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Do not use outside resources… read the paper and write the post of 150 words or more This is going to be used in a group paper so just answer the question, does not need conclusion 2. How would you expect Dr. Brilliant’s views of spirituality, fate, duty, balance, ambition, etc., to be reflected in his day-to-day actions as the CEO of a company?

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September 2000, Page 252
Dr. Brilliant vs. the Devil of Ambition By Harriet Rubin If baby boomers had their own Faust, he’d be
Larry Brilliant, a man who’s found himself at the center of almost every defining moment of his
generation. His biggest battle: taming the devil of ambition. What happens when you’re the
quintessential baby boomer? What happens when you’re raised according to the precepts of Dr. Spock?
What happens when, every time you cry, you’re fed? Here’s what happens: The devil of ambition starts
raising you. You grow up impossibly demanding — and hating how demanding all of your fellow boomers
are. You become ruthlessly competitive — and even more competitive about appearing noncompetitive.
You aspire to be a superachiever — but you can’t appear to be an egomaniac. You become ambitious.
And you become even more ambitious about not being ambitious. This is the story of an entire
generation. It is the story of baby boomers raised on ambition and of a generation that is never happy
with what it has. When everything comes too easily, all you want is more. Ambition is the longest
unrequited love affair of boomers’ lives. It scrambles their brains, and leaves them empty and
unfulfilled. No wonder boomers are reaching their forties and fifties and feeling as fried as the Colonel’s
best. This is the story of a man named “Brilliant.” Talk about a blessing and a curse. How would you like
to live with a name like that? For starters, you would have to become nothing less than Dr. Brilliant, your
generation’s answer to Dr. Faust. Then you would have to play a starring role in every generationdefining event in every decade from the 1960s forward. You wouldn’t just go to Woodstock, you would
star in the movie sequel. You wouldn’t just make a pilgrimage to India at the same time that Mia Farrow
is being chased by a horny Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, or at the same time that the Beatles are just an
ashram away, learning to meditate and siphoning sitar music into Rubber Soul; you would find your own
yogi, a formidable guru who would send you on a mission to banish smallpox from India. After spending
a decade in India, you would find your way home, where you would invent the first — indeed the
prototypical — online community, the WELL. You would try to get Zenny Baba Ram Dass to baby-sit your
rambunctious kids. You would become the personal physician to Jerry Garcia, the quintessential 1960s
icon. And still ambition would be an itch that you hadn’t scratched. So, when you are 56, when all of
your baby-boomer friends would be writing workplace exit strategies, you would take your first real job:
dotcom CEO, of course. After 30 years of struggling to find God and your soul and the meaning of work,
you would walk into the heart of the new economy, smack into the belly of the beast. Why? Because
you know deep down that you won’t really kill off that itch of ambition. You won’t really be free of its
nagging demands for more and more and more until you’ve gone one long round in the ring with
Mephistopheles. You have to prove to yourself once and for all that even in the soulless world of Silicon
Valley, a complete human being, an authentic leader, can survive. This is the stuff of legend, the kind of
confrontation that would be worthy of a work by Goethe or of an opera by Gounod: “The Soul Vs. The
Devil of Ambition.” In the title role would be Dr. Larry Brilliant, his soul on the line in a contest for the
soul of a generation. To know your own soul — and maybe even to save it — it helps to understand Larry
Did Somebody Say “Soul”? Larry Brilliant steps out of the fancy dusk of Soho’s Mercer hotel, shouldering
past media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his new Lolita wife, and the first thing that Brilliant says is,
“Every day, I struggle with ambition. Every day, I try to understand the meaning of this line: ‘Live your
life without ambition. But live as those who are ambitious.’ “On the surface, this ideal is preposterous,”
Brilliant continues. “It means, ‘Don’t aspire to power or success. But live as those who are ambitious.’ It
means that you can never tell when you are being sincere. Do I stay at the Four Seasons? Can I take a
hot tub? Do I not try too hard at anything?” Two years ago, Brilliant became CEO of SoftNet Systems
Inc., a broadband company based in San Francisco that brings high-speed Internet access to small cities,
airports, and rural towns. The SoftNet CEO looks like a great success. The company has 400 employees
and a market value of $280 million. In February, the company partnered with CMGI and Compaq to
invest more than $100 million combined to bring broadband mobile Internet services to global business
travelers. During the coming year, the company expects to see the mushrooming of SoftNet Zones,
