Friday, January 25, 2008

Success May Mean Being Different

One of the great paradoxes of life is that being "normal" or "reasonable" often means settling for ordinary results, while success requires that we step outside our normal boundaries, be different and, often, uncomfortable. Highly successful people are, by definition, not average 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."Well. 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 Bill Gates were not "conventional" people.

Abraham Lincoln is widely regarded as the greatest American 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, and capitalism great, is our love of individuality. We have always had a loving attitude toward 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 commenting, “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 not 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 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. Sea Biscuit 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 you 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.

Published by:
The Philip E. Humbert Group, Inc
PO Box 50910Eugene, OR 97405

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