Google X Organizing Principle

Sergey Brin a la Google should have the world at his feet. And yet he was willing to risk his marriage, reputation, his relationship with Larry Page and potentially his stature at the company for a whit of a woman – Amanda Rosenberg?  Oh wait and he competed with another senior Google employee, Hugo Barra of the Android devices team, for her attention, going so far as to prematurely announce the latter’s planned departure from the company? Something did not add up.  So I caught up with a recent issue of Vanity Fair for the full scoop of why men and women act as they do? They have a plausible theory for his apparent craziness.

Sergey’s wife, from whom he is now separated, runs a gene testing company. She tested him for the Parkinson’s gene, given his mother’s diagnosis in 1999 and, voila, found that he carried the mutation, thereby running a 50% chance of contracting it within the next 10 years. She quickly patented the gene to profit from the royalties of a potential cure. However, for Sergey, this was a wake up call to his own mortality. He now gave himself carte blanche to do what he wanted. Already dubbed the “Enlightenment Man” for his zeal to organise the world’s information and make it accessible to all, he now went a step further. Google X, the entity set up for outlandish innovations including Google Glass and self-driven cars, may not have seen the light of day but for his predilection? He presides over the ultimate “cool” at Google, leaving the day-to-day slog of its operations to Page.
So what’s the point of this story? How powerful our sense of mortality is in determining how we live today? Partly.

But more to the point how we single pointedly rationalize our actions or find scapegoats in order to give meaning to our fears, unpleasant thoughts and sensations without even recognizing that we are doing this? We are ruled by them. So $30 billion notwithstanding Sergey’s preoccupation is to beat the odds against Parkinson’s. That as a constant theme determines what he does. It may have even become the organising principle behind his lofty goals for Google X.

Nothing wrong with that. That we would rationalize our actions around certain themes in our lives is simple to understand. But the trickier part is where we look for scapegoats. Here we attribute our negative sensations to the world around with the immediate reaction that we deserve better than we have.

The only department where Sergey really “could” do better was to change his diaper-daddy role for that of a hot young stud. How else, when everything was going swimmingly?  Enter Amanda Rosenberg a waif of a girl with a mercurial temper. His boring personal life was the scapegoat.

Oddly enough, this realisation came to me when a friend called to tell me she was having a bad day at work. I know that she loves everything about her life. The only thing she has little control over, which she can blame when she feels “off” is her job. I asked her questions based on which I made her realize, if she continues on the path of finding something to blame, for how she felt, she would look to change her job rather than herself.

Too bad I could not ask Sergey similar questions, given accounts that he is remorseful for the mess he has made.

Simply put, think of all the aggravation we can save ourselves if we stop looking for reasons to rationalize fear and pain and also stop reacting to them?

Accepting everything without wanting to change things is not about being complacent. It is about de-linking thought from feeling.

What we experience as physical pain and sensation is real but the thoughts associated with them are not.


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