local-area networks and computing-business service centers, complete with cyber-concierges in
airports, convention halls, and hotels. Cisco Systems and Nokia have joined to provide the technical
equipment and support. And now Brilliant asks himself the question that measures his own ambition:
“Where better could I test my soul than in the land of temptation, power, and money?” Brilliant has
found a new way to be ambitious, a healthy way, a way to act ambitiously without letting it sink into his
sense of identity. Ambition, after all, is a basically healthy state. The word “ambition” shares a root with
the word “ambient” — ambire, meaning “to move around freely.” That word originated in the 14th
century, when politicians would travel broadly to get votes and support. Taken literally, and used
correctly, to have ambition is to create your life’s journey. Ambition is not a single-minded focus, a
career obsession, or rampant self-promotion at the expense of others. The true arc of ambition, as
Brilliant has lived it, is a healthy one. It shows. There are people in Silicon Valley who are more
successful than Larry Brilliant. And there are people in Silicon Valley who are richer than he is. But there
are few who have had more impact on the world at large than he has. In truth, Brilliant has been
ambitious for one thing only: his soul. How many of us would consider the soul a sufficient driver for
success? The soul, after all, can be an annoyance when you’re trying to get ahead. But things are
changing. The soul may be the next drilling platform to plumb the heart of the leader. As the new
economy continues, each of us is going to be drilled down to our depths. And the only mark of
difference between us will be in our deep identity, our soul. Everything else will be commodified. That is
why Brilliant has devoted his life to understanding that one simple, puzzling mantra: “Live your life
without ambition. But live as those who are ambitious.” Do that, and you discover the discipline of living
an authentic life — and of living hard, as if each day counts. That said, there is no mistaking that Brilliant
is, well, weird. He is maybe three statistical variations from the norm, which he also fully accepts. Where
Did Goethe Find Faust? “I have, alas, studied philosophy/Jurisprudence and medicine, too,/And, worst of
all, theology/With keen endeavor, through and through — /And here I am, for all my lore,/The wretched
fool I was before./Called Master of Arts, and Doctor to boot …” So where does this tale of abnormal,
sane, hyperactive ambition begin? With a kid growing up Jewish in Detroit, being raised on Dr. Spock -and switching to medical school when he learns that his father is dying of cancer. He has been studying
philosophy and has been thinking, like almost everyone in his generation, that his mission is to change
the world. His father’s death convinces him not to change the world but to save it.
Then, as the 26-year-old Larry Brilliant is finishing his surgical internship at Presbyterian Hospital in San
Francisco in 1970, he learns that the first person he must save is himself: He is diagnosed with cancer of
the parathyroid gland. The surgery he is headed for was his own. The salvation he must seek begins with
his recovery. “I took time off to heal,” Brilliant recalls. “That summer, a group of Indians took over
Alcatraz. A woman named Tina Trudell, whose husband was John Trudell, the rap poet, wanted to have
her baby on Alcatraz — the first Indian baby to be born on Indian-freed land in 200 years. She couldn’t
get a doctor to come out and deliver the baby. I agreed to go out there. I wound up living on Alcatraz for
a couple of weeks, the only white person there.” The press started calling, and, without trying, he found
himself being a spokesman for Native American rights. One time, the phone rang and it was Warner
Brothers. The studio was making Medicine Ball Caravan, a sequel to the hit Woodstock Nation. How
would he like to play a doctor in a film about a tribe of hippies who follow the Grateful Dead, Jefferson
Airplane, Jethro Tull, and Joni Mitchell? “Warner Brothers had agreed to give massive infusions of
photos of dead presidents to free clinics in America, so Larry and his wife, Girija, signed on,” says Wavy
Gravy, 64, another mythical figure of the 1960s who had just come back from serving as the “chief of
please” at Woodstock. In Caravan, he was asked to serve a similar role, handling life support and
security. “When we did anything cool,” Wavy recalls, “we had to do it once more ‘for Francois,’ the film’s
French director.” The final scenes were shot in Canterbury, England with Pink Floyd performing. The
night before the shoot, Wavy ran through the quiet village banging on doors and shouting, “The
Americans are coming! The Americans are coming!” By the time that production wrapped, Warner
Brothers had accumulated a fortune in rupees: The cast got paid in Indian Airlines tickets. When you’re a
charter member of Woodstock Nation, what do you do with airline tickets? Several members of the
group cashed them in and bought a bus. “The idea was to drive around Western Europe spreading good
vibes,” says Wavy. But in 1970, a cyclone hit Bangladesh. One of the century’s worst disasters, the storm
claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. “Relief efforts were so slow to respond that we decided to go
