Photo: CC-BY-NC-ND fLICKR/paolo_rosa

Speaker for the crazy

In his disarmingly frank question and answer session at Google I/O 2013, CEO Larry Page urged young developers to seek out the crazy people. If you want to have an impact in a field, go back to first principles, and listen for the voices crying in the wilderness.

Why do we think these people are crazy? Either by strong-minded intent, or often because of aspie-geek tendencies, they pay little heed to the norms and strike out on their own.

I wish I could be one of those crazies. The people I admire most do that. They don’t take anyone’s word for it, and don’t care what other people think.

But I’m not that guy. I try not to care, but I notice other people too much not to. For many years that’s felt like weakness. Yet over time I’ve come to realize what my part in this is.

The most brilliant are often misunderstood. The same things that let them make those leaps in invention can render them unable to communicate their discoveries to others. To have an effect on the world, they need a translating voice.

That’s the role I play in life—recognizing the patterns and genius of the crazies, the front-runners, and bringing those ideas to a broader early adopter audience. Sometimes in software, sometimes in books, and sometimes in conferences. To borrow from Orson Scott Card, I’m a speaker for the crazy.

The crazy and the speaker aren’t the only roles, but figuring out which one I am has helped me a lot.