Does Outsize Success Require Being Crazy?

Entrepreneurs and others who have outsize success are often described as crazy. They do things that others wouldn’t (or couldn’t) do. They take nontraditional paths and embrace the risk of doing so. Admittedly, my family and close friends have called me crazy for some decisions I’ve made through the years. I agree that founders and others who push the envelope are different, but I’m not sure that crazy is the best way to describe them.

Many people see the future as a continuation of the past (possibly with slight modifications). With this accepted, safe perspective, they take similar paths and do similar things in their lives. Unsurprisingly, their outcomes aren’t out of the ordinary. Entrepreneurs see the world differently. They view the future as something that can be molded into what they want. They understand that creating that future requires blazing a new trail or taking one less traveled. Their actions go against the grain of what everyone else is doing and can seem odd; hence the “crazy” label.

Founders and others who have outsize success are as sane as anyone (usually!). The difference is their perspective. They see the world differently than everyone else and their conviction is strong—so strong that they’re comfortable backing it up with actions others aren’t likely to take or understand.

After they’ve had success and made an impact, people stop thinking of them as crazy and start thinking of them as geniuses. Nobody ever changed the world by doing what everybody else does.