daily articles for founders

Running a startup in the UK (or with a UK subsidiary)? Get in touch with my company, GrantTree. We help with government funding.

The Fool on the Hill, with commentary

Disclaimer: I love this song.

Day after day,

The Fool appears to keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

Alone on a hill,

The Fool seems to like to place himself in a location where he's unlikely to have much of an impact.

The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still

The Fool is not very proficient in proper use of body language or facial expressions, presumably on account of not spending enough time hanging around with other people.

But nobody wants to know him,
They can see that he's just a fool,
And he never gives an answer,

People have picked up on the fact that the Fool doesn't care about communicating with his fellows, and since he deliberately adds nothing to their lives, they are not interested in making time in their busy and (to them) important lives to sit next to a still, grinning mute.

But the fool on the hill,
Sees the sun going down,
And the eyes in his head,
See the world spinning 'round.

The Fool has some smart ideas (though, as it is unclear what century he lives in, and the idea that the Earth goes round the sun has been widely accepted since about 1700, they may not wholly be his ideas). He also seems to believe that having an idea is enough - you don't need to do anything with it after the idea occurs to you - and so he is content to sit on a hill with a potentially important idea locked in his head.

Well on the way,
Head in a cloud,
The man of a thousand voices talking perfectly loud

This is somewhat confusing, but it seems like the Fool is actually talking. However, if he believes he is speaking with a thousand voices simultaneously, then it is no surprise that:

But nobody ever hears him,
or the sound he appears to make,

Perhaps the Fool is not actually talking, but just having a discourse with himself in his head. This would certainly enable him to speak with a thousand voices, particularly if he is, as the song seems to hint, insane. Insanity would also explain why:

and he never seems to notice,

Most people who are speaking notice when people are not paying attention, let alone when they simply can't hear anything. Those who don't notice that are usually either dead or crazy.

But the fool on the hill,
Sees the sun going down,
And the eyes in his head,
See the world spinning 'round.

Execution is for inferior people. Ideas are everything.

And nobody seems to like him,

That's not very surprising, considering the Fool doesn't seem to like anybody either, and just thinks he is superior to all the others (as we'll find out later on in the song).

they can tell what he wants to do,

Perhaps the only puzzling line in this song. How can they tell what he wants to do? My best guess here is that people have noticed that all that the Fool appears to want to do is to sit quietly on the hill grinning to himself. That's why they can tell - by extrapolation from the fact that that's all he does.

and he never shows his feelings,

I think we've already established that the Fool has some severe communication issues. Therapy might be a good course of action at this point.

But the fool on the hill,
Sees the sun going down,
And the eyes in his head,
See the world spinning 'round.

This appears to be the only useful idea the Fool has come up with - assuming he did come up with it himself, rather than just read it in a widely available science textbook.

Ooh, ooh,
Round and round and round.


And he never listens to them,
He knows that they're the fools

As mentioned earlier, the Fool clearly has a superiority complex (or perhaps an inferiority complex masquerading as arrogance). Intelligent, wholesome people don't regard everyone else as fools. In fact, the most intelligent people tend to be humble, friendly, open-minded, and so on.

There's a hint of bitterness in this, too. It seems that maybe the Fool would like to communicate his ideas to others, to make the world a better place, connect with his fellows, and so on, but he can't seem to understand why nobody recognises his natural genius, even though he hasn't bothered to try and communicate it.

They don't like him,

Let's face it, we wouldn't like him either.

The fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down,
And the eyes in his head,
See the world spinning 'round.

Round and round and round

Some practical advice to the Fool

Ideas are not everything. Everyone has millions of interesting ideas in their life, but most people do nothing with those ideas. To be exceptional and worthy of respect (if that's something you care about), you also need to do something with those ideas - at the very least make some effort to communicate them to others. Certainly, an idea that remains locked in your head until the day you die might as well not have occurred.

We are not superior to others merely because of our ideas. Actions speak louder than words, and words speak louder than ideas. Turn your ideas into realities, and you are a God among men, imprinting the reality in your head onto the physical world. One side-effect of doing that is also that you realise that all humans have this seed in them, and you respect them for it.

It's worth investing some time in learning how to understand people and communicate with them. Often, the tallest hurdle in changing the world is not physical impossibility or even the difficulty of getting the right insight, but the inertia of people's minds - ours included. Knowing how to influence people can turn a Fool into a Great Man who will be remembered by History.

In conclusion

Reading too much into popular songs can be an amusing exercise.

More from the library:
How to find and recruit a killer advisory board
What should you bring a "business guy" on for?
Sad, tired and alone - or not