The Greatest Thinker of Our TimeNot too long ago, I was chatting with one of the co-founders of MySpace, Tom — you probably remember him as the first person on your friends’ list if you had a MySpace account. I asked him — “who do you think is the greatest thinker of our time?
We got into a bit of a heated debate about it, but I’ll tell you who I think is the greatest —
If you haven’t read Will Durant:
You’re doing a disservice to yourself. The real shame of our society is not the Kardashians or how much time we spend browsing on our phones. It’s that no one ever set us down in all our years of school and said, “study and pay attention to the greatest thinkers of our time.” People like Will Durant.
Now, I realize that there are classical great thinkers out there — Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Leonardo Da Vinci, and you have the people of our time like Einstein and Stephen Hawking. This isn’t to discredit them in any way. They are brilliant in their respective fields. But reading Will Durant is so relatable to our time — even though he has been dead for decades — it’s almost prophetic, some of the things he says.
Will Durant and his wife wrote a book. It took them 50 years. It won a Pulitzer Prize. I highly recommend you read it. The book centers around “the hero” (or heroine) and leaders throughouthistory being a product of their upbringing and environment. Look at how the Prophet Mohammad has inspired millions of people. The same with Jesus Christ.
Look at how Winston Churchill, despite his wartime losses, inspired an entire nation and played a pivotal role in helping to defeat Hitler. This is the power that one person has over others. It’s the making of heroes.
Other names will sound just as familiar to you — Pasteur, Morse, Edison, Ford, Wright. Great thinkers, movers, and shakers of our time. Revolutionaries, even. But listen to this, because it’s vital:
Most of our society is imitative — meaning they follow. A small amount of humanity is innovative. When we have problems, or wars even, they are fought because of discord among the minorities. Most wars are two privileged parties fighting each other, and the majority gets caught in the middle. They get used.
But are we just left helpless?
The world is designed this way. It’s set up this way on purpose and it’s part of a cycle — so there’s no need to freak out. The system of checks and balances is necessary. Durant says “out of 100 new ideas, 99 of them are inferior to traditional responses which they propose to replace.”
Look at the 1960s. The older generation were proponents of the Vietnam War while the younger generation was against it. Even today, we have republicans versus democrats, liberals versus conservatives. But the fact is, you need these checks and balances. In the words of Durant, “the conservative who resists change is just as valuable as the radical who proposes it — perhaps more since roots are more valuable than grafts.”
Let me give you a great example — Malcolm X. I just finished reading his autobiography. I look up to him in a lot of ways. Malcolm X was a revolutionary in some ways, and admirable.
But in other ways, he was downright crazy. He followed this, in essence, cult leader — some 60-year old guy named Elijah. He thought Elijah was like God on Earth. Elijah thought that you should never sleep with anyone except your wife, and yet he had slept with 40-some of the girls in his cult.
If Malcolm X had taken everything this man had said as something like literal commandments, and all of us followed what Malcolm X said to the letter – could you imagine what society would look like today?
Some of America didn’t like Malcolm X. A lot of that was rooted in racism, to be sure. At one point, he literally thought white people were devils. Devils aren’t real. So you see, even revolutionaries can make mistakes, be misinformed and be led to believe some downright incredulous things.
Even in modern times, the people we look up to as role models. Even people in the public spotlight like Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders — they all have some crazy notions. But if you let all that craziness come together and balance out against the more rational, traditional points of view, you end up with a much more balanced world.
Remember that. I’m a revolutionary when it comes to the modern education system. But even I need to learn that I shouldn’t be so revolutionary as to actively hate people who want a more traditional schooling.
Our brains are wired for certainty. Not truth, certainty. But when you’re reading and learning — take out the best stuff and leave the rest behind. Don’t just discount someone because some of what they said is crazy or impossible. Going back to my earlier example about Malcolm X, that part where he thought white people were descended directly from the devil? Insanity.
But I continue to read about him and learn from him because he was courageous and had the ability to turn ideas into reality and inspire others. Take the best, leave the rest.
Evolutionary Stable Strategies
One of the steps in my 67 Steps Program is understanding Evolutionary Stable Strategies. This is a deeper and more complex concept, so I’m going to give your brain a workout — some advanced ideas for you to chew on and help make you smarter.
This concept came from two scientists, Maynard Smith and George Price. I’m going to break it down in a simpler way first so that the meaning comes across.
Let’s call it, Hawks and Doves. Now, pretend that hawks are mean birds and doves are nice birds. Hawks, the mean birds, always beat up on and cheat on the doves. Now imagine there’s an island way out in the ocean where only hawks and doves live.
What would happen if you had too many hawks? They’d take advantage of the situation and kill all the doves. Then the hawks die because they’re the only predator and their prey has been wiped out.
What if you had too many doves? The sick doves and weak doves would procreate and the population as a whole becomes weaker. Eventually, they’d be too sick and too weak to continue and the population would die out.
Hawks need doves. And doves need hawks.
And that’s why we need evolutionary stable strategies. Otherwise, we end up with too many hawks or too many doves. The pendulum continues to swing. It happens in politics too. We had George Bush in office. We went to war. Some people are hawks. They love war. Then suddenly the pendulum swung the other way, Even with Obama, we still went to war, but he had a more hands-off approach. After eight years of that, people have had enough of liberal policies and now we have Donald Trump.
Hillary Clinton didn’t understand that what worked to get President Obama elected didn’t work when it was her turn. This happens because of Evolutionary Stable Strategies — you have to adapt and shift because things change. The economy has been growing and heating up, but eventually, we’ll have another recession. Things always come and go in these cycles.
Learn from history. And read Will Durant. Check out the 67 Steps and grow!