there to help the people and to embarrass the relief agencies. We wanted them to say, ‘My God, a
busload of hippies is doing our job.’ We put together medical and food supplies, and we pooled our
money. In Germany, we got another bus — 42 people from 17 countries. We thought it would take a
couple of weeks. It turned into one and a half years.” The film — which had started the whole journey -turned out to be the worst ever made until Ishtar came along. But Brilliant was hooked on learning the
secrets of life that went beyond mere comfort and success. “We had never met so many people who
were so poor, yet so alive,” Brilliant says. “Life didn’t just happen to them. They experienced life at a
deeper level than I had ever experienced it. I had been a radical, a left-wing politico, and meeting the
Indian people made me realize that the politics of the left and the right were so much less important
than the politics of the heart and the spirit.” A year later, he wound up at the ashram of Neem Karoli
Baba. To Brilliant, this destination didn’t look like ambition — it smelled like Nirvana. It turned into a trip
to the big time. Apply Apples and Call Me in the Morning Brilliant was sitting under a bodhi tree at his
guru’s ashram in northern India, content with doing nothing more than his daily meditations. There was
just one problem: “Every time I sat and meditated, my guru would throw apples at my testicles,” Brilliant
says. “I had to get up and get moving. I had no choice.” The point of the apple throwing was to get
Brilliant out of the lotus position and into work where he could do the greatest good. His guru, Neem
Karoli Baba, was telling him, “There are people who get exactly what they
want. You think they’re the lucky ones, but they’re not. The lucky ones are those who do what they are
meant to do.” For Baba, that meant vaccinating people against smallpox. In the early 1970s, the disease
was devastating India. Trying to eradicate it seemed like a fool’s errand. That errand became Brilliant’s.
At his guru’s insistence, he found himself on his longest journey yet: a bus ride from the monastery in
northern India to the offices of the United Nations. It is a measure of Brilliant’s unusual outlook on
ambition that he never questioned his guru’s advice. “I had never seen a case of smallpox,” says Brilliant.
“I don’t know how my guru knew that I could do this work. I had hair down the middle of my back, and I
was wearing a white robe. Everybody in the United Nations was over 50 and wearing a business suit. I
showed up at the United Nations office dressed as you would expect someone to be dressed in a
monastery. I walked in and said, ‘My mystic sent me to cure smallpox.’ I was told to go home. I took the
17-hour bus ride back to the ashram and told Baba that I had failed. He said, ‘Go back.’ I did this two
dozen times, making this trip back and forth. Slowly, the robe gave way to pants, then to a shirt, then to
a tie, then to a haircut, and then to a resume. I learned to look like a diplomat.” What was the lesson
that his guru was teaching him? “The great thing about gurus is not that they make you feel everybody’s
love,” says Brilliant. “It’s that they make you feel that you can love everybody.” The nightmare wasn’t
confined to the disease. “Mrs. Gandhi wasn’t allowing the UN to work in India on smallpox. Later, she
changed her mind, and I became one of the first four people hired for the program — largely because I
could speak Hindi and because I could type. It wasn’t until several years later that anyone remembered
that I was a doctor. I ended up staying with the program for six years, and I was in India for ten years.”
Day and night, smallpox, like a war, ravaged the villages of India. Rivers stopped flowing, dammed by the
dead bodies that filled them. Crows were seen flying overhead carrying tiny arms and legs that were
spotted with the disease. Entire cities were decimated. Smallpox is a virus that forms lesions carried
through the bloodstream. The lesions can attach themselves anywhere: to the stomach, to the eyes, to
the lungs. Then they consume the whole body. Quickly, they consume whole villages. A win had to be
total: If one person were left untreated, smallpox could reemerge even more virulently. Even if the UN
could inoculate each of India’s 600 million people, an impossible task, how could it cope with each year’s
new wave of 25 million unvaccinated babies? The solution was to quarantine whole villages in order to
contain the outbreaks. One night, Brilliant and his team set up camp in one of the most devastated
villages — and got no volunteers for the inoculations that they were offering. Desperate, they ambushed
the village leader. They broke into his house as he slept and then vaccinated him. Believing that faith in
God meant surrendering to all suffering, the tribal leader considered it his responsibility to resist the
doctors. He tried to suck out the vaccine, and he attacked members of the UN team when they
vaccinated his wife. When the battle was over, the leader, exhausted, went into his garden, plucked the
single ripe cucumber from its vine, and presented it to a young Indian doctor whom his wife had bitten
as she had struggled. The tribal leader had been firm in his faith, he said, but now it was time for truce.
