If you are surrounded by idiots you are an idiot

IMG_1238Poor, young Yossarian. In World War 2 the young bombardier is drafted into the US Air Force to fight the Nazis. From the small Italian island of Pianosa his squadron launch bombing raids over theAxis powers. Friend after friend is killed each night. 

Yossarian, of course, is the main character in Catch 22, Joseph Heller’s black comedy about the absurdity of war and the perverse bureaucracy that it gives birth to. Captain Yossarian is desperate to get home but the flyers must complete 35 combat missions before they earn the right to leave. Yet when he approaches 35 raids the threshold is lifted to 40, then to 45 and so on.Yossarian is constantly thwarted by the bureacratic war machine that needs young men to lay down their lives to stay in motion. 

His friend Orr tries to get out of active duty by claiming that in the face of almost certain death he would be crazy to fly more missions, and if he’s crazy he should be grounded. Sure, agreed the authorities, except for just one thing… 

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he were sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to, but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

Which brings me to “Surrounded By Idiots”.

Despite the promising title the book argues that the people all around you are not morons, they are merely different to you. The differences in their behaviours, reactions and communication are such that, understandably, you could mistake them for idiocy. But this assessment is a two-way street. Your behaviour is just as inexplicable to them.The best way to get on with other people in business and in life is to understand these personality types. 

There are four primary categories and the author associates these with colours. Analytical personalities are blue; Stable ones are green; Dominant are red; And inspirational are yellow.

Very few people are pure of colour. Almost all of us are a blend. You, like most of the people on this plane, almost certainly have a good deal of green. Most people do. 

The trick is to identify which traits dominate the people you are with. Greens are great to hang out with but won’t press their case which means it’s not always clear what they want. It’s the opposite with reds who will argue their case impatiently and loudly, if not with much forethought. But fear not, the thinking will have been done by the blues though as introverts they may not tell you what the answer is until you ask. Yellows will happily tell you the answer, any answer in fact, and in their creativity they may invent several others which are complete fiction .

Success in any enterprise, comes from identifying and harnessing these different strengths.  

Yet here’s the conundrum; it is yet possible that the one person on this plane who is not an idiot is you… but you would have to be an idiot to believe it. This appears to be Catch-23.

Erikson’s argument is that people seem like idiots only because they are different from you. The wise person, then, tolerates this and concludes that only one thing is certain: If you think you are surrounded by idiots then you are the idiot.

By this logic if everyone on the plane (except you) thinks that everyone else is an idiot then in fact , despite all Erikson says, you are surrounded by idiots. The one person who is not an idiot is you because you incorrectly believe you are not surrounded by idiots. Which makes you an….

I read: Surrounded By Idiots
By: Thomas Erikson

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