Success Means Being Different
One of the great paradoxes of life is that being normal or even reasonable usually means settling for average, ordinary results, while success requires that we step outside our normal routines, dare to be different and often, uncomfortable. Highly successful people are, by definition, unusual people!
All of us have been pressured to conform at one time or another. We've been told to "sit still" in school, to "stop interrupting" or "not make a scene." We've been criticized for dressing, speaking, acting or thinking (or being) "different." The subtle and not-so-subtle pressures to accept conventional norms are powerful. "To get along, you have to go along."
Or, so they say. Madame Currie, Florence Nightingale, Helen Keller, Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Oprah Winfrey are not admired because they were "average" people! Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, Charles Lindbergh, Franklin Roosevelt and Steve Jobs were not "ordinary" people. Abraham Lincoln is widely regarded as the America's greatest president, yet the thing he was most known for among his friends was his obnoxious refusal to quit running for office, even after he lost thirty-two elections! That is not normal!
One of the things that has made America great, is our love of individuality. We have always had a healthy respect for our "mad inventors." The Wright brothers thought they could fly! Henry Ford thought he could put a car in every garage. Ben Franklin flew a kite in a thunder storm (didn't his mother tell him to come in out of the rain?). Mary Kay thought she could make a living selling make-up, while Mrs. Field tried to support her family selling cookies! That's just crazy!
Now, we need to tell the truth here. A lot of crazy ideas really are. . .crazy! We've all had brilliant ideas in the middle of the night, only to find that in the clear light of day they weren't worth pursuing. I've made many fortunes while taking my shower, only to find them going down the drain when I tried to tell my partners about them. Just because an idea is weird doesn't mean it's wonderful.
But many great ideas (and the fortunes) have been lost because the genius who thought it up was shy. Or lacked courage. Or was intimidated by someone's comment that, "You can't do that!"
All great ideas were crazy before they were brilliant. Alexander Bell thought he could talk over copper wires, and even worse, Marconi thought he could send messages through thin air! When David Sarnoff wanted to launch the first radio network (now NBC), one investor ridiculed him by asking, "Who would pay to send a message to no one in particular?" Jules Verne thought people might one day travel under the ocean or, even more ridiculous, fly in outer space. How crazy was that!?
If you can read this, you are a genius. You have had thousands of wonderful, creative, brilliant ideas—most of which you've never pursued. And that's a shame.
Success in life is not achieved by being "ordinary." It is achieved by being "different," by following your own path and trusting your own instincts.
One of my heroes, Henry Thoreau, recommended "marching to beat of your own drummer, no matter how distant or far away."
No two people have the same DNA or the same fingerprints. No two lovers "do it" quite the same way. No two parents (not even spouses) raise their children quite the same way. Seabiscuit was too small and ungainly to be a champion, but lives in history as one of the great race horses of all time.
To achieve your unique version of success, follow your heart. Yes, you'll want to learn from others. Yes, you'll want to obey the law and applicable regulations, but aside from those things, you become great by being exactly, and uniquely yourself. This is a call for more eccentrics, more individuals, more creative, unrepentant adventurers. Go where your heart and your instincts lead you. Follow your dream. Instead of following the "normal" highway, blaze a new path and leave a trail for others to follow.