I was recently having a conversation with one of my friends on what Patanjali has done to the FMCG sector. The conversation goes like this:
Me: What Patanjali has done is very tough to do as it has shaken the big FMCG players, which used to raise prices of the products every year, while Patanjali follows completely opposite strategy it reduces prices or keeps profits to the minimum which may results in fewer profits in the short term, yet more volume and mass reach.
It is quite incredible as it is very tough for any businessman to do such a strategy.
Mr friend: Its fine it’s not that a big deal. Anyone can do it. Further, I have heard in news or etc they pay so & so taxes and some of their products are not that good.
Further, no one pays from his own pocket. So it’s not that of an achievement.
Me: I agree there are teething problems and may be other problems. Yet, I am still admiring the decision as there are very few entrepreneurs who in the same shoes can take the same decision.
My Friend: This is no big deal. At least no one is spending entirely from his own pocket.
Now from this conversation, I won’t say the point of my friend is wrong, though he grossly under-appreciates the decision taken. Then if we further investigate it becomes clear, he is quite theoretical. I further question him to know, whether have you ever run a business yourself? Quite clearly, the answer comes no. Then how on the basis of few news articles did you form your opinion on which you spent few minutes of your time. Further, try to put yourself in the shoes of that person at that point of time, considering the fact that you are trying to attack the best companies of the world with less money and only idea. There are 1000’s of things which could go wrong and all your money and reputation may be spoilt. Don’t consider Patanjali is successful this information is after the fact not before the fact. When you are creating Patanjali it is just a name no brand no one knows about it.
This lead me to think about wisdom. Why is the practical experience so underrated?
There are three levels of wisdom. First comes when we hear or read something and blindly believe it, second is when we rationally or logically arrive at a conclusion using our past or some theoretical framework and the final one is practical experience.
Let me explain through an example. Think you are are a person who has never seen or tasted an apple. Now, you go to someone and he/she says the apple is a very tasty fruit and it is blue in colour. So the blind faith person would form his opinion that apples are blue and very tasty. He/she will never go to see or taste and apple. He will further even fight with people who will say that apples are red considering them dumb. He will never make the effort to go to the next level of reading or trying eating an apple.
If you are a logical or rationalist kind of person, you may read and hear different views of the people on the taste and colour of apple. You will read a variety of books and then using your logical conclusion, you may arrive at a new theory on apple. Let’s consider you bought an apple and start doing scientific experiments on it to know how it tastes. After years of experimentation, you form your theory and publish books, start writing in newspapers. Still, you have not tasted the apple.
This stage is necessary but if you overdo it, it only satisfies your intellectual ego, you forget that the real reason of the books or from the person you heard it was to motivate you to give it a try yourself.
The person who eats the apple many times and knows the taste of the apple at the experiential level has definitely attained/ or is near the wisdom in this domain of eating the apple.
The real job of the first two levels is to give rise to the third level. In reality, most of us are left lurking in the first two levels and never reach real wisdom which only comes through practical experience.
Yet when it comes to any argument most of us overrate our theoretical knowledge and undervalue the wisdom of practical experience. I think this happens because we hate uncertainty in our lives. We need our lives to be simple cause and effect relationship as we want some predictability and permanence in it. While nature seems to be quite uncertain, unpredictable and impermanent. So whenever we want to do something we try to build narratives like why we are better at it.
I do not mean to say that reading or hearing about something is bad. But if you stop only after reading or hearing about something and form your opinion, you will not fulfil the real purpose for which reading or hearing was done. It was done to motivate you to give it a try. Now, I do not mean to say that we need to go in front of the gun held by a terrorist to know whether he/she will shoot us. Definitely, there are many things we can learn from the experience of others. Yet, for a majority of domains, personal experience can be only categorised as wisdom.
Let me give another example:
Think there is a person, he has a PhD/MBA in management from Harvard, then he started teaching management in a b-school. Yet he has himself never worked in a managerial role. His intellectual knowledge is quite wide and well read. Yet his practical experience is basically nil.
Now this person may form new theories for management or evaluate others from outside. But there will always be a key element missing in his entire life. He may be the best teacher of management but never has the experiential or practical experience of a manager. Hence, is knowledge satisfies his intellectual ego and is far away from reality.
There is another person, who is just done basic schooling and never gone to college. Yet in his life he has done various odd jobs, started two businesses and failed in both. His wisdom in terms of management will be quite better than the previous one. As he has practically taken the experience and learnt from it.
The problem today in us is that we think by having a degree in Finance they will become the best investors. Like many students read Warren Buffett these days and start fighting with established investors who may be pursuing investing in a different way. It is only when you make investments then you learn about business.
We like to make comments on people (politicians, spouse, friends, relatives, businessmen, religious people, etc) after something wrong or right happens. Most of us will say ‘How foolish this politician is, after reading a news article about them?’. We love to make theories or narratives ex-post (after the event). It is like the second level in the above-mentioned picture. We believe how easy it was? Ex-post. Whenever you or we have some thoughts like this we should always ask? Do I have the relevant experience to comment on the same? Or better Do I need to comment on the same.
“ Nature does not care what your opinion or prediction is or whether it is right or wrong. Nature is quite anti-fragile and unplanned or uncertain. We build narratives to satisfy what happens ex-post.” ~ Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder
If we keep on ingraining others opinions and not form our own ones, we may neglect beautiful gift of nature given to each one of us
“ To form an independent opinion”.
As history rhymes never repeat exactly. Having an open mind will help you make the best of every situation. So whatever you read is history and is written with some context.
A teacher, an author or friend, family can guide you but cant walk on your path. You need to walk on the path yourself.
I think our focus on over planned life is what creates this problem. We forget that we should try to make the best of every situation (That’s how nature works) rather than having a planned or predictable path. This is called goalless growth.
Now in order for this to happen, we need to be aware every moment or as we say our sub-conscious minds need to be active every time. This rarely happens as we are most of the time lost in past or future. Let me explain examples:
Think after two months of no breaks from work you and your family go out to watch a stage show of your favourite actor. You are very excited. As there is no online system to make the booking, you think you will buy the tickets on the spot.
All your family dress ups in formals which is the dress code for the event. You reach the place excited and happy. After reaching you realise the show is sold out. Most of us at this point in time will be frustrated or angry. In this rage of anger, we will not realise the present situation (act automatically). Now, if you are aware at this moment of time you will make some alternate plan and laugh at the situation.
There are endless examples when we are controlled by our sub-conscious mind or evolutionary brain which makes us act or react without being aware. Think about you eating food or drinking water.
The most applicable discussion of this article in the religious domain. I won’t go into details for that matter.
If after reading this article you just read and left then remember you satisfied your intellectual ego. Now how really to practice awareness or being open-minded. At least I can share my experience, meditation really helps us. (I did Vipassana meditation course and it really helps me). You may find your own which suits you. But without trying meditation forming biases of it being good or bad opinions is only intellectual satisfaction. In order to find which suits you, you need to try.
I hope it helps all.
Remember the author of this article is still far away from wisdom in many aspects.