There’s a thin line between genius and insanity.
People say great minds think alike. That’s crap. In reality, the more different you think, the more unique you will be. Think outside the box – do things your own way.
In the world of advertising, a whole lot of the “experts” agree that I’m crazy. I wear that as a badge of honor. Why? Well, for one thing, because that’s the way the greatest business leaders have always thought. They didn’t listen to the experts. They found new strategies: strategies for innovating and changing a sector, strategies that the experts never thought about, strategies for improving business performance through innovation and differentiation. That’s insanity. That’s genius.
Case in point: A lot of the music people said Steve Jobs was crazy when he started talking about changing the way people buy and experience music. What he wanted sounded insane to them: An end to the brick-and-mortar record store. But it was genius.
His idea sure as hell doesn’t sound crazy anymore. We no longer talk about a hit record as something that you hold in your hand. Now it’s something you download.
Experts are not geniuses. They are usually prisoners of their own expertise, prisoners of what they consider familiar. It’s the crazy ones, the ones who blaze a new trail, and maybe step on some toes along the way, who make the most brilliant contributions.
You could make a very long list of all the supposedly “crazy” business leaders who accomplished truly great things. That list would have to include people like Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Howard Hughes, Richard Branson, and Ted Turner. In the world of literature, that list would have people like Allen Ginsberg and Sylvia Plath and Vladimir Nabokov on it. In politics, your list of crazy people would have to include Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.
Maybe they all were crazy. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t brilliant. And we are all very lucky they came along.
Look up the names of the people who made the biggest impact in whatever field it is that’s most important to you. I guarantee you’re going to find some crazy people on that list, some geniuses who made a habit of pissing off the experts.
No progress is possible without breaking new ground; that means you have to be a little crazy, and you have to think different. Sometimes, what people call insanity is really the flip side of genius.
Who’s your favorite example of someone who thought differently – and made a difference? It’s my blog, but your voice. I want to hear you.