have some sort of “Damascene Moment“, where some event gives them reason to achieve some goal.

the Conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus...
the Conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus as painted by Michelangelo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Actually St Paul is probably not a good example of what I am talking about as he already had a goal (persecution of the Christians) and his goal was changed dramatically. Many others, however, have experienced conversion events to many different religions. Some however have experienced more gradual conversions.

It is not my intent to argue that sudden or gradual conversions to any religion or creed are real mystical or religious events. They may give the person a life long belief in the creed or religion, but in many cases such conversion may moderate or fade over time.

English: Parish church of the conversion of Pa...
English: Parish church of the conversion of Paul the Apostle, Vrhnika, Slovenia. Slovenščina: Župnijska cerkev spreobrnitve Sv. Pavla na Vrhniki (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the big religious revivals in the US such as those run by Billy Graham people at the rallies were encouraged to make a public declaration of their faith and millions did so. The pressure and excitement engendered by the event most likely resulted in people being swept along and making declarations and later reconsidering.

People who succeed in things are focussed individuals who have a clear goal, and do not see or discount the difficulties in achieving their goals, whatever they might be. Others, who are less driven would more likely see the difficulties, and indeed, such difficulties may be overwhelming.

Depth-of-focus
Depth-of-focus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The media is happy to promote success stories, such as this one, and they are supposed to be inspirational. The person mentioned in the article appears to have been successful, with a high powered job and a similarly high powered lifestyle, only to lose it all. The story ends on an upbeat as the person succeeds in turning her life around.

This little example shows a couple of things. Firstly, although she was successful, her life crashed and burnt, and secondly, she turned her life around but her goals were now set much lower.


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Many people who attempt to become successful crash and burn like she did both before and after becoming successful. Also, she was successful in turning her life around, achieving a different sort of success.

That’s an interesting point – one form of success is to acquire lots of money, property, possessions. Another form of success is to be able to enjoy oneself in a hedonistic way, usually as a result of acquiring money, property, etc.

English: "The" Cranstal Cottage (now...
English: “The” Cranstal Cottage (now vacant and for sale) near Cranstal, Isle of Man My grandfather came from the Isle of Man to Missouri back in 1852 and became a successful farmer. We (my wife and I) have visited the IOM twice and love it! We were looking for property to buy and found Cranstal Cottage, the same one shown in the photo with the palm tree in the front, taken front on back in 2005 [33942] Now it is quite overgrown with no one living there and for sale. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
However, such successes may not provide happiness, and indeed money may not buy happiness for many people. To achieve happiness one may need to give up such worldly wealth and adopt a simpler life. Others may find other ways to achieve happiness, for instance, in a job which they enjoy, and achieving happiness may, in many cases, equate to achieving success in life.

Personal success can come as a result of success in other fields, of course, and worldly success, such as starting and running a successful business, is almost always considered to be any achievement worthy of public approbation.

English: A Chinese man going about his business.
English: A Chinese man going about his business. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However many newly started businesses fail. This does not hurt just the entrepreneur, but also anyone who has come to depend on the new business and those who have invested in the business. Normally a start up gets finance from friends and relatives in the first place and only wins finance from other sources later.

Some entrepreneurs have a history of failure. Some fail multiple times causing severe financial distress to friends and relatives. However, if such start ups were banned, this would severely hamper the evolution and growth of businesses. Such companies as Microsoft, Apple, IBM, Facebook, and Google, not to mention Amazon and similar would perhaps not have come about.


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However, it is worth noting that Richard Branson, whose Virgin companies are well known, and who is now trying to conquer space commercially, came from a fairly well to do family. Mark Zucherberg, also came from a fairly well to do family. Bill Gates of Microsoft had a similar background. It seems that having a well to do family helps one succeed as an entrepreneur.

Of course, that’s a sweeping generalisation and would need a lot more data to justify. It might be that the reason, if there is one, for such a correlation, is genetic, and successful people may often come from families that have an entrepreneurial gene. It may be that the reason if cultural, and that children of successful people learn from their families how to succeed.

English: Renowned speaker, author, entrepreneu...
English: Renowned speaker, author, entrepreneur and artist Jewel Daniels (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If there is a correlation, this doesn’t bode well for the children of the less well off. They either don’t have the genes for success, or the don’t have the environment for success. Nevertheless some of them do succeed, against the odds.

A successful businessman or woman is like a successful athlete – an athlete is more likely to be successful if he comes from a successful sporting family. Such a family is more likely to provide the support that any aspiring athlete needs and will have provided a successful gene set to their sporting children.

English: Owen Hamilton represents Jamaica in t...
English: Owen Hamilton represents Jamaica in the 800 meter track and field team event at the 1984 Summer Olympics. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A family that knows how to compete will be able to inspire in their children the will to succeed if they follow in the family footsteps. However the child will need to have the intrinsic ability to perform, if he or she is to approach or even exceed parental achievements.

I think of this whenever someone points to someone who has achieved success in business or their life and remarks that this person shows what dedication and hard work can achieve. The implication is that anyone who does not succeed isn’t dedicated enough and is lazy.


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This implication is just not true. No matter how hard I try, if I trained every day, there is no way that I could become a top athlete. Such athletes are anomalous phenomena. They are gifted individuals, and this should be recognised. In business, as in athletics, it takes more, much more, than hard work and dedication to succeed. Thomas Edison‘s adage is true, but without the one per cent inspiration, which comes to few, it is all just sweat.

None of my inventions came by accident. I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes. What it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.

Grandad’s a Geek!!

