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.

    Like

  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.

    Like

  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

  16. I’ve always been inspired by British adventurer (pioneer of microadventures) Alastair Humphreys who got to the end of university and said that he wanted to ‘set himself a challenge that he was probably going to fail – because the only way that he’d know what he was capable of achieving was by setting himself that was beyond what you could achieve.’

    Which is really just another way of phrasing your own line from the DO Lectures that – ‘The fishing is best where the fewest go and the collective insecurity of the world makes it easy for people to hit home runs while everyone is aiming for base hits’ or Richard Branson saying that: ‘His interest in life comes from setting seemingly impossible goals. Then rising above them.’

    It seems that the common thread between the changemakers of the world is that they all consciously decide to aim for the impossible and then relentlessly work until they get there (or somewhere closeby!)

    Like

  17. There’s a guy called Sepp Holzer who does permaculture in Austria. Permaculture is a design philosophy thats been developed around farming/nature, but can be applied to anything really. He once slapped a lawyer in court, across the face, with this heavy farm hand – because the bureaucrats were trying to destroy his mission to save the environment in some way. He is highly controversial for many, and in no way a saint, but he HAS proven himself to be one of those crazy innovators who does the impossible with+for nature. I’d love to see more CRAZY invested in saving the planet. If anyone reading this is passionate to get nuts about finding a way to solve our waste problem – hit me up. I want to find a way to end further plastic production for packaging, turn existing plastic into gold (not landfill) by giving it a new purpose, and create an alternative packaging solution that is not just sustainable but also regenerative to the environment. [Moderator: Email address removed]

    Like

  18. Thank for this Tim!! Needed a pick me up after a rough night with a “friend”. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re the man!!

    P.S: The 4 hour workweek changed my life, I’ve always loved knowledge and experiencing new things but wasn’t much of a reader at all. The parkinson’s law and 80/20 principle (or 4/64 as James Altutcher does it) really taught me that reading every word actually makes it more difficult to focus and learn. That paired with Adam Robinson’s book,What smart students know, (also talks about 80/20 principle) really propelled my learning to new heights.

    Because of your book I was able to have a 2 hour intelligent conversation on markets with an analyst at SAC capital (he’s one of the good guys), Learn to invest on my own, and truly enjoy the love of learning.

    You’ve changed my life Tim…and I truly thank you!! Can’t wait for a new book.

    Like

    • Great to hear, Will! We are all here (in this forum/online community) because Tim has affected or influenced us in some way.

      I hope your new investment skills allow you to travel more and buy more books :)

      Like

  19. I’d say Benjamin Franklin. He was a world-renowned polymath, a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat.

    Like

  20. Liked this one a lot! An “expert” is just a person who’s easily labelled. We as humans always seek to categorize things, and true revolutionaries can’t be categorized or described in convenient little sound bites.

    I’m curious Tim, have you heard of RSD (Real Social Dynamics)?
    If you got Tyler / Owen on for an interview on your podcast (which, by the way, is seriously sublime) I think I’d have to send you a gift basket – but only right after I fail nobnom in what could only be described as a cataclysmic wave of personal debauchery and unprecedented hedonism.

    Like

  21. The message is perfect but as a technologist there is one thing the people in you title don’t have in common. Two of them did not steal the inventions he is famous gor though HP may disagree in reference to Jobs.
    But Edison had to pay off the inventor of the lightnilb and the inventor of motion pictures dissapeared off his ship on the eay to America to confront Edison for stealing his patents. However Efison did invent the research lab and taking all the credit. These pronlems did not limit Edison’s genius just his ethics.

    Like

  22. The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are
    Elon Musk, not just for Tesla Motors, SolarCity, SpaceX or Hyperloop.
    But for his craziness of learning to design rockets from scratch. He is the Chief Architect of Tesla Motors and Chief Designer of SpaceX. The way he learned it without any engineering background blows my mind. Also the SuperDraco engine of Dragon V2 recently unveiled in May is 3 D Printed and SpaceX also launched its Falcon 9 with 3 D Printed Main Oxidizer Valve in one of its nine Merlin engines. “You can drive for free, forever, on pure sunlight.” He recently turned this crazy moment to reality by announcing the Gigafactory.

