The Crazy Ones
In 1922, in a little town called Cottonwood, Idaho, two twin girls were born. And when I say “little town” I mean little town. There were around 600 people living in the area in 1922 and there really was no reason to believe these two girls would live any kind of extraordinary life.
But Dorothy and Bernadette (or Bernie as she was called) did indeed live an extraordinary life. When we visited the town of Cottonwood in the summer of 2017 to gather footage for a mini-documentary we were doing for a client (see video below), we found an entire population who were touched in some way by these two women’s lives.
Residents spoke fondly of the twins and the impact they made in the area. Hardworking, loyal, and dedicated these two 4’10” giants left an indelible impression upon all who knew them.
They weren’t famous. They didn’t invent anything. They didn’t have their own reality TV show or become politicians. The mark they left, however, was far more important on the residents of Cottonwood. They were unlicensed counselors, confidants, entrepreneurs, mothers, grandmothers, and friends. In the words of one local, “Everyone just loved the twins.”
In our glorified world of instant fame, YouTube stardom, “overnight successes”, and celebrity infatuation, it is easy to forget that “success” is individual to each person. Society has conditioned us to believe that success is power, wealth, and fame.
By that standard, the twins would have been tremendous failures. They had none of those things. What they did have was a genuine, authentic, real life that made a positive impact on those around them. Friends, family, customers, and community members all benefited in some way from knowing them.
Isn’t that the real measure of success? Being kind, friendly, helping your fellow man, providing for your family…aren’t these better gauges of humanity and success than marrying a man or woman you’ve known less than a month on a reality television show?
I would argue that they are.
Your impact and measure of success should be what YOU decide it to be. If that means having a steady, fulfilling job, going to all of your kids’ school activities, having meaningful relationships, and hobbies that entertain you then so be it. If it means serving on your local school board or city council then that’s ok too. There is no right or wrong here (unless you choose serial killing as your measure of success) and success should be defined by you and you alone.
The crazy ones do sometimes change the world. We need the Steve Jobs and Mother Teresas and Ghandis of the world. But we also need people who work on making themselves the best that they can be and then impacting those around them with good. You don’t have to change the world to be a success. You can change YOUR world and accomplish the same thing.
What Does Success Look Like to You?
In 2003, fresh out of college at Boise State, I decided to start a new marketing company. I was ambitious, high on life, and ready to take on the world. I would build a world-class company that employed thousands of people, make tons of money, and retire rich at age 40.
And for a while there it looked like I was headed that way. Our company grew to 150 employees and we were doing 8 figures in revenue and growing.
It was also a complete madhouse. My stress levels were off the charts, I had constant issues with the IRS and other regulatory bodies, my own employees didn’t even know who I was, and I was miserable.
All because I was trying to live up to society’s standards of what being an entrepreneur meant. i.e., grow your business to be as big as it could be and sell it off for millions.
In late 2012 I decided to get out. I worked on an exit plan for most of 2013, split from my partners, and started V-Squared Creative in January of 2014.
It’s been a hard four years. I can’t sugarcoat that. It’s still stressful and difficult at times. But, what I can say is that I’m happier than I have ever been, I work with people I admire, I make a good wage, and I enjoy my work immensely.
This is all because I decided to define “success” for ME, not what society thought it should be. My version of success is a small company of 10-12 people that I love being around, being free to go to all of my kids’ activities, being close to my wife, and providing a good life for my family. My tastes are relatively simple these days. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If you find yourself envious of what others have (movie stars or business owners or athletes or even your next-door-cardiologist-neighbor) it may be because you simply haven’t sat down to think about what success looks like for you.
This point can’t be emphasized enough. The way you define your own personal success will determine in large part how happy you are in life. Like me, you could have all the trappings and illusions of wealth and a successful company and still be left unfulfilled and unhappy.
I would encourage you to take a good long look at your life and determine whether what you see as success is really your view of success or society’s view. If you want a $100k car and can’t come up with a really good reason for why, then you may be setting yourself up for failure.
Your Own Brand of Crazy
The crazy ones may change the world, but it’s not the only measure of a successful life. If you find yourself worn out by the thought of doing something so big, so grand, that it literally changes the world then lower your sights a bit. Aim for more mediocrity.
Did that last sentence make you cringe a little? That’s ok. Like I said, we are conditioned to think about success in a very particular way and mediocrity is not part of the formula. But, as we’ve also seen, material success doesn’t always translate to happiness.
If your goal in life is to change the world, then go for it! Give it your all and we will applaud you from the sidelines. However, if your goal is to be happy and fulfilled, you may need to think about what that actually looks like for you personally. That could mean changing the world, but maybe not. Maybe it’s much simpler than that.
The workaholic, burn-the-candle-at-both-ends entrepreneur is admired for her grit and stamina. She is idolized and looked up to. Her Ferrari is coveted, her bank account eyed with envy. Behind the scenes, however, are her kids who don’t really know her, a non-existent social life, and stress levels that would kill most people.
In this day in age you know what’s really radical? Designing a life that doesn’t revolve around material wants. A life that isn’t measured by the size of your bank account. Of taking Fridays off so you can spend more time with your family. That’s really crazy.
But the world needs more of that. It needs more people who make micro-impacts on their families, their neighborhoods, and their communities. We need more people with this brand of crazy. This brand of crazy may not change the world, but it will certainly make it a better place.
If the twins from Cottonwood are any indication, it’s all you need.
Here is the mini-documentary of the twins from Cottonwood, Bernie and Dorothy...