The American Dream

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Greater the risks, greater the rewards..."

The withdrawal of American troops from Syria has been in the news for some time now. It got me wondering what the Americans were doing in the Middle East in the first place. But more importantly, it got me thinking about the ability of the US to project its power in an area hundreds of kilometres away from their homeland. What is it that makes a country stay significantly ahead of her rivals? Similarly, Israel is always ten steps ahead of her neighbours. The answer, of course, is technology.

Why then is India lagging behind her rivals? Doesn't India have enough smart people? In my opinion, there are two main reasons for this. The first is the mentality of people, and the second is the ecosystem.

The mentality of people is more obvious to observe. For example, software engineers in the initial stages of their career should be focussing on developing good software to excel in their field. I pick software because that is the industry that I observe. However, most people lack the passion and drive to build great products. They are, instead, more interested in banal desires like going abroad, trying to increase their CTC or visiting new places. It would have been understandable if their salaries were low, but I suspect it to be more due to avarice. The focus is seldom on excellence, and more on get-rich-quick ideas. I interact with quite a few budding engineers, and I rarely get to hear approaches to solve problems. I don't even get to hear about customer problems. What I do see is the intention of posting pictures of hiking on some American trails on Instagram and Facebook to garner a few 'likes'.

The second group of people is smaller, albeit more interesting than the mundane first. This group recognises the problems of lacking an entrepreneurship spirit and has a desire to accomplish something. What they do lack is the motivation to keep it sustained. Let us face it - Entrepreneurship is hard. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. There are many challenges, and one must be able to withstand a sustained onslaught of problems. This group takes the steps in the right direction but loses steam after some time.

Ecosystems are vital for entrepreneurship to develop. For starters, good mentors are a requirement. But the mentors should also be dedicated. Once, a man came up to me and gave me a spiel about how he had nobody to support him during his initial days, and how he believes in giving back. I hadn't even asked him for mentorship - He offered it to me. And then, he disappeared. This behaviour leaves a bad after-taste. Many amazing people out there are looking to build great businesses and have high energy, zeal and zest, but nobody to guide them.

As long as people are bound to the standard dreams of owning a house, car and what-not, they will be tied to working in companies and not have the desire nor the appetite to take risks. As long as people are caught up in lacklustre dreams of working abroad to look cool in front of others, businesses won't develop. I am not saying that everyone should stay in India, nor am I saying that everyone should quit their jobs to start businesses. I am asking each one to think of why they are choosing the path that they are choosing.

In the end, the US reached its numero uno position only because people were willing to take risks. It was not because people were keen to emigrate. India has been a country of businessmen for most of her history - why then do I not see that spirit in our youth?

The post is not intended to be a rant or a lamentation though it may read that way. It is more of a question to the youth of today so that they can introspect. If our enthusiastic population comes together to build great solutions to our everyday problems, our country will progress in no time. In the end, everything is tied together - Ecosystems won't develop if people aren't showing interest, and vice versa. Stand-up comedy has evolved significantly in India, and it is because of the collective efforts of people. I believe that the same is true for everything else.

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