What Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, and Bob Dylan Have In Common

65 Comments

Dr. Peter H. Diamandis is the Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, and co-Founder and Chairman of the Singularity University, a Silicon Valley-based institution partnered with NASA, Google, Autodesk and Nokia. Dr. Diamandis attended MIT, where he received his degrees in molecular genetics and aerospace engineering, as well as Harvard Medical School where he received his M.D.

He’s no underachiever.

I’ve known Peter for many years, both as a friend and as advising faculty at Singularity University. He is known for being incredibly resourceful, but it’s his ability to teach and catalyze resourcefulness that impresses me most.

Here is a short essay from Peter on exactly this.  Enjoy…

Enter Peter

In 1997 Apple introduced its “Think Different” advertising campaign with the now famous declaration: “Here’s to the crazy ones”:

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes . . . the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.

If you were to just hear these words, they’d seem like bravado — marketingspeak from a company not known for marketingspeak. But Apple coupled sight to sound. Accompanying those words were images: Bob Dylan as a misfit; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a troublemaker; Thomas Edison as the one without respect for the status quo. Suddenly everything changes. Turns out this campaign is not all bluster. In fact, it seems to be a fairly accurate retelling of historical events.

The point, however obvious, is pretty fundamental: you need to be a little crazy to change the world, and you can’t really fake it.

If you don’t believe in the possibility, then you’ll never give it the 200 percent effort required. This can put experts in a tricky situation. Many have built their careers buttressing the status quo, reinforcing what they’ve already accomplished, and resisting the radical thinking that can topple their legacy — not exactly the attitude you want when trying to drive innovation forward.

Henry Ford agreed:

“None of our men are ‘experts.’ We have most unfortunately found it necessary to get rid of a man as soon as he thinks himself an expert because no one ever considers himself expert if he really knows his job . . . Thinking always ahead, thinking always of trying to do more, brings a state of mind in which nothing is impossible.”

So if you’re going after grand challenges, experts may not be your best co-conspirators. Instead, if you need a group of people who thrive on risk, are overflowing with crazy ideas, and don’t have a clue that there’s a “wrong way” to do things, there’s one particular place to look.

In the early 1960s, when President Kennedy launched the Apollo program, very few of the necessary technologies existed at the time. We had to invent almost everything. And we did, with one of the main reasons being that those engineers involved didn’t know they were trying to do the impossible, because they were too young to know. The engineers who got us to the Moon were in their mid to late twenties. Fast-forward thirty years, and once again it was a group of twentysomethings driving a revolution, this time in the dot-com world. This is not a coincidence: youth (and youthful attitudes) drives innovation — always has and always will.

So if we’re serious about creating an age of abundance, then we’re going to have to learn to think differently, think young, roll the dice, and perhaps most importantly, get comfortable with failure.

—-

Editor’s note: The above is adapted from Peter’s book Abundance, which I wholeheartedly recommend you check out.  But let’s talk to you…

What other examples of “crazy” innovators can you think of?
If you’ve been in a job for a long time, how can you generate novel/crazy ideas?
Who has done the so-called “impossible” or shaken up the status quo in a way you respect?

Please share your thoughts in the comments!

RELATED AND RECOMMENDED PODCAST INTERVIEWS:


Posted on: July 31, 2014.

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65 comments on “What Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, and Bob Dylan Have In Common

  1. Although maybe not as world-changing as smart phones or the space program, the Adam Carolla Podcast is a great example of someone stepping out of mainstream and trailblazing. More so, podcasting eventually became an alternative to talk radio programs, so his success is even greater if you factor in the lucrative giant that is radio.

    As he always says on his program, the business he has built is a pirate ship (implying a rebellious action) that allows him to say f*&k you to “the man.”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’d imagine that “being crazy” works when you are either “the boss” or “your own boss.”

