The Ones Who See Things Differently

There are some people who we might refer to as “Compulsive Change Agents” or “Compulsive Innovators”. They feel incessantly compelled to pursue change, transformation and innovation- to be constantly driving things forward- an insatiable appetite for always being part of “the new”. This is the same incessant compulsion that has driven many inventors and entrepreneurs over the centuries whether Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Nikola Tesla, James Watt or Thomas Edison. These people developed transformative innovations, build lucrative new businesses around them and left behind a legacy of innovation that the world remembers to this day. Even today, we find individuals whom we refer to as serial entrepreneurs. They start a business, scale it to a certain point and then sell it. Then they go out and do it all over again, time after time.

This usually raises a question in some people’s mind as to why this is. What is about these people that drive them to compulsively be always pursuing something new? While there is no exhaustive research available of these people’s particular psychological, physiological or lifestyle properties, what is obvious are two things:

Firstly, most of these people have- either as a product of birth, circumstances or both- an insatiable curiosity about the world and a desire to not only know it better, but to unlock its secrets for the sake of advancement. Their inherent curiosity and desire drives them to study, experiment, learn and apply these things in new and novel ways. There is certain rush they get from successfully bringing new things to life and usually but not always a financial return too.

Secondly, many of those people have- perhaps mostly as a product of their circumstances- an inherent drive to change the world and to make it a better place. For many of them, this arises out of a sense of spiritual purpose- why they are put here on Earth and what they are supposed to do with their lives. Certainly this has been the case with many social innovators and with many business innovators too who saw a deeper purpose to business than simply converting goods and services into financial results.

Consider the following quotes from famous Compulsive Change Leaders or Compulsive Innovators:

  • The Greek philosopher and epistemology innovator Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living”
  • The Hindu social innovator Mahatma Gandhi: “You must be the change you want to see in the world”
  • The Christian social innovator Mother Teresa: “We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something”
  • The Zen practitioner and business innovator Steve Jobs: “We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here”

These individuals seem to have heard a certain “drumbeat” that drove them forward in trying to change the world, typically in quite an innovative or unconventional fashion for the particular problem & opportunity they are dealing with. One thing that many of them have in common is that they have a particular life-changing experience- that has forced them to step back and develop a deeper, more spiritual perspective on their lives and then conclude that they had to pursue a deeper and more meaningful purpose while on Earth.

You might conclude that there are several possible things to transform certain individuals into compulsive change leaders and innovators. Perhaps it was being born with a natural curiosity of the world. Perhaps it was a childhood influence to constantly experience new things and learn and constantly experiment. Perhaps it was a traumatic life-changing experience that forced them to take a deeper and more spiritual perspective of life, which in turn led them to pursue some means of impacting the world. Or maybe it was a combination of those. Either way, it will always be true that for whatever reason, the world will continue to have those people who are compulsively driven to change things and make them better. They are, in the words of famous 1984 Apple ad: “the crazy ones… the misfits…the rebels…the troublemakers… the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently…”

The question is not whether these people still exist. They do and they probably forever will.  The question is also not whether the world requires these big new changes and innovation? More than ever. The question is whether we are one of those people or how we can become? Going back to an earlier sentence in this article, we need to ask the question to ourselves: Why we are here on Earth and what we will do with our life’s?