You know how they say you have your most creative ideas away from work? In the shower, during a walk, or while stalking people on Facebook. This kind of brainwave rarely happens to me. In fact, I have a reverse brainwave. In the shower, I have an eureka-moment about different ways to take a shower. Since, I can’t elaborate on that here, I will talk about the Rubik’s cube moment.
I was fiddling with my Rubik’s cube yesterday and had this colorful tide of existential crisis: I don’t like Rubik’s cubes, at all. I have never liked it. Yet, I have been solving ‘em for the last three years.
I liked the idea that I like to solve the Rubik’s cube.
To me, anyone who could solve the Rubik’s cube took the first step into geniushood. So I learnt to solve it. Solving the Rubik’s cube made me “that freakin guy can solve the Rubiks’s freakin cube” guy. More genius please: So, I became “that guy freakin solves the Rubik’s cube in under a minute.” guy. Genius runs in my blood: “that guy can solve even the giant Rubik’s cube. Freakin feakin genius!”
How does he do it?
Here’s how: That guy has rote-memorized 20 complex combinations really well. It’s this rote memory that helps him solve the cube. The same rote memory that got him through all the Hindi tests at school in spite of not knowing more than 8 words of Hindi. In his quest to achieve intellectual stardom, the Rubik’s cube was a desperate accomplice.
We all have our versions of the Rubik’s cube. My plan for this blog initially was to learn programming and develop the entire thing from scratch. I wanted to be “that guy who wrote the code for his own blog,” not that guy who actually wanted to learn programming.
The latter is what we’ll call ZNMD.
Zindagi na milegi dobara (ZNMD) (Translate: Life will not happen again) is a movie about three guys who have their own Rubik’s cube moments. There’s a beautiful throwaway line at the end of the movie that had me giddy for a long time. The line happens when one of the guys (Farhan Akhtar) finds out who is Dad is at the end of the movie and has this conversation with his Dad:
Dad: What do you do?
Son: I write… copy writer…. advertising.
(a pause engulfed by smoke and the slightest cough) .
Dad: That’s for someone else. Like this painting I just painted. You write for yourself too, right?
The ZMND look
With all of us becoming avid learners largely due to the rise of coursera and its likes, and the plethora of life choices we have now, it is supremely important for us to separate the Rubik’s cubes from the ZNMD’s.
You learn/do some things because of this erroneous belief that you’ll enjoy it, while what you really enjoy is the idea of other people being fascinated by it. There’s a huge difference, what Paul Graham calls “fossilized inspiration.”
The things I have mostly enjoyed have been the ZNMD’s – the times when I have written/learnt/read something because its ordinariness truly fascinated no one other than me: writing a poem, reading children’s books or drawing cartoons.
Last week, I wrote about why we should all make pointlessness a priority.
This, is about sometimes making a point to no one but yourself.
The next time you enroll into that course on mixed martial arts because it sounds impressively cool to tell everyone about it, remember, it may just be the colorful allure of the Rubik’s cube. Your ZNMD is quietly sitting on the park bench in plain clothes. Attend to it before quietness takes over.