    If Steve Jurvetson weren’t that crazily driven about rockets and future he would never support Elon Musk’s ideas. His conversations and speeches always inspire me as they are always about future tech.

    Chris Anderson and Jordi Munoz of 3 D Robotics are yet another Innovators when the topic is Drones. I recently read this story of Jordi and he’s a Genius. http://www.inc.com/will-yakowicz/35-under-35-jordi-munoz-co-founder-3d-robotics.html

    My craziness is to make 3 D Printed arms and limbs available for those special ones who need them like life. These days they are available and doctors are printing organs and such body parts when they need but I feel like making it more easily available for people. Technology can do magical stuffs these days but if it saves more lives then we are closer to Tech Singularity, real progress of humanity. :)

    Like

  23. It’s one thing to be ‘crazy’ and risk financial ruin and public ridicule, but these guys put their lives on the line to innovate and prove it IS possible:

    Reinhold Messner – first ascent of Everest without supplemental oxygen in 1978 (among numerous amazing mountaineering feats.) Labeled impossible at the time, everyone thought he would die.

    Greg Noll – first to surf Waimea Bay at 25 to 30′ in 1957. Even the local Hawaiian chargers considered it impossible. He went on to surf the largest wave ever ridden at at Makaha in 1969 which probably stood for 30+ years.

    Alex Honnold – speed climbing and free-soloing machine. Several rock climbing records including speed record on The Nose of El Capitan and free solo first ascents such as 15-pitch 1,750′ El Sendero Luminoso (5.12d) in January this year. No ropes, no partner; fall you die.

    Chuck Yeager – First to break sound barrier in 1947. Fighter pilot ace and test pilot.

    Charles Lindbergh – nuff said.

    Who else am I missing? Those willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of innovation?

    Like

  24. Great stuff…and very inspiring. I can think of one such “status quo shaker upper”; the folks designing and promoting solar roadways. Talk about a grand vision of our roadway network, and how our roads could be doing more….so much more than just lying there.

    Like

  25. Glad he included “and youthful attitudes”. Although I had some great ideas in my twenties, it has taken me until my fifties to have the confidence to pursue them. This is an incredible time where resources for learning and making things happen are so available to so many people. I remember reading books when I was young about Annie Oakley, and then discovering women in science like Marie Curie and Grace Hopper, who inspired me to enter a technical career. Cheers to the opportunities available to the crazy thinkers and doers with youthful attitudes! Love your podcast and your blog, Tim!

    Like

  26. As a street dancer who grew up in the Midwest I have often had to find inspiration from many different sources as there wasn’t much of a dance community where I come from. I’d say two of my biggest heroes in this regard would be Bruce Lee and Miles Davis. Lee always strove to perfect his art and surpass the limits of his body, and when he came to the edge of both he went even further and became a beacon for those who don’t define themselves by style. Davis not only was a virtuoso in his field, but never stopped growing and experimenting with his sound. In fact, he evolved his music through 5 different stages of jazz, ensuring that he’d stay relevant well into his old age. When you consider that both these men achieved so much while simultaneously resisting the racial stereotypes and discrimination of their times, I feel like it’s impossible not to be inspired, in whatever small measure, by the indomitable will of the human spirit.

    Like

  27. I can relate.And I can add that so called experts also hamper innovation, particularly in the health care field. As a licensed holistic doctor for 30+, the biggest obstacles have been “evidence based” stiff-necks. I love pointing out the many short-comings of conventional medicine – some of the best critical quotes come from their own ranks.

