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Here’s to the Crazy Ones (How Creatives Overcome Their Critics)

Apr 12, 2016

Have you ever been really wrong when it comes to predicting the future?

History tends to get the last laugh when it comes to our predictions about the future or our assessments of what’s happening in the present.

here's to the crazy ones newspaper stands

Predictions Gone Wrong

In 1865, a Boston newspaper published an article which read, “Well-informed people know that it is impossible to transmit the human voice over wires….and were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value.” 

In January 1909, Scientific American wrote, “The automobile has practically reached the limit of its development.” Imagine what they would think of seeing a Tesla on the road today!

The New York Times predicted in January 1920, “A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.”

In 1977, Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, said,  “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” Later, he tried to interpret his comments to only relate to computers running our homes. Today, though, I can operate my power, door locks, HVAC system, and home entertainment system from an app on my smartphone.

“Television? The word is half Latin and half Greek. No good can come of it.” Those were the words of C.P. Scott, a British journalist and newspaper publisher.

Finally, we have the words of Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft. In April 2007, he said, “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.”

here's to the crazy ones inconceivable the princess bride

 

Innovators Defy Their Critics

Can imagine what it was like to create and dream in the face of such cynicism? When you look at the individuals who doggedly pursued these new inventions or ventures, they all have something in common – hope. They all have a relentless belief, in the face of opposition at times, which drives their continued pursuit of their dreams and ambitions. It doesn’t seem to be talent which separates these visionaries from others but instead, it is their refusal to give up or compromise their belief.

In 1995, Jeff Bezos and a few early employees, working from a small office in Seattle, opened their text-heavy bookselling website to the world. No one believed Amazon.com could compete with Barnes & Noble for books, Wal-Mart for retail or Apple for hardware.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. faced massive opposition during the Civil Rights battle. It was his dream and his sense of vision which produced such tenacity and perseverance in the face of pressure, violence, and even death.

I’ve got a friend who made some very bad choices, which almost cost him his career goals. He woke up one day in the middle of this downward spiral and said to himself, “I’m so tired of this – disrespecting myself.” A simple shift – the belief that he was worthy of self-respect – led to a total change of direction with his life.

Here’s to the Crazy Ones

In 1997, Apple launched an industry-defining marketing campaign entitled “Think Different.” At the heart of the campaign was this 30-second ad, along with a script written by the creative director, Rob Siltanen and Apple icon, Steve Jobs.

Apple brought this ad back upon Steve Jobs’ death in 2011. I found a poster on Etsy which turned this quote into an amazing typography art piece. It now hangs in my office above my desk.

here's to the crazy ones poster

As I think of these words, I’m reminded of one of the most-well known texts in the Bible. In the Christian Scriptures, the writer of the Book of Proverbs reminds his audience of the importance of the source of this kind of belief.

He writes, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Another English translation reads, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”

The writer compares the heart to the element which is essential for human life – water.

Belief (hope) is like water. Without it, we will die. 

When I think about these world-changers in the Apple ad and all of us who have dreams and ambitions, I wonder if the most essential task we have is to watch our hearts. I wonder if the most important work we do is not external but internal, cultivating our hearts so that there is constantly a flow of belief and hope within us. Because it is from this flow that we imagine, serve and share with others.

If my reflections and those words from Proverbs are accurate, then is it any wonder why bitterness is so dangerous? Bitterness begins to convince us that other people are “just like” the person who hurt us, whom we refuse to forgive. The flow of generosity to others is cut off because of our refusal to forgive the person who hurt us. (Learn more here about my newest ebook on forgiveness)

I believe this is also why cynicism is so dangerous. The general level of suspicion within our culture has grown to outrageous levels. Mark Mynell recently wrote,

“Suspicion is the natural result of having your fingers burned by something or someone. If I can make a generalization, I think our contemporary culture of suspicion derives largely from abuses of power. If you’ve been the victim of that (whether by the state, the corporation, the community, or even the church), it’s no wonder you sense threats in other, similar circumstances. I’ve got huge sympathy for that. There are all kinds of contexts where we ought to be suspicious. But cynicism is corrosive, and perhaps contagious. When suspicion hardens into a cynicism we cannot trust again. It is a fixed attitude — jaundiced and bitter perhaps — but devastatingly understandable in our world.”

[I wrote about the dangers of cynicism in my first ebook about reframing your life.]

Fear lies at the core of each of these dangers (bitterness, suspicion, and cynicism).

In his sermon on Sunday, my friend, Mike, reminded our church of this Scripture from the Apostle Paul. In his second letter to a young man he was mentoring named Timothy, Paul wrote, “For God gave us not a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control.” When we give in to fear, we are giving up our belief and hope, which are the source of our power. We must hold tight to this power.

I love that line from the Apple ad. “While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius because those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

If there is some corner of the world we feel burdened to change, we have to actually believe we can do it. Sure, someone may encourage us to be more reasonable or to lower our expectations so we don’t get so disappointed. We might be a little bit crazy, but without a belief that something can change, nothing ever does.

If we’re going to reach for something, we have to believe we can do it. If we’re going to risk something, we have to believe it could happen. If we’re going to leave behind safety and security for the unknown, we will need a river of hope within us to move us past our fear and worry.

We must relentlessly guard the source of our hope, our belief – what the writer of Proverbs refers to as “our hearts.” This is a work we cannot farm out, delegate or assign to anyone else. It’s a task only we can own or complete. From this place – our hearts, our sense of calling and courage urge us forward today. 

Here’s to the crazy ones!

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