Geeks

The original geeks were sideshow performers who did disgusting things like disembowelling a chicken and eating it raw. They often had mental issues and lived in squalid conditions, maybe even cages. They might be billed as “a savage from the depths of darkest Africa” or some such nonsense but more likely they were just people who had sunk to the bottom of society and had fallen in with the carnival. Alcoholics who would work for a bottle of moonshine would reputedly sometimes  act the wild man for the carnival.

The film “Nightmare Alley” tells the story of one such geek, from his start as a sane and relatively normal person, who joins a carnival and works his way up to fame and fortune, only for his world to collapse around him, to his final fate as the alcoholic carnival geek.

Nightmare Alley

The word “geek” (together with the similar word “gook”) has been used as a derogatory term for Asian people by Americans and others during war time. Troops were supposedly encouraged to use such terms in order to “dehumanize” the people of the countries which were being fought in or over. Hence the connotations of dislike that comes with the word.

The word “geek” meaning a clever person may possibly have its origins in the United Kingdom. It’s possible that its use in this sense may have arisen when the word which had been used to target overseas people was instead used to target unlikeable  people much closer to home! The person who top scored in all tests and had no social graces became known as a “geek”. Of course, in some cases the so-called “geek” eventually by virtue of his smartness became the employer of those who belittled him at school.

Nerd

In the highly technical world that we live in, the “geek” naturally became a wanted person and while the term is still often used in the derogatory sense, it can be a term of back-handed admiration, and the term is often proudly asserted by the geeks themselves. Indeed, having worked in Computers and Information Technology for all of my working life, I somewhat proudly consider myself to be a “geek”.

79-365 I am a computer geek!

The techno-heroes of the current day are the likes of Bill Gates of Microsoft, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne of Apple, and Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard of Hewlett Packard. There  is a sort of sense of awe that these geeks have achieved so much.

Latter day geeks have had films made about them. The founder of Facebook, Mark Zucherberg has been portrayed in a film, in a not so flattering light, I understand, not having seen the film. The school geek appears late on in the film “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion” to whisk the eponymous heroines off in his helicopter.

Cover of "Romy and Michele's High School ...

“Geeks”, “boffins”, “back room boys” have existed in every era of history, no doubt. They are relied upon to produce the technical goods while being regarded both as humorous and not quite normal. However their status has risen of late, driven by the vast technological boom that pretty much started during the Second World War. The Dambusters, the Enigma machine and the atomic bomb all came from that era and after the war the boom exploded.

ENIGMA cipher machine collection
ENIGMA cipher machine collection (Photo credit: brewbooks)

Geeks and computers go together. In the beginning, in the late 1940s, large machines started to appear in back rooms, tended by men and some women in white coats. These mysterious machines performed strange calculations and the geeks in control were treated like high priests of some mystery cult.

At this time a relatively new company called IBM rose to prominence and dominated the new field of computing. Mainframe computers as they were called swiftly spread to many companies, and special rooms were built to house the multitude of beige cabinets that formed a mainframe computer system. By the 1980s there were many computers performing many different tasks and companies began to depend on them.

English: IBM Personal Computer model 5150 with...
English: IBM Personal Computer model 5150 with monochrome phosphor monitor (model number 5151) and IBM PC keyboard. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However there were smaller, simpler computers starting to appear. Many households of that era would have had a Sinclair or Commodore or Atari computer on which to play games. IBM introduced a computer of this size, the IBM Personal Computer, but then they dropped the ball. While IBM is still one of the biggest companies in the world, they did not really embrace this technology, allowing the rise of the PC.

IBM System/360 at the Computer History Museum.
IBM System/360 at the Computer History Museum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One company did embrace the technology and realised that the way to make the big money was not to provide the hardware, but to provide the software that ran on it and Microsoft became its rise to prominence, like IBM before it, and the Microsoft Operating System became dominant, and is still dominant today.

1993 - Grandad's old computer setup, Irith -
1993 – Grandad’s old computer setup, Irith – (Photo credit: Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL))

So what has this got to do with Grandad? Well, the current generation wonders whether the older generations will “get” the new technology. Consider though. Grandad will be 60-ish, right? That will mean that he would have been born in the early 1950s or late 1960s. In the 1980s he will have been around 20 and just the right age to take part in the spread of computing around the globe. He may have had a Commodore or an Atari at home.

Commodore 64
Commodore 64 (Photo credit: unloveablesteve)

In his thirties he will have seen the rise of DOS and Windows and he may even have had a 386 machine at home. Possibly he became proficient in DOS and the early Windows being what it was he probably was proficient obtaining and loading “drivers” for his machine.

It is likely that he has experienced the joys of persuading a  modem to connect to a bulletin board, or through a fledgling ISP to this new thing, the Internet. He may have spent hours downloading a blocky, slow game to display on his CGA-capable monitor, transferring it down the telephone lines at the rate of a few bytes a second. A megabyte download might have taken half an hour or more.

古董
古董 (Photo credit: alanine)

As the Internet grew he would have switched to the Netscape browser and accessed the Internet at 2400bps, then 4800bps, then a massive 9600bps and on to an astronomical 56kbps! Doubtless these days he uses some form of broadband or cable connection.

Today’s geeks believe that because they have grown up with the technology that Grandad (even Dad) will not be able to cope with it. They conveniently forget that while they may have grown up with the Internet and the technology, the Internet and technology have grown up with Grandad!

Blowing out Grandad's birthday candles
Blowing out Grandad’s birthday candles (Photo credit: djdpascoe)