    Like

  28. The Josh Waitzkin interview is so, so good. Simple the idea of being able to turn on creativity at will, at a very high level, and turn it off again is profoundly important. Why aren’t we taught this basic skill in schools? The archetype of the tortured artist is so prevalent because we just aren’t given a strategy to access creativity like that. I read The Art of Learning in one sitting; this makes me want to re-read it again immediately. Big UPS!

    Like

  29. Not sure if anyone has ever heard of a guy called Kary Mullis (among other things, he managed to win a Nobel Prize…) he is a crazy genius! His book is just fantastic, check it out…including you Tim ;-)

    Like

  30. Thanks for sharing Tim.
    This reminded me of a meeting I wrote about in 2010 so would be happy to share an example of a “crazy innovator”:
    “…We went to lunch and had a very interesting discussion. Claude has a great job. He oversees Solvay’s involvement as the main partner in the Solar Impulse project. Solar Impulse will be the first airplane to make a round-the-world flight using only solar power. Claude explained how important it is for a project to have a vision that others can believe in. This dream of Bertrand Piccard—to fly around the world without using any fossil fuels—has motivated a team of sponsors, engineers, physicists, computer scientists, and more for over 6 years. Claude gave me some promotional material and I would like to cite Bertrand Piccard:

    “If an aircraft is able to fly day and night without fuel, propelled only by solar energy, let no one claim that it is impossible to do the same thing for motor vehicles, heating and air-conditioning systems, and computers. This project voices our conviction that a pioneering spirit with political vision can together change society and bring about an end to fossil fuel dependency.”

    It’s amazing but true; the constraints imposed by such a challenge (without going into the details) have required all of these people to literally “invent the future” or find new solutions to reduce weight, increase efficiencies, improve materials and more. Several applications from this project are already finding their way into different industries.

    Claude also told me how at a certain point they had to stop thinking, researching, and inventing and start building. This meant that they had to go with what was available at the time when they started building the prototype. Some would say to him, “But today we can find even lighter, more efficient batteries.” Sure, but if we are constantly waiting for the next breakthrough, we’ll never get anywhere. A word to the wise about project management, especially if you are a perfectionist. Nothing will ever be perfect, so know when to draw the line and start doing.”

    Like

  31. Great stuff Tim. I’m looking forward to meeting you. I’m doing my thing to change the way beer and wine is consumed all over the World #PourMyBeer #ItsOkayToBeSelfServing

    Like

  32. You can’t forget about Tesla. As for current “crazy” innovators…in the field of fusion energy research, the members of LPP Fusion come to mind. In my opinion, great research with HUGE potential, however, lacking in the marketing department. They want to create nuclear power without radioactive waste, directly convert it into electricity, and drop the price tenfold! Check them out, http://fortune.com/2014/07/03/startup-nuclear-energy-companies/

    Like

  33. I believe the one thing I have seen to be common in all successful and innovative people is the ability to take action on the things they know to be true and even after countless failures these people are not deteriorated from there track to achieving the goal they set out for themselves .After every failure they come back stronger and harder and one step closer to achieving the success they deserve. I believe persistence is they key to achieving any thing in the world regardless of size and importance :)

    Like

  34. This sounds like yet more propaganda for the homeschooling movement. When are all you so-called freethinkers and radicals going to get it??? It’s very hard for humans to start thinking outside the box (no less start acting ‘different’) after nearly 2 decades of institutional, antiquated education.

    Like

  35. Great article Tim.
    IIt was perfect timing. Sometimes I need to remember that doing crazy things turn life into an exciting experience instead.
    Thank you very much for this input!!
    Pablo

    Like

  36. Look guys, one of the best way to innovate is not to let yourself fall into routine (any kind of routine)…not challenging your mind everything with new things is a brain killer…I’d really encourage you on researching “the flow” … one latest read on this is Steven Kotler’s book.

    Like

  37. Wow..!! This just made my day. It is true that no one is born genius, we have to make our own way up to the top. As we know what all Steve Jobs went through before becoming the MAN we know him today.

    Like

  38. My brother recommended I might like this web site.
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    Like