42? The answer to this is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought ’42 will do’ I typed it out. End of story.
— Douglas Adams
Douglas Adams must have been ingesting interesting things throughout his day when writing the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy… Not sure if I’d want the same menu but thank goodness he did, life would be just that little less interesting if he had not.
A mere 7.5 million years of computing and checking to tell one double digit number to this insanely hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings who wanted to be know-it-alls… of course it became the center of everything, even if the search changed – from seeking an answer it became a challenge of finding a question.
It didn’t really matter what was said. It was who said it, either in the book or in reality where we’re talking about the book. Because – well read… it is the hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional being asking, it is 7.5 million years of calculations, I mean IT MUST MEAN SOMETHING RIGHT?. Sure, means a great joke.
I’m Croatian. In our educational system at age 14 you choose which high school to go to – general gymnasium or something more specific like technical school I chose (nobody told me that I’d be stuck among boys only for 4 yeas…). Then at 18 you choose which university to go to and for the next 5 years you sweat and curse that choice until the relief of getting a diploma. What then? Are you ready to do anything? Hells no, you just learn that the school just started, you just happen to go into it with some important papers.
In these musings around the age of 20, I found myself one idle afternoon in a bar thinking – how do you make all the right choices – how do you become the greatest – what does the greatest guy ever do – what school did he go to – how does he behave – what does he eat and drink… hey wait a moment, who would the greatest guy ever be? Don’t think past, or near or even far future, think Star Wars and Start Trek and multidimensional and alternative, Back-to-the-Future (all 3!) timelines… of course it would be – The President Of the Universe.
How do I become the president of the Universe?
Little did I know, diving into what was my first ever box of books ordered from Amazon, that there’s a writer who invented Zaphod Beeblebrox, president of the Imperial Galactic Government.
Typing this out in Word and seeing I’m almost a full page deep and considering making a joke about how I ended up working in a government and, for those who know me, whether the above will be interpreted as ramblings of a mad futuremegalomaniac, maybe it’s time to put my initial question here – how would the greatest man ever (President of The Universe of course) lead? I do study sustainability leadership, so might as well move away from the naturally more comfortable technical aspects of sustainability to this fickle world of humans and who they follow and how and why.
Fast forward few dozen books on leadership, about a dozen on psychology, one hopeless attempt at getting into sociology and anthropology and finally landing into the School of Common Sense (a bit wiser after all those reads earlier), it’s pretty easy to make quite a Hitchhiker’s conclusion:
DON’T PANIC. Also, have a towel.
OK now, seriously, first don’t panic.
Pretty much all you do is OK it seems – not because there’s an absolute OK in this world, but because there’s always someone who finds whatever you do or say, as long as it’s said with conviction, as perfectly OK, regardless of if it’s totally mad.
I mean just look at this – 12 totally different styles of leadership. Think of your favorite dictator – how many people would call him a leader (forget who’d call the same guy insane for the moment)? Now think about likes of Obama, Kennedy, think Einstein or Newton, Shakespeare (let’s stay away from spirituality/religion here but you get the point)… all leaders, or thought leaders… and all so different. What’s that common strand that thousands of books and courses out there haven’t yet covered? What should we do with all those silly talks of whether a leader is born or built (I say neither)?
Here’s a thought – it’s about how you travel this planet, in mind and body. It’s about consistency and being true to first and foremost yourself – with that, it’s then just a matter of finding the group of people who’ll just go along with it.
Not what your values are, what style of communication you use, race, religion, personal history, CV, diploma, marital status, gender, salary, property, how much you can lift in a gym or hairstyle. All that immense diversity just brings me back to a mantra I repeat to myself often, stealing shamelessly from Shakespeare:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.
In a theater, being the star means having your role, having a role means other people expect you to fulfill it – so if you’re fulfilling your own role naturally and knowing yourself and your abilities, limits and set of values… well… all eyes on you.
So how does a leader preach sustainability? Does he live sustainably? Or is it similar to those interesting rumors that top management of tobacco companies are non-smokers? Something to think about.
Remember Al Gore? Well dang it… seems he doesn’t really practice what he preaches when it comes to his own house.
Do Greenpeace guys live in caves? Or do they want us to, regardless of what tech is coming our way to make life better and cleaner? And are they looking wide enough? Sure, they agree with solar, but I could not find one reference to see their position on way materials are extracted and used to make the solar panels they promote. Oh and yeah, I think they cherish their iPhones, the Internet and so on, many of which would not really come around if we stop technology altogether, would they?
Do oil & gas guys really not care about environment at all? Sure they do, if they can make a buck on it – and they will. Good for us. Not so good for those who are adamant that oil & gas are villains. There’s a reason Shell went from being an oil company to being an energy company. I’ll go check the number of Cambridge graduates there a bit later.
That’s just some preset paradigms that came to mind when typing this all up, simply to say – there is no recipe for this.
Remember Zaphod Beeblebrox? In lieu of another President of the Universe, he was pretty much a deviant drama queen, not that much unlike today’s politicians. Dang it, another role model busted.
Seems we’ll have to expose ourselves to free thinking, something that Erich Fromm, a popular philosopher for my father’s generation, had a lot to say about – we’re simply afraid of it because we don’t know what to do with it – once we finally have it, we run back to the familiar arms of non-freedom… get a job, find a worry, find something to criticize or simply some other sort of thing to occupy our time and thoughts.
So what do to?
“If other people do not understand our behavior—so what? Their request that we must only do what they understand is an attempt to dictate to us. If this is being “asocial” or “irrational” in their eyes, so be it. Mostly they resent our freedom and our courage to be ourselves. We owe nobody an explanation or an accounting, as long as our acts do not hurt or infringe on them. How many lives have been ruined by this need to “explain,” which usually implies that the explanation be “understood,” i.e. approved. Let your deeds be judged, and from your deeds, your real intentions, but know that a free person owes an explanation only to himself—to his reason and his conscience—and to the few who may have a justified claim for explanation.”
― Erich Fromm, The Art of Being
Somewhere in there is the answer to how to become a President of the Universe. Key is in the universe – your universe. The one involving all the cool people around you, people you like and love, regardless of how close they stay in your circle of life.
Yeah I gotta end predictably here. So Long, and Thanks for All the blog reading, fish. I literally have a flight to catch.
Dubai Airport, 9 November 2017, about 15 minutes until boarding EK514 to Delhi