After failing at two businesses and mortgaging one property, here I am Not just running a startup of my own but also advising a couple of dozen others on how to make it big or survive, whatever comes first. And they listen to me. And I love it. Sometimes they pay and sometimes I run in debt, courtesy Master, Visa and Amex. But somehow manage to clear them in time. And I cleared the mortgage last year.
It wasn’t always this way. I was reasonably-well programmed to be on the path of being a CEO. The programming was easy. Good MBA school, MNCs , earning bonuses, making prudent investments, House plus Audi, nice looking wife and two kids. The boy has done well. On a sudden impulse I left it. The well-trodden path was stepped off. The Boy Has Gone Bad. Will sell vacuum cleaners from door to slammed-in-face door.
What made it happen? What makes one give up the cushy life and pick the spiky-pointed one? I don’t think it’s any romantic love for risk. Entrepreneurs aren’t wild risk-lovers. I think we’re calculated risk-takers. Still we go wrong. I did a business for four years and lost some money in that. However I learnt and in the next one I got back some part of the lost dough. In the end is it money ? No, definitely not. I have been earning less and less over the years than I would have if I would have remained on the predictable path. Its probably the thrill. In a perverse sort of a way, it might be in the genes.
According to genetic science, there is a gene for everything, from baldness to criminality, homosexuality to Hitlerism. A criminal could argue that he had been driven to commit his misdeed because of a gene, D4DR, which geneticists claim leads to high-risk, dangerous behaviour. Me? Rob a bank? Certainly not. It was my D4DR which did it. Put it into jail, not me.
Or take dictators. Pervez Musharraf doesn’t behave the way he does because he wants to. No, it’s because of his genes. Or at least a particular gene isolated in a sci-fi scenario by French biologists who have named it the ‘master’ gene. Linked to “social dominance” and “strong control over other people”, the ‘master’ gene is to be found in “sports leaders, CEOs, heads of state… and all dictators throughout history”.
While the strong variant of the ‘master’ gene could produce a Hitler or a Mao, the weaker heterozygous form gives rise to a “moderate, quasi-totalitarian urge”, making for a Modi or a Raj Thackeray, say. Found in “politicians, policy advocates, religious fundamentalists, and celebrities”, the mild manifestation of the ‘master’ gene creates the conviction in the carrier of the gene that “other people … are unable to manage their own lives without … guidance”. This belief is “coupled with a powerful sense of entitlement and a carefully nurtured sense of resentment towards those who don’t listen to them”.
Paradoxically enough, the mild version of the ‘master’ gene is also to be found in those who are “most tolerant of authoritarian environments with strict and invasive social rules”. In short, the French geneticists would have us believe that it’s not just the current Chinese leadership which has the ‘master’ gene, but also the population of China as a whole – with the singular exception of Tibet, of course.
The conformity of behaviour associated with the mild ‘master’ gene is not restricted to the political sphere. It also manifests itself in the world of fads and fashions. In fact it’s the inverse working of the mild ‘master’ gene – which makes one compliant to externally imposed norms – that is responsible for the success of big brands, from Gucci to Shah Rukh Khan, Reebok to The Times of India.
I do believe all humans are different, DNA-wise at least, at the core. (If not, then forensic sciences are in bit of a jam.) And I believe that for every individual mental make-up, there’s a particular job that’s particularly perfectly suited. Some people are just born to be Bank Officer. Some others to be one-down left-handed batsman. And if these people are lucky, they get the jobs that are right for them. They don’t ever have to go through the trouble of being an entrepreneur and sell their Audi and buy a mid size sedan.. What will neighbours say ?
The gene genie is well and truly out of the bottle, and nothing is going to get it back in. As more and more of our actions and behavioral traits are ascribed not to our volition but to our genes, we increasingly resemble programmed robots. In other words, ‘we’ (whatever that means) are not the authors of our actions, not responsible for what we do (read this article, commit a murder); it is a chemical reaction in our brains which compels us to do what we do.
But really, we’re just folks who didn’t find a job that suited us well enough. We just don’t have the ‘ compliance gene’.