Friday, April 11, 2008

‘300’ Will Suffice!

I recently read a synopsis of Zack Sydner’s box office record breaker movie, 300. This is a film adaptation of the graphic novel 300 by Frank Miller, and is a fictionalised retelling of The Battle of Thermopylae. Spartan King Leonidas and 300 Spartans fight to the last man against Persian 'God-King' Xerxes and his army of over one million soldiers, and animals drawn from the vast reaches of the Persian empire, ranging from Mongolian barbarians and Eastern chemists to African rhinoceroses and Indian war elephants.

This epic motion picture shares a lot of similarities with Gideon’s (a judge in the bible) who took only 300 soldiers to war against battalions of the enemy’s warriors. The bible records victory for the Israelites over their hitherto oppressors – the Midianites.

Thoughts of these events actually brought me into deep rumination especially after I had an unpleasant experience in which my laptop crashed. Being engineering software savvy (or better still, crazy), I always desire to have the a la mode installed on my machine. Unfortunately, these packages took their toll on my poor PC – an eventual malfunctioning of the system! After a strenuous system recovery (not without a loss of important files), I decided to install only the softwares I use regularly for my design work. Alas! I discovered I only use a couple of these most often out of the loads I had installed initially.

I can unarguably and profoundly identify with the stance of Spartan King Leonidas and Gideon – why take more than required soldiers to war (and unnecessarily relinquish armoury and kill your warriors avoidably) if the best 300 can do the job? This stands as a poser for most of us to interpret and answer in our individual lives.

The other day I resolved sorting out documents, old newspapers and other paper materials I had in my room which were taking unavailable space while accumulating must, dust and creating an undesirable ecosystem for all kinds of insects and crawlies. I discovered I had tittle-tattles of materials I had kept over the years which were nothing but worthless scrap. I had to garbage these stuff, unwillingly though.

For some of us it could be clothes or shoes we have in our wardrobes which we’ve not worn in a long while. For others it could be barrages of ideas of things we want to get done but unfortunately that’s what they still are – ideas! We have so many of them that we don’t get anyone executed.

I remember taking a Technical Report Writing course during my undergraduate days. Prof. Ogedengbe drummed it persistently into our subconscious (either via words or painful deduction of marks) that in writing technical reports or official missives “less is more”. Much later, Mrs. Sturrock (a TRW instructor during my MSc programme) made it known in every way possible that no one will ever be interested in a ‘bible’ of reports or an encyclopaedia of thesis. A concise report will always attract readers. Hence, whenever we desire that a document be read, she instructed us to KISS (Keep It Short and Simple). This might not go for every kind or style of writing but you’ll agree that it’s easier to remember the contents of a concise document than an otherwise bulky volume.

People in the creative business (architects, modellers, beauticians, etc) can't agree with me more that "elaborate" does not necessarily equate "elegant".

We get stuck in making critical and immediate decisions because we get our minds and hands soiled in so many entanglements that usually becloud our reasoning. A lot of us seek advice from more than necessary number of people or quarters. This leaves us more confused than having no one advise us in the first instance.

Have you ever wondered that in spite of the number of meetings our formal organisations or different forms of government hold, the number and quality of decisions reached are usually not at par with the time spent and efforts involved? J.K. Galbraith sarcastically answers:

“Meetings are indispensable when you don't want to do anything.”

In his words, Mark McCormack succinctly reiterates:

“When in doubt, don't call a meeting.”

Does the adage “Too many cooks spoil the broth” sound familiar?

Go take that step today. Make that decision. You don’t need all. You only need the best – the most appropriate, efficient, and expedient. Desire your “wants” but acquire only your “needs”.

You don’t need all your acquaintances; you only need your friends. You don’t require all your colleagues; your team will do the job.

In our governments, we no longer desire billionaire rulers
We need visionary leaders
Our businesses long for mentors and not CEOs
In our societies, we need not parents but role models
We need morals to be internalised, not laws being enforced
Our religions have multitudes of followers but no disciples
Our schools are full of lecturers but parched of instructors

Who or what’s your ‘300’?

Remember that ‘300’ will suffice!

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