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TM Speech 8: Are you perfect?

June 10, 2013

The objective of this speech is “Research your topic”.

“Are you perfect?”, asked me the man, the man whose name I cannot recall.

It was almost an year ago, I took the bus from my office to get to the train station. It was a morning greeted by overcast  skies and a chill in the air. When the bus reached the stop in front of the Arenberg castle, I noticed a group of very cheerful looking middle aged parents getting in. From amongst them, a man of about 5 foot 10 inches or so in a beige green jacket over a meticulously ironed shirt and light colored pants, dark rimmed glasses, sat in front of me. He greeted me with a warm smile. We introduced ourselves and started talking about our professions and life in general. I was telling him how excited I was to have moved to Leuven and liking it! He was from Hasselt and mentioned to me he was traveling with a group of people on a Leuven outing. He said that they were all  a group of parents who were facing a similar challenge in life at that moment. As our conversation continued I felt comfortable enough to ask what was the challenge they were facing. And when he said all of them are parents with children who are having Turner’s syndrome, I asked him what was it about. 

After he described what it was, and the fate of his two little girls, I told him I was sorry to hear that. Then he looked at me with what seemed like the composure and calmness of the Buddha, and said, “No, no…you don’t need to feel sorry. They are wonderful little girls, very sweet… No one is perfect…” and then he asked me a question with a certain intensity looking straight into my eyes, that can come only to someone who is wise and enlightened. I could see the question surging through the veil of fake illusion that I trapped myself into over the years, tearing it apart, burning it with a searing intensity, and jolting me  as if my life-less body was being given an electric shock to make me move in a desperate attempt. And he asked me this: “Are you perfect?”. 

Toastmaster of the day, fellow toastmasters, and dear guests, it is this story that brings me to share the idea of comparative advantage. 

From organized crime to innovations that change our lives, all are based on this simple idea. The idea was introduced by a British political economist called David Ricardo almost two centuries ago in 1817 with a small distinction from what Adam Smith, the founder of modern economics discusses as absolute advantage and benefits of trade. In economic terms it means, a person or a country producing a particular good at a lower marginal or opportunity cost than another. Even if one has an absolute advantage, still one benefits by trading with another. Ricardo uses the example of how though England may be better at producing both wine and cloth compared to Portugal and cloth compared to itself, Portugal may be better at producing wine than cloth compared to itself, Both would be better off if England trades cloth with Portugal’s wine.

Another example could be the case of Lionel Messi and may be his typing agent. For all we know, Messi can be good at typing six or seven hours a day also. The opportunity cost of Messi to become a type writer is enormously high. On the other hand, his typist may not have even a remote chance of becoming a soccer player like him but might be very good at typing. Messi pays his typist for the services she renders from what he gets paid as a soccer champion. Both benefit in this transaction. Comparative advantage is not doing what we like, nor being the best in everything we do but instead doing what we are better at doing economically (i.e, at lower costs to yourself and others compared to anyone else).

By playing to our comparative advantage and trading, we benefit ourselves and therefore over all society prospers. So, the question “are you perfect?” becomes irrelevant. All this obsession about becoming more and more, becoming the best at everything, trying to be self-sufficient, all falls apart when once the realization towards our comparative advantage arises. Figuring out our comparative advantage and specializing in what we seem to be good at is becoming ourselves, it is realizing our unique selves. It can be enlightening and lead to inner peace and over all well-being. 

Thank you. 

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