Brain & Mind Systemic issues of India

Olympic gold for playing safe 

The most noticeable development on social media after Sindhu’s entry into finals was proliferation of “assured silver” messages from Indians, making me desperately wish that I had some Spanish friends too. I would really like to know if any Spaniard has posted assured-silver message for Sindhu’s opponent in same situation.

I don’t think I really need to produce empirical proof to convince you, as we both instinctively know that assured-silver thought would not have passed a Spanish mind. And, that simple difference explains, not just our Olympic debacle, but our third world status.

If there is a movie epitomising Indianness in context of sports as a metaphor for the nation; for me, it is Lagaan. I love and hate the movie for the fact that it captures our mindset truthfully and that truth hurts.

We are, what I prefer to call “O Palanhare, tere bin hamara kono nahi” nation. Our self-assessment of being underdogs is so deep-rooted that, even when we make a movie, we can’t dare to win without pleading to the God to help.

What we fail to realise is that underdogs wining makes a great story for a movie only because underdogs never win in real world. If an underdog ever stood on a podium, it would be only because she either did not believe herself to be an underdog or played with an opponent with assured-silver mindset.

To understand the science of this phenomenon, we have to visit how brain takes executive decisions.

Even if you are a person who likes to ponder deeply before deciding, in reality, your brain would still be using what can be best described as frames. Our brain develops frames of references. By learning through experiences, it groups past decisions and links them with various circumstances to construct these frames. This is a critical provision as it helps brain work faster when similar circumstances occur again. So the brain invests a lot of energy and effort in fixing these frames, and that is why all of us develop personalities that are fairly consistent.

The limitation of this mechanism is that, brain chooses the frame first and after that decisions cascade automatically, very often disregarding the feedback from reality.

The assured-silver is one such frame, and if that is chosen at the onset by player’s brain, the shot selection portfolio used by brain will not be that leading to a victory.

Picking a winner at the very top is rarely about talent as talent is a precondition for being there. It is all about brain-frame chosen by each player’s brain at that moment. Doubters can never make winners because of this simple limitation of brain.

This quality of brain has not gone unnoticed even at cultural level. The trend of fortune favouring the brave is so obvious that it is part of innate understanding within us. Across all cultures, positive and optimistic people are preferred as leaders, while whiners and doubters are universally disliked.

Deep within we all know the path to victory but it is the fear of disappointment that prevents us from taking it. If playing safe was an Olympic sport, India would effortlessly win the gold.

So, in a way, the Indian mindset had unfortunately assured Sindhu a silver, but looking at where she has reached, more so as a girl, her positivity will hopefully become a catalyst of change and will spawn a generation of sports persons who will always presume a right to the gold. That is the most crucial change that will not only change our medal telly in sporting arena but will lift the state of our nation.

DNA: 21/8/16

I am happy to admit that I have managed surviving till now with minimum effort as all my intellect has be used to avoid doing anything meaningful. As I needed to while all the free time I generated in course of being lazy, science has been my favorite muse that I have enjoyed company of. As an effort to kill time (in a way, to get even with it) one fine day I decided to write a science column, more for my personal amusement than to attract readers. After getting educated about the attention span of modern readers from my editor, it became more like a challenge to tackle esoteric subjects in 600 words that I have managed to remain interested in for more than a year now. I do not want to add my worldly profile here as these are ideas that need to be considered only on the merits they carry and not as an opinion of a certain human being.

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