We are all becoming neurotic. Compulsive. Obsessed. Don’t think so? Then you’re just not paying attention.
We’re neurotic about everything from the food we eat and the way we dress to our personal brands and online personas. We’re unnaturally attached to our tech gadgets and apps. We’re obsessed with personal productivity, self-improvement and time management. And we check our Twitter and Facebook feeds constantly.
The entire entrepreneurial movement is completely irrational. Think about it. We can’t all be our own bosses. We can’t all be CEOs of one-person companies. No matter how you look at it, the vast majority of us have to end up working for relatively few of us. There’s simply no way around it.
And yet here we are, trying our damnedest to make it on our own. Well, I’ve got good news for some of you. Being neurotic is not a bad thing. Some of the most brilliant innovators, entrepreneurs and CEOs of all time were anything but normal, well-balanced people. They were obsessed.
After all, obsession is just another word for passion. If you can channel it – focus like a laser on something potentially useful or groundbreaking instead of scattering your attention on anything and everything this chaotic world throws at you – it can work for you in a big way.
History is full of wildly successful nut jobs.
Ever heard of Johannes Kepler? He was a 17th century German astronomer and mathematician who came up with the laws of planetary motion. Unfortunately, Kepler was also delusional, and had he not fudged his own calculations, he might very well have discovered the theory of gravitation long before Isaac Newton.
For no logical rhyme or reason, Albert Einstein was completely and totally obsessed with light. He somehow always knew in his gut that light was in some way special. It was that passion that drove him to imagine what it would be like to ride on a beam of light, and that’s what led to the special theory of relativity and E=MC2.
Howard Hughes wasn’t just one of the greatest, wealthiest, and most prolific entrepreneurs of all time. He was a true renaissance man who was wildly successful in a diverse range of industries, from entertainment and real estate to aerospace and oil exploration. He was also a life-long obsessive-compulsive.
Steve Jobs was a card-carrying control freak who never minced words or suffered fools. Saying Jobs was a micromanager is like saying Warren Buffett is good with money. It was his thing. Had he been any other way, Apple would not be Apple. The same can be said of many of the most successful CEOs of our time, including Bill Gates, Andy Grove, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell and Mark Zuckerberg.
I have more than a passing interest in the subject because someone very close to me is completely neurotic. Me. I’m about as compulsive as they come. I obsess over everything. And I don’t mind admitting that I’m a total control freak. Not that I’m equating myself to any of those superstars. I’m not that crazy.
The truth is, passion and obsession are two sides of the same coin. People who are truly passionate about something – a vision of the future, a problem that needs to be solved, a prophecy that must be fulfilled, or a mystery that begs to be unraveled – are really just a coin-flip away from going overboard and ending up in the loony bin.
More people than you realize walk that tightrope. The key is to channel being neurotic about everything into being passionate about just one thing: planets, light, computers, whatever. Don’t let the stigma of being different get to you. If Jobs taught us anything, it’s that it’s good to think different. It’s all the lemmings who are screwed up.
A version of this originally appeared on entrepreneur.com
Image credit Holly Clark via Flickr