I came across a song from a recent off-Broadway musical that really got to me – the lyric that struck me was “I’d rather be nine people’s favorite thing than a hundred people’s ninth favorite thing.” Stop and think about that for a minute. Which would you rather be?
Think for a minute about special people who really inspire you. What do you think their answer might be? Do you think they are overwhelmed by worry about whether everyone loves their special idea, approach, concept or message? I tend to think that many of the greatest advancements in our world came from people who took risks and tried something new. Here a few of my favorite examples:
Branch Rickey – Major League Baseball had been segregated for nearly all of its history until the mid-1940’s when Branch Rickey, the General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, decided in 1946 to buck tradition (and overwhelming opposition, even from the top leadership of Major League Baseball) and sign Jackie Robinson to a contract to be the first African-American player in the modern game. Mr. Rickey was a smart businessman and knew that Jackie Robinson and other African-American players could be great contributors to the Dodgers’ success, but he was also a highly principled man who knew that this injustice was something that needed to be overcome in our society. The resistance was huge, but it is clear to me that this decision was made with full knowledge that a large majority did not agree at the time with this direction for Baseball or for American society.
Rent – This 1996 musical by Jonathan Larson took seven years to finally be produced, as it was a total diversion from the traditions of theater on Broadway. It “crossed the line” in so many ways – between pop/rock music and “theater music,” through its candid portrayal of the realities of the AIDS epidemic, and also by speaking to the challenges being faced by young people as they attempt to establish themselves as productive professionals in an often unwelcoming world. The impact of this show is unmistakable and its success in engaging young people in the entire medium of theater has enabled a huge creative resurgence in this form of art. Although he didn’t get to see it, due to Larson’s amazingly tragic and ironic death the night before the show’s opening, I believe he always knew this way of challenging the status quo was the right thing to do.
Apple – For nearly forty years, Apple has continually challenged the way things have always been done. Apple has become ubiquitous in our society as a statement about being different, so it really doesn’t need to be explained here. This movement definitely started based on a desire to be “nine people’s favorite thing.” I guess a few more people jumped on the bandwagon over the years!
Needless to say, there are surely a lot of important and impactful things in our world that are really just “normal” and maybe didn’t face so much resistance…and yes, we need those things too.
However, the choice to stand for something special – the willingness to be set apart from the crowd and know not everyone will “get you” – that is a passion that seems worthwhile, regardless of the size of the tribe that it inspires.
Here’s to the next big idea!
I’d love to hear your favorite examples like the ones above.
Thanks for sharing time with me; as always, I welcome your feedback. Please feel free to pass this message along to others who may find value.
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