You know nothing, Jon Snow

Until a few years ago, I was very strongly opinionated. I used to have a stand about everything from global warming to whether Sachin should retire. I knew next to nothing about many of these topics, but that didn’t stop me from taking a stand on the topic :)

I remember that I also used to despise people who were fence-sitters: the people who would neither say yes or no, but would sit perennially in the middle. I thought these people were taking the easy way out. After all, it takes guts to stand up and say Yes I support this stand and react to the brickbats that inevitably follow. Even if someone had an opinion diametrically opposite to mine, just the fact that they were standing up for something used to make me respect them.

Now, a few years later, I find myself more and more in the camp of people who do not have a strong opinion on the issue at hand. I’m not sure if this is the effect of “growing up” or whether I am really more experienced now, but I’ve seen a lot of change in the way I look at things, which I thought I would share on the blog. These things will be obvious to many, and most people would have learnt these things when they are younger, but hey, its my blog.

Don’t judge. This took quite a long time to sink in. You never know the full story. You think that guy has given up? Perhaps you did not know about his family circumstances. Do you think the woman is being too cranky? Maybe this is her third job and she has been up all night. The startling thing is that people, almost universally, will not be so harsh if they knew what was going on. But we don’t, and so we judge based on what we see.

Don’t compare. I am sort of a serial offender at this. I am almost never content unless I can compare my performance with whoever is doing the best job in that. However, you never know the story behind someone’s performance. They might have doing that task for the past 10 years. They might have been giving up time with their family for weeks on end to finish it that fast. They might have been training for that contest for 5 years without a break. Comparing yourself to them and beating yourself up serves no purpose. Note that this also goes the other way: don’t judge someone harshly for their performance. A kid doing poorly at a test might not have electricity to study at home.

This also cuts to stuff like jobs and the amount of money someone else is making: you never know what someone’s life is like. Sure, he is making a lot of money, but money doesn’t translate directly into happiness. Working at a high-paying job that you completely hate and that has nothing to do with what you studied about? He might be secretly wanting your life. Grass is always greener on the other side.

Very very very little of any success you enjoy is actually due to you. There are a gazillion factors going on at every moment. Who you meet, who you talk to, what kind of day the people who matter are having, who your parents are, the kind of education you got, your hair, your height: your success/failure depends on so much other than just your effort. It really is hard to take credit for anything at all. The silver lining of course is that your failures are not your own as well, and you can let up on yourself a little.

Going off on that, the only thing you really completely control is your character. Nothing affects that except you. Even though your parents have a large influence on it, you can completely rewrite it when you grow up. And I think that’s the one thing you can truly be proud of.

P.S Sorry for more philosophical bullshit. It’s amazing where your mind wanders to. But hey, like I said, its my blog :) The title is a hat tip to Game of Thrones, which is an amazing rollercoaster book series: #1 bad, #2 didnt read, #3 utterly brilliant, #4 very bad, #5 not enthusiastic to finish.

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12 thoughts on “You know nothing, Jon Snow

  1. Nice article VC.
    The title is apt for the “Don’t judge” part.
    I will add to the “Don’t compare” a coronary – “Compare with yourself / Beat yourself” as a way to go if you want to improve in a specific area.
    Realizing the third ofcourse helps one develop Humility and Gratitude.
    “philosophical bullshit” ? Everybody is a philosopher. People give that name if they don’t like what is being said or they don’t care. But what they say don’t deserve to be cared about unless it is reasonable.

  2. Good one! The first two have been recent realizations to me too – sometimes, it takes a while to sink in and break out of old habits of thinking. As for the third, I don’t think I completely agree – it is certainly necessary to acknowledge that a lot of factors go into your success and failure but you still have to take responsibility for your actions (or lack thereof) and their consequences.

    • Ya I’m not saying you completely shrug off responsibility. It’s more like I had this mindset before that if you worked hard and everything, you would be able to obtain whatever you want it (Incidentally, this is exactly what they teach us in childhood :D Just that I took a while to grow out of it!). Now I’m more aware that there’s lots of stuff outside my control so I’m not as stressed about it as before.

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