As a crowd of villagers gathered to witness the struggle, Brilliant’s Indian colleague refused to accept
anything less than total victory. It was Brilliant’s dharma — his destiny — to fight the disease, the doctor
explained. Brilliant had come 10,000 miles to this village to save lives because it was his guru’s wish that
smallpox should be eradicated. The village leader gave the project his blessing, and the entire village
lined up for inoculations. But even that moment came at a price for Brilliant, who had been on the
Michigan board of the American Civil Liberties Union and had worked for civil rights. How do you justify
breaking down a person’s door to vaccinate him, even if that inoculation saves his life? “I used to spend
weekdays in New Delhi, working at the World Health Organization, and weekends in the monastery,”
Brilliant recalls. “I would travel 17 hours by public bus to get to the monastery. I was having a very rough
time, and I asked Baba how I could deal with this amount of corruption and contradiction.
“It was like the answer to the question ‘How do I deal with such ignorant officials as the tribal chief?’ I
had externalized the problem by asking, ‘How do I deal with these corrupt authority figures?’ My guru
said, ‘It’s not them, it’s you. If you live in a world of sense objects, you’re not at peace. You are not
thinking clearly. When you are not thinking clearly, the mind is behaving like a drunken, crazed monkey
in a cage.’ ” Two-Thirds Dalai Lama, One-Third Chauncy Gardiner Here’s the problem: You begin to
develop attachments to meaningless things, to sense objects. From those attachments, you make
choices. From those choices, you find preferences. From those preferences, you identify with the best or
the worst attributes of some of them. That identification takes you directly to the land of illusion,
because those attributes are meaningless. From that identification comes cognitive dissonance. As a
result, your desire for one thing versus another is based on illusions in your own mind — illusions that
cloud your ability to see what is really worth doing, what would truly make you happy. Here’s how it
plays out: “Say you decide that you like Chevrolets and not Fords,” says Brilliant. “Or you decide that you
like Yahoo! and not Lycos. It’s all the same. In my case, I felt that it was more important to stay in the
monastery and to become noble than it was to do common work. But in the long run, preferences don’t
matter to your success or to your happiness. They distract you from seeing what is most important to
you. The point of life is to transcend the smallness of the finite self by identifying with things that last.
Preferences, or attachments, lead to forgetfulness: How can I really remember why I like Chevys and not
Fords, why Yahoo! is better than Lycos? Why, in my case, is study better than action? From my
preference for a certain path comes confusion, and from that confusion comes inability to reason, and
from that inability to reason comes pranashiti — total destruction of the cognitive process. “Comparisons
are odious,” Brilliant continues. “The more you think about that, the more it helps you to achieve your
goal. The goal is to be equanimous.” Equanimity, balance, peace — so that you are yourself no matter
what goes on around you, no matter what the world hurls at you. “If you are constantly making
judgments based on superficial affiliations, your world gets to be pretty small.” The exemplar of that
attitude? That, in Brilliant’s estimation, was U Thant, secretary general of the United Nations from 1961
to 1971. “He was a great and spiritual man. Dag Hammarskjold had just been killed. There was a
possibility of nuclear conflagration over a surrogate war being fought in the Congo, in which the West
and the East were actually at war. U Thant was locked in a last-ditch meeting to avert disaster when he
was handed a piece of paper, which he read, and he stayed in that meeting until the parties had reached
a truce. Someone then asked him what was on that slip of paper. He said, ‘My son was just killed in a car
accident.’ “The newspapers wrote about a cold-hearted Buddhist. But in that act was someone whose
love of humanity allowed him to transcend his own narrow definition of family and to expand it into a
greater definition. U Thant’s act was an act of a great, loving human being. That is equanimity, and it will
probably see you through tougher times th …
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