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Comments from Dr. Maqsood Jafari

 

Psychology of Greatness

http://www.chowk.com/Views/Society/Psychology-of-Greatness
 

Ten characteristics in the personalities and lifestyles of leaders of humanity -- six reflecting the bright side and four reflecting the dark side of their personality.

 

For the last two decades I have been studying the biographies of the leaders of humanity from all over the world: scientists and artists, writers and mystics, poets and philosophers, reformers and revolutionaries, to have a psychological understanding of their greatness. I wanted to understand the bright as well as the dark side of their creative personalities. The more I reflect on those biographies, the more I can identify the following ten characteristics in their personalities and lifestyles -- six reflecting the bright side and four reflecting the dark side of their personality. 


THE BRIGHT SIDE OF CREATIVITY


STRONG COMMITMENT TO THEIR IDEALS

These leaders of humanity, these creative personalities showed a strong commitment to their ideals, their goals and their dreams. One could say that they were driven. They were highly motivated. Different creative personalities had different motivations:

…Scientists wanted to discover laws of nature.

…Psychologists were intrigued by the mysteries of the mind.

…Sociologists were fascinated with the social dynamics.

…Artists were inspired by the beauty and meaning of words, colours and forms

and

…Reformers and revolutionaries were obsessed with finding ways to create a just world.

As compared to many unsuccessful creative people who experienced creative miscarriages, the successful creative personalities were able to take their creative pregnancies to full term and deliver a baby whether a novel, a collection of poems, a scientific discovery, a reform or a revolution. They had the attitude of a marathon runner rather than a 100 meter sprinter.


GREAT COMMAND ON THEIR CRAFT

These creative personalities worked hard to learn and practice their art, their profession and their passion, whether the art of writing or painting, doing scientific research or learning the social dynamics to create a revolution. They studied the masters of that discipline and mastered different forms of that tradition. They chose successful role models for themselves and were very disciplined. They demonstrated Einstein’s thoughts who said, “A great work is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration”. These creative personalities practiced their craft and worked on their art for days, weeks, months, years even decades before they had a creative breakthrough. They never gave up until they succeeded in making their dream come true.

CREATING A SMALL GROUP OF COMMITTED FRIENDS AND FOLLOWERS

Alongside their own commitment these creative personalities were also able to impress a small group of committed friends and followers who, not only supported them, but also warned them of potential dangers and challenged them if they saw them getting off track or losing their focus. They were like the editors of great writers who gave them honest and meaningful feedback about their writings and books. When T. S. Eliot sent his book to Ezra Pound, Pound suggested to take half of the book out to make it more effective and meaningful. Great writers, artists and reformers value the honest opinions of their creative friends even when they disagree with them as they realize that if they do not listen to their sincere friends, they pay a heavy price. Fidel Castro, a sincere friend of Che Guevara, repeatedly warned him not to export the Cuban Revolution to other countries prematurely but he did not listen to the friendly advice and lost his own life alongside lives of his team of comrades.

AVAILABILITY OF FINANCIAL AND SOCIAL RESOURCES

For creative personalities to be successful, they were able to have people, organizations or institutions to finance their creative projects, whether publishing a book, doing a research or promoting a philosophy. Those creative people who were not resourceful themselves or did not have resourceful supporters were not able to promote their art, research or philosophy. Some times such promotion was done after their death by their disciples who loved their creative work and had access to massive networking, whether the printing press or visual media, whether newspapers or magazines, radio or television or internet in the 21st century.

WILLING TO MAKE  SACRIFICES

These creative personalities were so focused on their ideals and so determined to make their dreams come true that they offered many sacrifices. Some lost their jobs and families in the process. Those kings, generals, dictators and members of the privileged class, who were threatened by their ideals, tried to make their lives difficult. Some of these idealists were sent to jail or exiled. Many of them were persecuted by the people in power, who were going to lose their position and privilege, if these idealists who were fighting for the rights of masses and trying to create a just and peaceful society, became successful.

ABILITY TO TRANSFORM BREAKDOWNS INTO BREAKTHROUGHS

These creative personalities were able to learn from their experiences. They saw crises as opportunities to grow. They recovered from their breakdowns and with the passage of time and with the support of their friends and followers, they were able to transform their breakdowns into breakthroughs. That is why their attitude of a marathon runner helped them in becoming successful as a leader and taking their community and culture to the next stage of human evolution.


THE DARK SIDE OF CREATIVITY

Alongside the bright side of these creative personalities, these leaders of humanity also had a dark side, that caused suffering for themselves and their dear ones. Some times the whole community had to pay the price.

EMOTIONALLY UNVAILABILITY  TO THEIR FAMILIES

Many of these committed idealists, these creative personalities, were emotionally unavailable to their families. They spent most of their time perfecting their art, doing research or serving their communities. They had very little time to spend with their families. Mandela said to his comrade friend’s bride, “You are marrying a married man. He is married to his cause”. Winnie’s father had warned his daughter when she decided to marry Mandela, “You are marrying a jailbird.” Mandela himself confessed, when he was released, that after spending more than a quarter of a century in prison, he still did not have time to spend with his family as he had become ‘the father of the nation’

UNFAITHFUL TO THEIR SPOUSES

There were a large number of these creative personalities who were emotionally and sexually unfaithful to their spouses. Their love for beauty and adventure, and their rebellious nature against the institution of marriage made it difficult for them to be faithful. Many spouses of these leaders of humanity were usually hurt and heartbroken. These creative personalities justified and rationalized their behavior. Deep in their hearts they believed that when you love more than one, love multiplies, it does not divide. They wanted to share their love, their wisdom and their inspiration with as many people as possible but it was often not possible for their partners to accept that. Many of them were successful leaders but not very successful husbands and wives.

SACRIFICING HUMAN LIVES ON THE ALTAR OF THEIR IDEOLOGIES

Some of these leaders, these revolutionaries, became so obsessed by their ideas and dreams that they lost touch with the social and political realities. At a certain stage of their struggle, they were not only willing to give their own lives but also take other people’s lives for their ideals. Some of them entered a cycle of violence, a cycle they could not get out of. Many, who joined guerrilla warfare, had to kill their enemies, as they believed like Che Guevara that at a certain stage of the conflict either you kill or be killed.

EXPERIENCING NERVOUS BREAKDOWNS

Some of the creative personalities could not cope with the stress, success and conflicts and had a nervous breakdown. Some were admitted to mental asylums, while others like Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and Ernest Hemingway, committed suicide. They paid a heavy price for their creative genius. They enlightened their communities but, like candles, sacrificed themselves in the process.

For me, studying these leaders of humanity, these great minds, has been quite interesting and intriguing. Their personalities and lifestyles give us a glimpse in the best and worst of humanity. They provide us insights into the human personality and the human condition.