All of us face the same pressure not to rock the boat, not to do anything too strange, not to color outside the lines too much. Yet, it's the people who dare to follow their weird and wonderful instincts who change the world in tiny as well as large ways. Here I'd like to share with you the stories of a few of them:
Coming to a living room near you
Musical duo The Candle Thieves began a national tour recently - of their fans' back gardens. They used social networking sites to arrange in-home gigs and sometimes spend the night at the fans' houses as well. The publicity spin-offs have included being written about in lots of local publications and also a national newspaper.
She's looking good
Lauren Luke is an ordinary nice young woman from England who was selling make-up on eBay to earn some spare cash and put some videos of applying the make-up to herself onto YouTube.
The clips went viral, with more than 54 million hits world-wide. A manager saw them and signed her. She now has her own make-up range that sells online and in 135 stores across the US, a book deal, a Nintendo DS game ("Supermodel Makeover"), and is in talks with television producers about hosting her own show.
Her deals are estimated to be worth more than a million pounds and what makes her most happy is that she's inspiring ordinary women to look their best.
The taboo breaker
Children's author Werner Holzwarth spotted a gap in the market: poo. Inspired by his own little boy's fascination with dog droppings, he wrote a book called "The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business," about a mole trying to find the "owner" of a poo.
He was turned down by all the major publishers at the Frankfurt Book Fair for two years in a row. But now it has been translated into 27 languages, had a print run of more than two million copies, and has also been turned into a musical. And he's had many letters of thanks from parents for helping them deal with their kids' fascination with poo.
He puts the shoe on the other foot
Having seen how children in the villages of Argentina often didn't have any shoes to wear, Blake Mycoskie wanted to figure out a way to help them. Instead of a charity, he wanted to start a business that had philanthropy built in.
He designed a more durable version of the traditional Argentinian style of shoe and began to sell them - for enough that each sale would also pay for a pair of shoes for a child. Now Tom's Shoes has given away more than 150,000 pairs of shoes and is on target for 300,000 by the end of the year. Not only that, the shoes he sells look cool and comfy (you can see them at www.tomsshoes.com).
A (big) room of their own
Duncan Craig and his girlfriend Eleen were tired of living in a tiny flat in London. Instead of just daydreaming about living in a mansion in their dream area, they leafleted 100 homes in that area. Their offer was to give help around the house, £40 a week, and house-sitting in exchange for a nice room for six months while they saved to buy. They had three responses.
Now they live in a five-storey, multi-million pound property, in a huge top-floor room served by its own staircase and door and with views across the heath. They have their own bathroom and storage room. They have become friends with the couple who own the house and enjoy the company of their children and pets.
The six months has turned into "indefinite" residency - and meanwhile, Craig and Sue are saving £2000 a month for when they do buy their own place.
What's your crazy idea?
Can you imagine what these people's friends and colleagues probably said to them when they announced their ideas? I'm guessing it was something like this:
"Do a tour of gigs in people's homes? What's the point?"
"A video of you putting on make-up in your living room? Who's going to care?"
"Write a kids' book about a mole that wakes up to find a turd on his head? That's gross!"
"Start a business based on giving away much of your profits? You're just an idealist!"
"Find people who will let you live in their mansion for practically nothing? Good luck!"
Do you have a "crazy" idea that makes people laugh or scoff? You might want to print out this article and hand it to them. Or just wait, because the day may come when the laugh is on them. I believe it's the people with crazy ideas that make the world go 'round.
I just wanted to write a brief thank you for your inspiring article. I am an foreigner working in an office in Japan whose original ideas are often laughed at. In Japan there is a saying, 'the nail that sticks up gets hammered down;' Japanese culture often seems hostile to original thinking. Your words will help me get through at least some of the laughter.
Kind regards, Working-in-Japan