On my trip on train from Solo few days ago, an interesting observation struck me. What was it? A woman who sat on the other side of the aisle were so into her reading, Paulo Coelho’s Brida. You may think that was nothing striking, since Coelho is a popular author. But, I wasn’t thinking about merely about his popularity. I was thinking about how such author can influence people in such way. This, of course, is not only about Coelho. You can make a list with names like Covey, Gladwell, Robbins, De Bono, Godin, and many other spellbinding authors. In short, what is so magical about their books?
Take Coelho as an example. Look at how Coelho’s The Alchemist affect so many readers in the world? Did he create an atomic bomb or space shuttle? No, he didn’t. But he is quite an inspirational figure as Albert Eistein. Perhaps, people know Coelho better than Wernher Von Braun (the German-American rocket scientist). Coelho is obviously more famous than John “Tim” Berners-Lee, the inventor of World Wide Web, even though more people use the web than read Coelho’s book.
How come authors like Coelho become so popular, while some distinguished researchers whose inventions determine the history of humanity are less popular?
As an ironic analogy, I also find through my work that in many organizations, inventors dwell in the labs and factories creating great products while almost none of them actually gain the fame in the public. Are inventors destined to fall in shadows?
Here’s what I think.
Experimentalist and their inventions
Some people believe that experimental trial is necessary for any stuff, decision or action, before it is on-the-go. The reason is fairly acceptable. We want to assure ourselves that they are safe. Everyone need safety. This is the process where most of our modern-day inventions were brought into a reality. The web we used was a consequence of a very long sequence of experiments. The plane we use in getting to other cities results from a chain of experiments on aviation.
There are few things in life which we have the luxury of time and the privilege for more than one shot attempts to get the best results. For an example in daily life settings, let’s take a look at a pot of flower in the corner of our room. We can try to take care of it in different ways, and eventually find the best way to have it bloom. In factory settings, engineers test prototypes till they get the visible unit for delivery to the market. These are examples of how we use experimental approaches. Most cases in life settings are only applying experimental principles; while in factories and laboratories, rigid and strict experimental procedures were implemented.
And…….those are things that experimental. Some needs laboratory for it, while some others don’t. But still, there is a liberty to play with it, do some trials, and look at different results; before actually using it. Thus, we owe so much to experiments and inventions for the life we have now.
Experientialist and inspirational stories they share with us
However, the luxury of time and the privilege of several attempts are pricey. Experiments requires a significant amount of money and time. Not everyone have the luxury and the privilege, and not everything in life needs to undergo experiments before it is implemented. Not everything is experimental. Decision to try new meals seems to be available for everyone to have experiment with. But, decision to leave your current job for a presumably better one is not.
Therefore, experiment is not the only way for us to find solution in life. Some things are only exist in the circumstances of uncertainty and relativity. They can only be comprehended through our experiences about them. These things, are experiential, not experimental. These things also tend to be complex, ambiguous and obscure. Perhaps it’s even fair to say that most things in life are experiential.
This is where big authors, thinkers and philosopher step in. They are experientialist. They have various educational and academic background. They came from different lines of business or professions. But, they have one thing in common: They reflect deeply upon their experiences and came up with a reflective inspiration for others. We listen to their thoughts, feelings and inspirations through their speeches and talks. We were drawn into their passion, values and sensibility by their writings.
Inventions and inspirations: Threads of our life creations
While inventions are ultimately shaping our life, we use it as instruments to support our life. On the other hands, inspirations helps us living our life. Inspirations directly affect how we feel and think about life, sometimes in a very deep way. They affect our psyche. I think that’s why great authors stay longer in our mind than the people who had created the PC we use to type postings in our blogs or sending our emails.
This is not saying that inventors are less significant than inspirational figures. Some of inspirational figures in history were in fact great inventors, such as Albert Einstein or Benjamin Franklin. It’s just that experientialist relates closer to us emotionally, and therefore, stick longer in our mind.
I believe everyone of us has the capacity to invents as well to inspire. I even believe that everyone is experimentalist as well experientialist. At certain point of our life, we must have invents something useful, albeit for simple things in our daily life; and experience something inspirational we can share, even though only for close friends. In our worklife, we must have lived as experimentalist as well as experientialist. We create things and we tell stories. Those things we created may be useful and may be not; and the stories we tell may lead to better future, or the one full of tears and hatred.
As experimentalist, we affect the life of others through our creations. As experientialist, we influence other people through our thoughts and actions.
The real question is whether we realize this capacity, and use it in responsibility.
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