Delayed Gratification

The idea of delayed gratification has been around for a long time. It is one of the messages high school teachers profess in order to ensure that their students follow the ‘right’ path. Through the course of this essay, I put forth the following hypothesis – Our current social structure provides a greater incentive for people to pursue paths which provide an instant reward for their effort, and it is not to take the bait, and believe this societal lie wherein success lies.

Our popular culture is studded with icons in their twenties and early thirties. Bill Gates is outdated, he remains an icon only for our parent’s generation. We glorify Mark Zuckerberg because he ‘made it’ in his twenties. The person who is making it to your facebook feed is the one who is starting a website as he is graduating.

These people are probably doing great things and making human lives far better than it has ever been in the history of our existence. But they are also living in an age where the average person even in a relatively poor country lives through his 70’s with reasonable health. It is great, that an otherwise highly hierarchical society recognizes and rewards people in their youth, who push the bars of human creativity.

But some human endeavours take substantial amount of time, even in this age of computers. It comes as a result of several weeks, months or even years of waking up at 7am and sleeping at 11 pm. We as a society do not acknowledge this dedication. Instead we choose to believe that the greatest contributions to human society have come through the labours of a few, who pulled some all-nighters when they had a great idea. We do this because we want to believe that we are one step away from being those people, and that the only thing we lack is the ‘motivation’ to work. We are wrong.

The truth is there is meaning only in effort and there is gratification only at the very end.

6 thoughts on “Delayed Gratification

  1. Pretty strong statement at the end, but I would beg to differ. I think the meaning is not in the effort, but is in the driving force behind the effort. Gates, Zucky, Jobs – they all not only had the ability to do what they did, they also had a crazy strong belief that what they did would change the world.

    And with regard to gratification being at the end, if that were the case, the journey to the end would be insanely painful and if for some reason you did not reach the end, none of what you did would have been worth anything. I think you get gratification at every step/check point of the journey. I try to get gratification for just being alive each day 🙂

    1. I find it difficult to believe that you can look into the future and predict if anything you do would work. You think you can gain a critical mass of people who can convince others to buy in to your product/idea, but so many things which ‘change the world’ are pretty arbitrary. To say that the driving force behind the effort is crucial, is to say that your idea is the most important. I think great, meaningful ideas come through years of dedicated effort.

      1. I don’t think you need to predict if what you do will work. If you were at the Zucky talk, he was talking about how he believed that social networking would change the way people interacted. He said that he didn’t expect that he would provide the necessary tools, but that he knew that the concept would change the world. Which it has. Gates and Jobs were both driven by the idea of a personal computer. If they hadn’t succeeded, it wouldn’t mean that the idea was wrong. Personal computers would and have changed the world. I do think that the idea is the most important part of the project. You have an idea and then you get the people to help you make the idea a reality. And yes, I don’t think people get world changing ideas everyday, but they do come from careful study of things around us and what is missing in humanity.

  2. Nice article. I too though about it. Zuckerberg is more popular than other great entrepreneurs. Popularity has nothing to do with contributions to society or progress brought to human kind. Most people want to be popular. So, popular people tend to be role models for many ex: Steve Jobs, who didn’t invent anything, but was popular for his products. Popular people could be due to different reasons – Salman Khan for movies, Bill Gates for his money. There is a graph which puts it across vey well –

    People always want to follow the path which seems easy to them but it takes a lot of time and effort to build something long lasting. Even Facebook will perish in a few years and a new Zuckerberg will be born. But Zuckerberg didn’t become a overnight success unlike what they show in the movie.

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