Why doesn’t higher education, even one obtained from an elite institution, guarantee success or happiness? Why do jocks often succeed in the world of business, and nerds fail? Why is modern life the way it is? In fact, why does mankind exist at all? And why can’t anyone - neither science, nor religion, nor any purveyor of esoteric teachings - help me answer these questions? Where do I turn?
Like many other people who strive to think things through, I’ve asked myself these questions for years. I sought answers in my college education in Russia but found none. I began to study philosophy and religion; they gave me some glimmers of insight but no answers and no thorough understanding of any issue. Then I entered the Masters of Business Administration program at the University of Chicago. I learned a lot there but left with more questions than I came in with, chief among them being ‘Why do things that work in America not work in Russia?’ After getting my MBA, I returned to Moscow and joined McKinsey, a leading management consulting firm. Working there also saddled me with new questions, ones that insisted on being addressed more urgently.
For a while I began to look for answers in conspiracy theories. However, upon closer examination the ‘theorists’ themselves turned out to be even more unpleasant than the ‘conspirators’ they were decrying. Some of them did impart tidbits of useful knowledge to their followers, but they still communicated by instilling fear rather than teaching joy or promulgating any real understanding of life. I joined some esoteric circles, with similar results. One heard a lot more about joy and happiness there, but the gurus themselves often didn’t follow their own teachings and were neither especially happy nor successful.
As I collected these tidbits of useful knowledge wherever life took me, I began to examine and aggregate them, piecing together a large-scale picture of the world. I was also starting to discover answers to a lot of the questions that bothered me. Initially, I worked only to advance my own understanding, but after attracting some attention and curiosity from acquaintances, I decided to write this book. I do not consider my beliefs to be one hundred percent accurate, and I certainly don’t fancy myself any kind of guru or prophet. Rather, I’m looking to share some personal thoughts in order to learn what other people think about them.