    In other instances, I’d imagine that it works to the “crazy” person’s benefit only once in a proverbial blue moon.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There are so many “crazy” innovations that are changing the status quo, helping topple or knock down a peg or two, those that dominate an industry. Tesla and the way they sell cars, taxi alternatives such as Uber and the ability to create your own products and be able to distribute them to the world with sites like Gumroad. I could go on and on but I like that the “little” guys are taking some good swings at the “big” guys.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Seems completely reasonable to me. But then again, I like to think I fall into this category of “crazy,” or at the very least, optimistic regarding the future to near delusion.

    This article reminds me of Steve Jobs, especially in his younger days. His crazy intensity/unyieldingly strong conviction that what he was preaching was possible is largely responsible for the world we live in today.

    Like

  5. There are tons of other people that can fit in this scenario. Like Albert Einstein , Dale Carnegie ( He was different in his own way ) , napoleon hill , J.K.Rowling ,etc . (Just a thought)

    Like

  6. Thank you for the post, Tim! And for the book recommendation. :) ‘Abundance’ just went to the top of my to-read list.
    I have to say that, during the past few years, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to all sorts of questions related to excellence and to the best methods for achieving it. It seems to me that ‘be crazy! bend the rules! do it differently! don’t apologize’ is the mainstream type of advice that has been circulating in this area for quite some time already. Now, you see, I have a couple of problems with this.
    1. I don’t think that we can all be equally crazy…in the same way in which we can’t all be equally chatty or flirty when drunk. Genius is genius, whether sane or not. But, most likely, not. :)
    2. If we all go crazy and disregard rules and traditions that – though old through their very nature – did get the work done, then who’s gonna be the safety pin and gatekeepers of our businesses, economies and societies? Even artists who couldn’t care less about the mundane aspects of the world got some material support from less crazy sponsors.
    3. How much room is there left for discipline when we go crazy? Personally, I am a big fan of the concept of ‘shokunin’. It originated in the Japanese culture and it can roughly be translated as craftsman. However, this particular craftsman, the shokunin, is very determined to achieve perfection in his/her craft and doesn’t settle for anything less than that. That’s why he or she will repeat the same process over and over again, every day, in perfect discipline until the ultimate goal is reached. From what I’ve read, George Bernard Shaw was very regimented in his writing and imposed to himself a quota of five pages per day, every day, for the rest of his life. Of course, not all of them got published.
    Let me finish with Picasso, who I think will reconcile our views. :) ‘Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.’

    Liked by 1 person

  7. One crazy idea i’ve been obsessed about is that of Karmic Management. That what goes around comes around. If you have a problem, find someone else with the same problem and help them solve it.

    If you have a hard time to find a new place for your business, help people coming to town to find a place to stay. If you want your employees to be more engaged, be yourself more engaged in your community or some organisation you ara a part of.

    It is not up to odds, what you sow you reap. There is no chance, no maybe. It all seemed a bit crazy, but now i see it really works.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is very true Felipe. That is how I’ve been doing business lately, helping others rather than helping myself and it’s worked wonders. Team that with Tim’s advice about living in a creative place (I live in SF too) and the possibilities open up huge.

      Thanks for the good read Tim.

      Like

  8. I am a high school teacher.

    You might be surprised at how constrained we are. For example, the Common Core State Standards are mandated forcefully and thoroughly: you will teach them… and nothing else; and here is how you will teach them.

    However, I can still be “crazy, novel, innovative”. For example, I can base my teaching on truer, more useful principles (than the CCSS), such as: Mindset, The Art of Learning, The War of Art, Discipline Without Stress, etc, and use the CCSS to teach THOSE principles, rather than the other way around, or than excluding those principles entirely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • i think this is amazing, am so grateful that there’s people like you out there – finding the loophole, or rather creating one with your own gifts. outsmarting the system! Is there a way you can start teaching this to other highschool teachers? can you create an online program? write an ebook? START A MOVEMENT? our kids need us! <3 thank you!

