Here’s to the crazy ones. The rebels. The troublemakers. The ones who see things differently. 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.
—Apple, “Think Different” campaign, advertising copy.
It’s no coincidence that several of the most successful and famous entrepreneurs were mavericks at a young age. You will also find that this rebellious nature is most evident during the teenage years and the early twenties, a time when young adults question the world in which they live and challenge the authorities that make the rules.
For instance, as fearless teenagers, the founders of Apple, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, built and sold their illegal blue boxes for $150 to customers who wanted to make long distance calls for free. Blue boxes were popular in the 1970s with drug dealers and other unsavory characters because they made tracing their phone calls impossible. In fact, Berkeley Blue and Oaf Tobark, the aliases that Wozniak and Jobs used, respectively, to conduct their illegal business actually were robbed at gunpoint when trying to sell their blue box to a shady prospect. Jobs was quoted as saying that Apple would never have existed if he and his best friend, Wozniak, had not gone through their blue-box experience. Perhaps being threatened with a pistol motivated them to conduct business on the stock market, not the black market.
Fast-forward about twenty-five years. Two other mavericks who would also change the world as we know it were up to no good. The founders of a new search engine called BackRub were busy casing the loading dock at Stanford University’s computer science building. The two students were stealing new computers that were delivered to the computer science department for use in the students’ own search engine project that needed more computing power. The two thieves were Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the founders of Google. According to their professors, this irreverence for the computer science department’s property was not shocking. Brin and Page often challenged their professors, frequently calling them “bastards.” Apparently, not even the possibility of arrest was enough to stop these two mavericks—or processor pirates—from pursuing their idea.
Just a few years later I found myself in college, unknowingly continuing the tradition of rebellious young techies who transform their mischievous energy into entrepreneurial genius. I certainly wasn’t selling products to gangster-like characters or stealing computers from my computer science department, but I did manage to undermine the communications system of my college by creating my own more popular system. Students had more confidence in my web-based system than the school’s system, which was often offline due to networking problems. In fact, I had so much power that the president of my college summoned me to his office to have a talk with me. I created my system in part because the school turned down my proposal to create web-based software that would facilitate student communication and would move telephone registration to online registration. Creating my own system was my way of getting them back for rejecting me. This experience served as the basis for my eventual desire to be an entrepreneur and to create my own company.
As mavericks grow older, their rebellious nature stays with them and is a significant contributor to their entrepreneurial success. What we know as teenage rebellion often becomes industry disruption, a new way of doing things that upsets those who support the status quo. These mavericks go on to change the world. If you ever needed a reason to tap into your desire to be a rebel, you have one now.