Open up

A couple of years ago, a co-founder of an EPFL start-up came to me for help. Their html5 video player had just gotten fantastic reviews on gizmodo, and they wanted to make sure the English on their website was good. I suggested a few corrections, he asked me how much they owed me, and I said it was on the house. I thought their product was great, their enthusiasm was palpable, and I knew they probably didn’t have much money. He was very appreciative.

A few weeks ago, I translated an EPFL press release about another start-up. I visited the company’s website to check some details, and noticed that it had some serious problems. I wrote the two young co-founders an e-mail, telling them that I would be willing to help them polish the English on their website. I didn’t mention money explicitly, but I hinted that I was prepared to spend a couple of hours working for free, like I had with Jilion.

No response. Not even a No, thank you.
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Greater expectations

The passing of Steve Jobs has rocked the world.  Tributes and retrospectives, quotes and video clips, comments and thoughts are inundating the Internet –  on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, on blogs, e-mails and news platforms. It’s sobering to realize that very few of us inhabited these places even just a decade ago. Now, largely thanks to Steve Jobs, we’re comfortably ensconced in this connected, vibrant community. And our lives are so much richer for it.

I was thinking today about expectations. I wondered how Steve Jobs’ parents felt about him not graduating from Reed College.  Maybe it wasn’t that big a deal to them. Maybe they didn’t have an image of him as college-educated, so he wasn’t letting them down. But then again, maybe he was.

At one point in his career, when he was leaving Apple, he said to a small group of employees, “I don’t wear the right kind of pants to run this company.” (He was wearing jeans – and barefoot!)  Another time, when asked what market research went into the iPad, he replied: “None. It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want.”

I’m no Steve Jobs expert, but it seems to me that he did a remarkable job of freeing himself to follow his intuition and passion. When crunch time came and he had to make a decision, he chose to take his own path. He didn’t make any compromises. He knew.

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. – Steve Jobs.

Most of us spend our lives working hard, striving, trying to do our best. We all want to make a difference, to leave this world a little better off because we were in it. But let’s face it, we’re most of us square pegs in square holes. We’re not the crazy ones. We’re the ones who feed the crazy ones, listen to their crazy ideas, do their crazy laundry, pay their crazy bills, teach their crazy kids. We’re the ones maintaining the boats that the crazy ones come along to rock.

But here’s the news flash: everyone, deep down, has a piece of that craziness in them. And sometimes it rears up its head and wants its day in the sun.

Why should the misfits have all the fun, after all? They know that satisfying other people’s expectations is incompatible with who they need to be and no fun to boot, so they forge on, shocking, upsetting and amazing people – and changing the world. It might take us square pegs a little longer, but if we’re lucky, we get a glimpse of it, too. That “divine cockeyed genius” that takes possession of you in order to express something larger than yourself is not something to be ignored, no matter when it appears in your life.

Steve Jobs was right. Here’s to the crazy ones. Set your own bar. Set it high.

image: Carl Blake