Questioner (Q): Acharya Ji, pranam. Gail decided what he would like to do when he was just 16 and followed it throughout his life. I have always been risk-averse and I have followed a conventional career path.
I have planned to go for MBA next, though I decided this long back there is also a feeling in me that I should experiment and do more of what I like. I am trying to understand why it is so difficult for me to follow my inner voice. How can I overcome this mental block to be sure of my decisions? Please guide the steps that I should take to realize my calling.
Acharya Prashant (AP): First of all, it’s not MBA versus something else. It’s about the center from where you decide. If you are deciding from the wrong center, then whether you do MBA or MBBS it’s just the same. It’s the same and it’s wrong.
"He wanted to do an MBA, he could not do an MBA, he had to do an MS instead." Okay. Why did he do an MS, instead of an MBA? “Oh! His father pressurized him, so he went for MS instead of MBA.” Okay okay, right, right, his father pressurized him so the poor chap couldn’t do an MBA. But why the hell did he want to do the MBA in the first place? "Because all his friends were doing MBAs. So, he desperately wanted to do an MBA."
Now would it have been any better had he managed to do an MBA? MS he did, influenced by his father, MBA he would have done influenced by his friends. How is one choice superior to the other?
Why do you want to do your MBA? You don’t look one of the business kinds, look at your face (laughs). Do MBAs look like this? Not successful MBAs. MBAs like me look like this.
What do you want an MBA for?
Q: I want to get into advertising.
AP: To influence other people through your Ads? What will you advertise?
Q: I want to do MBA so that I can do advertising and become a brand manager for a company, something like that.
AP: Is there any bit of you in all this? Advertising, brand management. "I want to end as a brand manager." You may end, but you will not end as 'brand manager'. What is all this? Will it be too difficult to see that somebody put all this stuff in your head? Not one person in particular, maybe a long sequence, an entire crowd, a process that took years and is still continuing. If you meet me in a market or had you met me 15 years back in some corporate seminar, I wouldn’t have raised these questions. But, because today you are sitting here, all clad in white as a spiritual seeker, I want to understand- what do you mean by brand management and advertising?
Q: Basically, we are influencing the audience to buy the product.
AP: Which product?
Q: For my company, for the brand.
AP: Your company?
Q: For someone’s company.
AP: For someone’s company. What’s there in for you?
Q: I will be able to put forward my ideas.
AP: Your ideas? Then put them forward why do you want an MBA?
Q: I mean it pays well.
AP: So, you want those ideas from the MBA degree, so that you can use those ideas for somebody else.
Q: I mean this is a kind of career that pays you well and you can also exercise your creative skills.
AP: Creative skills?
AP: What is that? How many of you find advertisements creative? What do you mean by creative advertisement?
Q: In a way we have to influence people.
AP: We have to? How many of you?
Q: The copywriters, the art directors, the brand manager, everyone in the team.
AP: If you want to influence people, why don’t you become a documentary maker, why don’t you go to Bollywood and start writing scripts?
Q: Yes this is one of the ways, but this is a more conventional way and people are paid for it.
Q: I mean the chance of succeeding there are more.
AP: What do you mean by success? Money?
AP: What will you do with the money? Buy some product that you have been influenced to buy through ads.
Q: Safety for my family.
AP: The ones you will buy safety from, have advertised safety to you through their ads, like insurance companies. So, you want to influence others exactly the same way others are influencing you. Sell yourself; this might be an interview for MBA entrance.
Q: I mean, when I was thinking what should I do next after my BTech.
AP: What were you doing?
Q: When I was doing my BTech.
AP: I thought you were thinking.
Q: No. So, when I was doing my B.Tech, I was thinking what should I do next.
AP: So, you were thinking.
Q: And then I used to do theatre in college and there were a lot of things like, I come from a middle-class family, so I have to take care of them also. So, I came to a settlement that I would make some money also and would exercise my creative skills as well. So, the balance was this.
AP: Did you see why you did your BTech in the first place?
Q: I used to like science at that time.
AP: So, why don’t you become a scientist?
Q: I mean at that point of time I used to like science.
AP: At this point, you like Ads?
Evil is not some humongous monster, evil is small and helpless things like these. These small and helpless things that get together in millions and take the shape of a huge creature.
One person lost and senseless and directionless is pitiable. An entire institute offering MBA degrees full of lost and senseless persons becomes an attractive destination. It is no more pitiable, it is attractive. If there is just one person who wants socks with a thousand holes, then that person will be declared a lunatic. But, if there are a million persons who want socks with a thousand holes, governments will create policies to have an entire industry catering to this huge market. Evil lies in the great number of small people.
What you are saying right now is very obviously stupid to everybody here because you are alone. Had this been a batch of graduating MBAs from some premier MBA institution, you would have shouted me out of this room. And that’s what you will do two years later. Then, do you know who would be sitting here? Some stupid HR person, of some marketing company or ad agency, and the whole occasion would appear very very solemn—a bunch of 200 graduating MBAs eager to present their credentials to the HR person of a promising firm. On its own, stupidity is so feeble; it can be crushed very easily. But because stupidity is feeble it knows one thing- it must gather numbers. So, it forms huge organizations, colonies, where all the stupid ones can stick around, and then they are very difficult to tackle.
Don’t you see even a Gail Wynand (referring to a character from 'The Fountainhead' by Ayn Rand) courting to his audience? Why did the banner have to be the most smutty thing in New York? Because that’s what the audiences wanted. By himself, on his own, each of his readers was a nobody, totally a nobody. A newspaper has millions of readers; that’s how the circulation of the big chains runs. Each of the single readers is inconsequential on his own, but when they become a huge mass in millions, then even Gail Wynand has to surrender to them.
You are surely progressing to be one of those, who can bring Wynand down to his knees, one of Toohey’s boys. What will you tell yourself when you get paid? “I got paid to sell somebody’s ‘*batata vada*’. I made a good ad, that sells ‘*batata vada*’ as ‘*masala dosa*’”
Creativity, you know. Or ‘ * vada’ as salted doughnut. Creative ads! Young talent like you. What exactly do you mean by creative advertising? I am curious. You say, you have been listening to me and I have always said, creativity has to be purposeless, if there is a purpose, you can’t be creative. How can an ad be creative? Tell me. Why do you want to abuse the term creativity? It’s worse than abuse; it's rape.