U are Stupid! This was the most common sentence I heard for a long
time from friends, family and early investors when I used to describe
to them my weird plans on how gaming is going to be big in India. That
was in an era when PCs were just introduced to India….and no one had
even heard about the Internet.
And recently we all witnessed 3 Idiots become the biggest Indian
blockbuster. I thought there is really something special about Being
Stupid! I want to take you through 3 of my learnings on the same.
As a student if you ever try confronting your teacher about a
particular subject or tell your boss something in the business
strategy is missing or tell your parents that you want to be an artist
or join a band and not do an MBA or Engineering… You will most
likely be called Stupid. Most people fall into the trap and leave
there stupidity and go ahead and do what other smart people do. But
some of them who do stick to their stupid idea change the world.
There are thousands of examples from Galileo to Gandhi who were called
stupid but later termed as the biggest visionaries of their time. Let
me give you a recent example of Mark Pincus the founder of Zynga. When
I briefly met Mark over 2 years ago in Seattle he described to me that
his company was named after his dog and his plan was to dominate
gaming with very simple games like FarmVille and Mafia wars. Many
people including me thought his ideas were stupid and his games
mediocre in comparison to $100s of million dollars spend on console
games…. Well the rest is history and Zynga games are the most played
games in the WORLD.
So my first lesson is something very simple
A. If people call you Stupid, you are onto something BIG.
The other thing which goes along with stupidity is risk. Formal
education and traditional structures of society define limits and
paths for everything. 4Ps of marketing, DCF valuation, career paths
and they even have Murphy’s law as an explanation for when things go
wrong. there is always some formula or right method defined which
people more or less follow. Taking risks is bad.
and everybody is now talking about taking a Calculated Risk which
takes all the boundaries into consideration including a Plan B and
Plan C. However for a stupid person there is no Plan B or C since they
don’t have the burden of being in the box, they can think out of the
box and attempt and achieve what other people think is impossible.
Its more risky crossing the road, than swimming with the sharks,
however conventional wisdom will want you to take what is perceived as
a safe bet which according to me is actually very risky and by
crossing the road you end up as one among the millions who are doing
the same, verses the few who swim with the sharks. There is a
difference between knowing the path and walking the path.
I still remember in 2004 when I told my investors that we would spend
all our money to acquire the rights to Spider-man and release a game
worldwide ..they thought I was stupid betting the company, while I was
convinced that it’s Spiderman who would save the day….and no doubt
it became the best selling game of that time.
That brings me to my next lesson
B. It’s the stupid who swim with the sharks
When we talk about successful people whom we initially though were
stupid we somehow start talking about Passion. Whether it’s
entrepreneurs, sportsmen, artists or writers the most common word used
to define their success is passion.
So what really is passion? While most people look at the world through
numbers, formulas, research and charts, it is the gut feeling which
powers the decisions of the stupid, they look at things like
relationship and conviction and always really have no real logic to
defend their decisions. They are always optimistic about their plans.
They are not afraid to fail, as something worse than failure is not
Now if you are Steve Jobs people call you a visionary, but what powers
this irrational optimism in ordinary stupid people on their way to
greatness is what I would call passion. This is what makes them keep
trying even after the 100th failure with the same excitement
Hence my 3rd lesson is
C. Stupidity drives passion and Passion drives Stupidity
So whether it is a risk or a hunch or a gut feeling, if you know it
will work, ignore the voices you hear because soon instead of stupid
you will hear super, and go ahead and bet the farm, Be Stupid!