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3 Insanely Stupid Quotes that Went Viral

By Majid Kazmi
The only thing more important than what is said is who said it. Or is it?

We know all too well that perception is greater than reality. That includes our
perception of famous people whose opinions are perceived as gems of irrefutable
wisdom regardless of whether or not they have any merit.

Well, it's not their fault. We tend to judge a lot, both positively and negatively. As
a result, people who have gained a certain stature in life are considered more
entitled to share their views based on their experience. The truth is, everyone is
entitled to share their opinions based on their experience. The only difference is
that if something is said by a billionaire, nobody runs it up the flagpole even if it
makes no sense.
But every once in a while, a statement jumps out at you as so witless that you
dont really need to scrutinize it to figure out it is absolute dopey. It is so contrary
to common wisdom, that you dont even care who said it. Why such quotes still
get millions of hits on the social media is a different story.

Here are the three silliest quotes that went viral for no reason:

1. The minute you have a back-up plan, you've admitted youre not going to
succeed (Elizabeth Holmes)

The obvious chart topper is this insanely stupid quote by Elizabeth Holmes. Even
if investigative reporter John Carreyrou had not exposed Theranos as a possible
multi-billion dollar fraud in his unforgiving Wall Street Journal story, the
statement would still have made no sense.

Decades of research in strategic management led us to one conclusion if you

dont have a plan B, you dont have a plan. This is so because a back-up plan is
not the same as a pack-up plan.

Every morally intelligent entrepreneur knows that success in business comes

from being adaptable. That is the hallmark of tenacious startups who are not
willing to give up on their vision, even if they have to completely rethink the way
they achieve that vision.

It is like driving to work every morning. You dont jump out of bed thinking, "no
matter what, I am going to take the shortest road to work today." If that means
bumping through the police cars blocking the freeway due to an unfortunate
accident, it doesnt sound like tenacity to me.

In his book Plan B: How to Hatch a Second Plan That's Always Better Than Your
First David Kord Murray dissects the topic of back-up plans as an important
discipline in strategic planning. He emphasizes the need to embrace intelligent
flexibility. According to Murray, rather than the traditional top-down strategic
planning, the key is to have a bottom-up thinking so that you can emphasize the
importance of tactics, because that is the level where most strategies fail.

Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth. ~ Mike Tyson
Dr. Jeff Cornwall, the inaugural recipient of the Jack C. Massey Chair in
Entrepreneurship and Professor of Entrepreneurship at Belmont University in
Nashville, Tennessee points out how flexibility leads to luck and serendipity. No
one cares (or even knows) that Google originally set out to build bulletin boards
or that YouTube started as a dating site called Tune In Hook Up. In the words of
Dr. Cornwall:

While our experiences are important, we have to be careful not to get stuck in
the old, traditional ways of thinking. And we must never become a slave to our
original ideas.

However, if your mom and dad sit at positions of power and privilege, and you
have all the assurances that youll be successful no matter what the rules of the
game are (because there aren't any for you), you dont really need to be all that

Notwithstanding this uncomfortable reality of our times, the moment you think it
is necessary to have a back-up plan, what you have actually admitted is that you
are going to succeed no matter what.

2. You may lose your wife, you may lose your dog, your mother may hate you.
None of those things matter. What matters is that you achieve success and
become free (Kevin O'Leary)

Oh, really O'Leary?

So what really is success? Not to preach to the devil, but becoming rich is just
one definition of success. And there's nothing wrong with that. However, when
you say "what matters is that you achieve success" you are imposing your idea
of success upon everyone else, commanding that it should necessarily matter to
them because it matters to you. This is the inherent eccentricity of this arrogant
statement that helps it achieve the coveted second spot on this short list of
insanely stupid quotes. But there's more to it than that.

Lao Tzu wrote in the 6th century BC ancient Chinese classic text:
If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be
content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize
there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.

Still, one may argue that happiness, or spiritual and emotional fulfillment, is not
one's objective in life and amassing material wealth is both a means and an end.
However spurious, what this idea means in today's world is that you cannot
always stay morally upright in an uncompromising pursuit of wealth, because
morals and materialism so often become complete tangents. Therefore, a person
with money as the sole measure of success, would inevitably have to sidestep
when confronted with the trade-off between moral principles and the
quintessential economic objective of profit maximization. In many cases if not in
most, you simply can not pursue both and must decide what to lose in order to
gain the other.

This includes losing things in life that human wisdom has considered for
centuries to be essential for the pursuit of happiness. And yes, that includes the
dog Kevin.

3. A problem is only a problem when viewed as a problem (Robin Sharma)

Ah, now that's a problem! I get what Robin intended to mean, but that's not what
he said. He's making a sweeping generalization that all problems are
opportunities in disguise. It comes across as a wise-sounding statement upon
cursory view. Unfortunately, it is not; and there are no ifs and buts to it.

If we assume that Robin meant to say that each problem reflects an opportunity
to solve the problem, that would make this statement sound dumber than it
actually is. He simply means that all problems can actually be viewed as

Many problem solving frameworks, such as Edward de Bono's lateral thinking

paradigm, provide an alternate view of problem solving by re-framing the
perceptions, concepts and boundaries for decision making. Still, it is considered a
problem solving framework.

The problem about problems is that in order for them to get solved they need to
be viewed as problems, studied as problems, defined as problems, recognized as
problems and eventually solved because they are problems. However, during the
course of problem solving one might stumble upon an opportunity outside of the
immediate context of the problem, which might lead to esoteric investigation on
how it could be beneficial to solve similar problems. I'm pretty sure Robin is not
eluding to that concept here.

On the other hand, if all problems are viewed as opportunities, it would nurture
the same diabolically opportunistic mindset that sees no problem with raising the
price of an AIDS pill from $13.5 to over $700 overnight, only because there is an
opportunity to do that. One's problem is other's opportunity, right?

A problem is a problem, whether it's yours or mine. It should be seen as one.

About the Author: Majid Kazmi is the Founder & CEO of Valu Ventures Inc. a social
enterprise based in Toronto that helps immigrants become entrepreneurs.

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