The irrepressible Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote a very telling quote in his essay titled “Maxims for Revolutionists” in 1903: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
This insightful quote was written well over a hundred years ago but still rings undeniably true today.
He’s right. Progress is made when everybody follows someone who challenges conventional reasoning and strikes out on a path that is different than what everyone else is doing.
If you’re being reasonable, you’re going with the flow and not creating any conflict or deviating from what is normal. You adapt yourself to your surroundings. But, if you’re being unreasonable, you want the surroundings to adapt to you. And, once that happens, the world starts changing.
I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to be able to interact with different groups of audiences about my personal successes and failures in my music and media careers, and I always find myself going back to this quote to summarise the moments when things began to change for any industry.
Whilst it is easy to understand what Shaw was saying, it is much harder to follow through on his thought about progress.
The very idea that you have to be unreasonable is not something that is easily palatable to our society, especially our Asian conflict-shy sensibilities. We try not to make a scene. We respect how things have always been done. We defer to tradition.
“We’ve done this in this manner all these years, so why do you want to fix something that’s not broken?” is the axiom always said to a person suggesting change.
But, therein lies the problem. The world is changing so fast that if we don’t do anything, we will just get left behind and become irrelevant.
The chief executive officer of Nokia wept, during his speech at a recent press conference to announce Nokia being acquired by Microsoft, saying, “We didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost.”
He was wrong. Nokia did something wrong. Nokia didn’t change. And, if you don’t change, you will be discarded. It’s not just about trying to keep up with the latest trends. It’s also about pushing forward new innovations and ideas, and doing something crazy.
The Malaysian animation industry is a perfect example. Malaysian-made characters Upin and Ipin, and Boboiboy are proud international successes, appearing in premier international animation channels and platforms. These successes stem from being unreasonable.
When the idea of doing a full 3D- animated feature came to Haji Burhanuddin of Las Copaque, he, of the Upin and Ipin fame, did not approach it in the traditional business sense. Looking at the massive cost of producing a full-length animated feature versus the very fact that there has been no case of revenues being able to be forthcoming for such a big idea would deter any reasonable businessman. But Haji Burhanuddin was an unreasonable man. He took the gamble and it has paid off big time.
We are now at the eve of another amazing event in Malaysian animation history, the release of Boboiboy: The Movie. I walked into an early screening of Boboiboy: The Movie thinking “this is going to be great for young kids”.
As I sat down in the cinema, the movie began and immediately I was bombarded by one of the most amazing productions I’ve seen anywhere. The opening spaceship chase scene catapulted the movie into a gripping cinematic experience of non-stop drama and engaging characters. All my senses were assaulted by the wonderful creations on display on screen that I didn’t realise I was this 40+ year-old guy, stuck in his chair with his mouth wide open, in awe.
Nizam from Monsta, the company behind this film, is an unreasonable man. He wanted to make something big, something spectacular, and he didn’t stop until he got it, no matter how many naysayers were in the way.
So, go out there and be unreasonable. Never settle. It is when you obstinately refuse to budge from something you totally believe in, that the world is forced to adapt to you and starts changing.
Ahmad Izham Omar works in the production of TV, film and music content, and gets panicky trying to figure out his next tweet