#Asia #Japan 95b: Life Changes & Why Nerds Need to Stop Reading Tolkien


(Photo Credit: WurFi)

This is a short and very personal episode. Things will be changing for me and for Disrupting Japan, and sometimes when you are facing a lot of big changes, it really helps to be able to share your thoughts with people you care about.

That’s you.

There is no guest this time. It’s a story about me and magic and chivalry and startups.  I hope you find something in it.

Disrupting Japan Episode… well, that’s kind of complicated.
Hi. Tim here. I’ve got some big news that I can only tease you with right now, but I wanted to share it with you in this special, short in-between episode.  There are no ads this episode, because … well, because this one is not brought to you by our sponsors, it’s too personal. It’s brought to you by me.
Now, no one has ever been surprised to learn that I was a huge nerd in high-school. And this was back in the 1980’s, a very long time before nerds were even remotely cool, and female nerds simply didn’t exist.
Actually, no I take that back. I’m sure there were female nerds back then, but social norms being what they were, they had to stay in the closet and hide their nerdy nature from the rest of the world while pretending to be interested in cheerleading and quarterbacks and what have you.  So I guess that the 1980s were a tough time to be a female nerd. Nerd liberation came later for girls than it did for boys, but the 80s were not a great time to be a male nerd either.
Anyway,  I was on the debate team and spent my free time programming my Commodore 64, playing Dungeons & Dragons, and arguing the finer points of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings with my equally nerdy friends. Now over the years, I’ve given up on the idea of debate for debate’s sake, upgraded my computer, and I haven’t played D&D since high-school graduation.
However, I still enjoy Tolkien and find myself re-reading his books every decade or two.  The Lord of the Rings is a classic tale that is beautifully told, and generations of nerds have found in it not simply an enjoyable distraction, but as profound human insight and as inspiration on leading a life well lived.
But recently, and as a result of this serial entrepreneur life I’ve chosen, the characters in The Lord of the Rings have been seeming a bit thin, and those of another novel have started to seem richer and richer.
Back in high-school, I considered Cervantes’ Don Quixote an interesting enough story, but over the years as I’ve embarked on several radically different careers and started startup after startup, something about the novel started to resonate with me.  As the Lord of the Rings began to feel more and more like a well-told fairy tale, Don Quixote began to seem, well a little bit like me.
For those of you who have not read the book in while or who have only seen one of the movies, all of which miss the core point of the book, let me explain
Cervantes wrote Don Quixote more than 400 years ago, and he tells a story of a man who lived in a time of overdue bills, nosy neighbors and bickering politicians. It was a time when the world was filled with petty people with tiny dreams wasting their lives in mundane and meaningless pursuits. 
Well, Quixote dreamed of a better world. A world where life had honor and meaning. He desperately wanted to live in an age of chivalry. A time of damsels in distress and knights errant, a time when there were still giants left to slay.
He believed in his vision so passionately he began to see the world not as it was, but as it could be; as it should be.  Farmers became noble squires, peasant girls became princesses, and most famously, windmills became ferocious giants.
Now Don Quixote is not a heroic figure. He never managed to change the world.  In fact, no one ever believed in his vision except for him.  The world viewed Don Quixote as a somewhat amusing, but a pathetic and pointless person. 
When you read the novel, you get the impression that even Cervantes,

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