      Like

      • Thank you for your kind words! And… for your great idea: share my teaching with other teachers! I’ll post my ideas, and what I end up doing, on my website: granthuhn.com. Thank you, again, for your encouragement and your ideas. Here’s to STARTING A MOVEMENT! (Seth Godin calls it, “Making a rukus.”) Let’s do this.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. The very topic my friend and I have been discussing lately.. To be a successful game-changer, an unacceptance of failure needs to be built into their mindset and also, a willingness like no other. No obstacle (unfortunately for a lot of them this has included their friend’s/families livelihood) is too great for them to overcome, there’s an unmatched drive within these types of special individuals.

    Like

  10. One of my favourite examples, and Peter will appreciate this one, is Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. Here was a guy thinking about colonizing space and using rockets … way back in the 1800’s… while living in a log cabin in remote Russia.

    As for methods for generating ideas, I find that consuming media, especially books, that are completely unrelated to what you do, is a good way to stay nimble. The more things you know, the more likely it is you will suddenly connect the dots and get a new idea, or a fresh perspective on whatever you are trying to do.

    Like

    • Hi Chandra,

      There is some great work being done on cancer by using scientists from other fields to help cancer specialists see what they might be missing. The physicist, Paul Davies, who wrote ‘The mind of god’ was interviwed on ABC Australia about his contribution. It was most revealing.

      Like

  11. Hi Tim,

    I’d add Nicola Tesla to the list. He seemed largely black-balled due to his sometimes quite crazy ‘tude, but he was perhaps the most innovative person of all time. What a genius.

    Oh yeah; I’d add you to the list. Why? I’ve not seen someone who tries so many new things, and masters them, so quickly. It takes a nut job to get this stuff done, and to become darn proficient at getting stuff done. Bravo dude, bravo.

    I did all types of crazy online ventures for years, and now I’m starting a new blog – Blogging from Paradise – which may not be too crazy, but curiously enough, a blog for which I was able to purchase the domain name just 2 weeks ago.

    Why wasn’t it gobbled up? I thought many would desire to be blogging from paradise? Did no one thing of it? Maybe a little crazy, going from employee from entrepreneur…..and if I think of my life: ex fired security guard from Jersey to globe-trotting, blogging fool, and retired from the 9-5 at that, it is kinda crazy.

    Also, traveling the world non-stop for the past 39 months I’ve been introduced to so many crazy ideas and have seen so many crazy things, that this rubbed off on me, in the form of inspiration. I started many new ventures, and saw success, by acting on ideas that most people ignored.

    Oh yeah….I’d also add Ahhhnold to this list. People thought he was a loon, an Austrian kid who said he’d be the greatest bodybuilder of all time…then folks thought he was loco when a guy with a heavy Austrian accent said he’d be the biggest movie star in the world….then, people thought he was kidding when he said he’d be governor.

    So far, all these crazy ideas have worked out for him….and both he, and yourself Tim, are the 2 greatest, “crazy” inspirations for me.

    Bula from Fiji, BTW ;)

    Signing off. Tweeting soon.

    Thanks Tim, for all that you do.

    Ryan

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m very fond of this subject, having once faced a test panel refusing to grade me at all for a “talented and gifted” test in high school because I wrote my response in iambic pentameter with a rhyme scheme instead of simply writing the short story entry assigned me with a “Dark and stormy….” introduction. ;-) I’m sure everyone else who made it into the program has excelled. At something. But as each of these personalities proves, the innovation, courage, chutzpah and originality they each had is simply not quantifiable. We’re lucky and indebted to them that they pressed on without prior approval or passing grades.

    Like

  13. Some “experts” can, incidentally, have an annoying habit of immediately looking for ways to be critical of all new ideas… not necessarily because the idea deserves the criticism, but because it’s an opportunity to demonstrate domain-specific knowledge in a subtle way that’s just too tempting for them to resist.

    Like

  14. What a great post. I love crazy and That Apple ad and they delivered. Whenever someone says they’re an expert on always sceptical of anything they then go on to say. This is just what I needed to read today. Thank you.

    Like

  15. Jacque Fresco has changed my thinking more than anyone just by watching his talks on YouTube.

    He’s spent over 30 years designing a better system to manage Earth’s resources.

    Dude joined a KKK chapter and dissolved from the inside within a month and a half.

    Like