Wednesday, May 27, 2009

insane in the membrane

Genius vs. Insanity

Bruce Feirstein said, "the distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success." This humorous aphorism is truer than most people appreciate.

What is insanity? To be insane is to be unsound of mind, to have difficulty dealing with reality. But far too often what we mean by "reality" is nothing more than social convention. People typically deal with social reality by accepting and internalizing the dominant cultural ideas and norms. Many deny themselves entirely just to fit in so powerful is the desire for social acceptance.

To be creative, on the other hand, requires seeing things differently. Think different, as the Apple ads advocate. And, indeed, the most creative people tend to be social misfits of one kind or another, people who dare to see the world differently, to imagine new possibilities and most importantly to act on them. This is why those who cling most tightly to social convention are rarely innovative or creative.

A genius is someone we recognize as introducing an innovation of value. The consequence of successful innovation is usually that society makes the adjustment, sometimes in a loving embrace, other times kicking and screaming.

It is no surprise, then, that one of the most powerful drivers for success is the determination to prove that you are a genius and not insane, that your vision is not only reasonable and realistic but inevitable. To see your vision triumph over conventional wisdom. To impose your will upon the world around you.

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