Learnings for Adults
Richness: how do you know?
November 21, 2020
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How do you know you are rich?*

When I was doing my B Tech, there was a Professor Das Talukdar who used to teach us ‘, Mechanics’.

His lectures used to be very interesting since he had an interesting way to teach and explain the concepts.

One day, in the class, he asked the following questions,

1. What is ZERO?
2.What is INFINITY?
3. Can ZERO and INFINITY be the same?

We all thought that we knew the answers and we replied as follows,

ZERO means *nothing*
INFINITY means *a number greater than any countable number*
ZERO and INFINITY *are opposite and they can never be the same*

He countered us by first talking about infinity and asked, ‘How can there be any number which is greater than any countable number?’

We had no answers.

He then explained the concept of infinity in a very interesting way, which I remember even after more than 35 years.

He said that imagine that there is an illiterate shepherd who can count only up to 20.

Now, if the number of sheep he has less than 20 and you ask him how many sheep he has, he can tell you the precise number (like 3, 5 14, etc.). However, if the number is more than 20, he is likely to say “TOO MANY”.

He then explained that in science infinity means ‘too many’ (and not uncountable) and in the same way zero means ‘too few’ (and not nothing)

As an example, he said that if we take the diameter of the Earth as compared to the distance between Earth and Sun, the diameter of earth can be said to zero since it is too small.

However, when we compare the same diameter of the earth with the size of a grain, the diameter of the earth can be said to be infinite.

Hence, he concluded that the same thing can be ZERO and INFINITE at the same time, depending on the context, or your matrix of comparison.

The relationship between richness and poverty is similar to the relationship between infinity and zero.

It all depends on the scale of comparison with your wants.

If your income is more than your wants, you are rich.
If your wants are more than your income, you are poor.

I consider myself rich because my wants are far less than my income.

I have become rich not so much by acquiring lots of money, but by progressively reducing my wants.

About author

Dr Shailesh Thaker

Dr. Shailesh Thaker is a world-renowned management thinker and trainer on organizational behavior and development. He is the CLO of Knowledge Plus Inc., a highly reputed training firm based in Ahmedabad, India, helping organizations to achieve international benchmarks in management practices.

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