Attitude and Aptitude


Dear Ayush,

You asked me which should matter more to an adult: attitude or aptitude.  I gave you a rather vague, if not cynical, answer.  The cynicism owes much to my personal experience.   As for vagueness, here is an attempt to clear that needless miasma.

I hold aptitude much superior to attitude, though I wouldn’t go to the extreme view held by Ayn Rand.  Rand thought that a genius was inevitably individualistic and necessarily opposed to the society.  However, I agree with her that the genius works for his self-fulfilment and the gratification he derives from it rather than for pleasing the society or even a section of the society.  For example, Isaac Newton was not bothered about the benefits that would accrue to the society through his laws of motion; it was his passion to think about such things which up to his discovery were either taken for granted (e.g., the apple would fall to the earth rather than move towards the sky) or remained vague or mysterious (e.g., the relation between the force possessed by a moving body and its mass and acceleration).  True, many discoverers and inventors faced serious problems.  Galileo, for instance, would have been put to death by the religious powers of his time had he not exercised his ‘attitude’ properly.

Let me elaborate on that a little more.  The people with certain aptitudes love to exercise those aptitudes for the sheer delight such exercise would bring them and not the sake of any other reward like popularity or wealth.  A writer loves to write just for the sheer pleasure that writing brings.  A painter paints for his own delight.  You are a painter and you’d understand this easily.  A sculptor gives concrete shape to beauty, again for his own joy first of all. 

Attitude does not bother such people.  Could Salman Rushdie think of ‘attitude’ when he decided to bring his Satanic Verses to the reading public?  Did considerations of ‘attitude’ deter M F Hussein from painting some of his pictures which raised the hackles of a section of Indians?  Would D H Lawrence have dumped his Lady Chatterley’s Lover for the sake of appeasing the conservative people of his times?

But, as I told you already, attitude plays a vital role in certain spheres of human activity.  I think it was William Hazlitt who advised his son to learn to please the people who should be pleased if he wanted to rise in life.  “Without pleasing them, you would rise but with much difficulty” was the advice given generously by the famous writer to his own son. 

The message is: if you are more interested in power, positions, wealth or such extraneous things, then attitude plays a vital role in your life.  Otherwise, if you want to unfold your personality by exercising your aptitude to its fullest for your own delight, attitude does not play very significant role. 

Let me give you a warning, however.  Living in a society, especially in very intolerant times like ours, no one can give free rein to his aptitudes.  We may like to think that our civilisation is much more advanced than in the days of Galileo.  Unfortunately that’s not true.

Yours as ever,


About matheikal

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5 Responses to Attitude and Aptitude

  1. Aram says:

    Hi Sir,
    How true is this blog!!
    I write coz I enjoy writing and thats wt matters!!
    Well I think the joy u gather when u know that u have won with ur aptitude rather than being puppets is a joy beyond explainations!!
    Ayn Rand gave the extreme so we at least learn a moderate form of it, I aim for 8.5 pointers and get 8.2, I aim for John Galt and maybe someday we say who is Aram 😉 instead of who is John Galt 😀 …. away from fantasies, I have learnt that aptitude has the power of a slow force which brings about the change in the correct manner and attitude is the impulsive force which will complete ur journey to success but alas! the destruction is a phantom we all would love to avoid….

  2. very true…
    aptitude will always win over attitude particularly when attached with passion…
    attitude is for attainment of materialistic world…

  3. matheikal says:

    Nice to see you here with a comment, Rishi. A pleasant surprise, in fact.

    Thanks, Aram, for adding the wisdom of your personal experience. And you’re very right – we all need the checks proffered by attitude.

  4. Dawn and Dew says:

    A very good discussion. Thanks to Ayush too for asking such an intelligent question.

    On the one hand, we have people like Socrates who prefered a cup of poison over compromise. On the other, we have people only with attitude problem, but no genius. Such men linger and loiter around the powerful positions of educational institutions and all the profit making organisations.

    Such people are on the look out for attitude from others since they don’t accept aptitude. Aptitude for them is an eyesore. But a person with good aptitude accepts the same from others and hence no such illusion as attitude interferes in their relationships. There is joy and bliss in wisdom. Aptitude takes one to that wisdom, may it be in any small form.

  5. matheikal says:

    Thanks, Dawn, for adding to what I’ve said. ‘Attitude’ for many people has come to mean different things now, thanks to the kind of leaders we have today…

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