Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers ... somehow when Steve Jobs narrates the Think Different campaign created for his own company, it feels like the perfect tribute to the unconventional thinker himself. And witnessing the parade of successful athletes, inventors, entrepreneurs, and musicians who all marched to the beat of their own drum, well, it's easy to admire them as the great rebels of our time.


Our society reveres the rule-breakers who invent new technologies or industries - and if they happen to also be badly behaved, we often forgive those things as the almost necessary by-product of such invaluable contributions to society. 

I think on some level, the stories of unconventional, difficult people rising to success offer hope that our own unconventionality won't limit our potential for success. 

And when we fail to fulfill expectations, we find solace in others who were misunderstood and unfairly judged for being different. We point out the educator who told Albert Einstein's parents their son was too ignorant to learn, and we marvel at the teacher who said David Bowie needed to learn that music would never make him a livable wage.

When we fear that our own difficulties in life might prevent us from ever finding our own unique path to success, we are comforted that people like Oprah Winfrey managed to overcome her difficult childhood to achieve immense success.

But unconventionality isn't a direct path to innovation or success. In fact, the behaviors that help us to imagine the impossible are the same ones that prevent us from "playing the game" or "just getting along". We often end up creating our own barriers to success.

The harsh reality is that society does not celebrate unconventional thinkers, drop outs or rebels who aren't successful - with reason. Most high school dropouts do not end up like Richard Branson. They simply end up failing to qualify for 90% of jobs and trapped in a cycle of poverty.

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Similarly, only a few unconventional, intelligent individuals will find their own balance between discipline and unconventionality to become the next Elon Musk. In fact, one third of individuals who possess above average intelligence in combination with autism will never hold any kind of job. Ever.

The gift  of being born a creative, unconventional soul often comes at a very heavy price. What, then, allows some to harness their uniqueness into a powerful asset? In reality, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, although most credit perseverance, adaptation, discipline and resilience as playing a part in learning how to achieve success.

If we're inspired by the stories of those who suffered from failing to fit in but somehow still achieved incredible success, perhaps it is in telling our own stories that we can change how others see themselves. We can get really honest about behaviors and mindsets that needlessly make the journey more difficult or offer insight into techniques or habits that made it possible to cope. We can talk about the value of exercising restraint in certain situations and trusting our instincts to push back in others.

But the problem is that we're often ashamed of our own failures and wrong decisions, so we leave the darkest, hardest parts out of the stories we tell about our own success, and, in doing so, we also cheat ourselves out of celebrating some of our biggest victories. 

If we can find the courage to be vulnerable and open about what didn't work for us and how we figured out what worked, we might become the catalyst for someone else who can find a way to harness their own unconventionality to bring something incredible into the world.