Bulb or laser?

On Choosing to Fit-in vs. Being Your Better Self

Feels like it describes you? Me too.

As I was driving to work this morning, I chanced upon a thought — most of us, in our everyday jobs, are either bulbs or lasers. Before you laugh and go away, let me try and explain the metaphor.

A laser-type person is someone who is typically seen as being extremely focused on a problem, whenever there is one, and not letting go till it’s solved. Deep problem solving skills coupled with an ability to think comprehensively on an issue are typical traits of such people.

A laser-type person’s weakness is that it’s hard for him/her to focus on the big picture that’s an amalgamation of several agendas, people and conflicting priorities. It’s harder still for them to understand the interests of others and consider all the factors in play in a situation. It can be exhausting. Well, let me correct that slightly and say that if they put their mind to it, they can do it with a laser sharp focus, but it doesn’t come to them naturally. Ever tried to use a laser light to try and find your way around a dark room? It’s certainly not impossible, but it is sub-optimal. The laser will discharge before you can find your way.

Another shortcoming of the laser folks may be that because they are very focused on the big thing for the day, they might not be able to take in and/or process all the inputs from their surroundings. They might pick up a few things that are directly relevant for their purpose and have an inattentional blindness to the rest.

Lasers would make great analysts, researchers. Think Elon Musk. Ok, maybe I went too​ far with that. Think Sachin Tendulkar. Alright, I confess, I think I am laser-type. So I am looking for super star examples.

But seriously, Sachin is, was and will remain the best batsman for a long, long time. He advanced the game of cricket with his passion for batting. But he wasn’t a great captain, was he? This is not to say that laser-type folks are self obsessed. Not even that they are focused only on individual brilliance. But it probably does mean that they rely a lot on their own individual brilliance.

Bulb folks, on the other hand, are people who are really good at understanding the big picture. What they lack in deep problem solving skills, they more than make up for in understanding the priorities of the audience. What use is that complex excel macro (aside from the high you get from the stimulation of just the right intellectual nodes in your brain :P) if the people you make it for cannot make head or tail of it’s use case?

Maybe a laser (wo)man can manage that bit, maybe not. But let’s imagine a case where the final deployment or uptake of that macro enabled excel tool depends on getting a buy in from a large number of people in multi-functional teams? More often than not, you would need to navigate a sea of people involved on the project each of whom have their own targets to meet and goals to achieve and hence have diverging expectations.

You are a bulb if you thought — “Well, of course. Bring it on!” And a laser if you thought, “Ah, f*! Why can’t I work on the next macro already and leave this to others?”

The bulb-type people are the true guiding lights for any team. They will tell you, especially if you are walking around in the dark with a laser, that you will break your toe against the center table if you continue down the path you are on.

Of course the bulbs have plenty of individual brilliance. But they don’t rely on their individual brilliance exclusively. They tend to be more inclusive and believe that as a team you can achieve more than as an individual.

Think MS Dhoni. Think Obama.

This got me thinking that a bulb and a laser of same wattage are both equally intelligent, equally useful — but they are to be used very differently. Like you don’t find your way in a dark room with a laser, you don’t shoot your enemy with a bulb strapped to your gun.

While of course these are two extremes and there’s an entire continuum between the two, respond to the post with your thoughts and which of bulb or laser you think you identify more with! Don’t forget to recommend the post by clicking on the heart!

PS: If you are thinking about the brightest shining example of the mid-point on that continuum, think Sherlock Holmes!

Generic parting thoughts:

It’s important to understand which you identify more with — a bulb or a light — and embrace that understanding. The world needs you to be the best version of your true self. Not the best version of you that it think it needs.