It is pretty interesting how we attempt to raise and educate our children. We want them to be obedient, polite, studious, and above all…to color inside the lines. By and large, we want them to be like every other “good” kid.
Without challenging the conventional wisdom of the above, I would like to point out a few things. Some of these things I have observed by a cursory study of history and some from personal experience. First, the great leaders of our society have not colored inside the lines. Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Harry Truman, and Ronald Reagan all were almost totally oblivious to the “lines” they needed to stay within. They led by their own sense of right and adventure. They were not encumbered by the thoughts of “fitting in”. They did not feel the need to “just go along” and be like the stereotypical good guy. I am sure you could name other leaders with the same internal compass.
The most successful business leaders that I have had the privilege to work with or have read about are much the same. In most cases, lines are ignored, or they are there only for people like me (those that have attempted to stay within the lines) to worry about on their behalf. Their thought, though they may not verbalize it, is… “I have the ideas, fortitude, and am willing to take the entrepreneurial risk…I pay you to keep me out of trouble”. And, by the way, trouble usually does not bother them. We, color within the line guys, will walk a mile out of our way to avoid it. The risk takers, the achievers, the real leaders don’t mind rubbing shoulders with trouble (maybe I should define trouble here as adversity or risk)…in fact, I think they get a thrill out of it. The closer to the edge the better! Apple’s Steve Jobs is a great example of someone to which lines mean very little. He has succeeded in creating products that the market didn’t even know it wanted. I wonder how he behaved in the classroom? I bet I can guess.
Now, back to our kids. In the movie “The Sandlot” (one of my all time favorites) one of the moms tells her, “color inside the lines” kid to “get dirty, go out and get into trouble”. She was simply trying to gently push him toward a more rich life, full of worthwhile experiences. I know this thought is very counter-intuitive, but isn’t that what we want for our children, a rich life full of worthwhile experiences?
I truly believe that the people who color outside of the lines are the ones that make the world a more interesting and better place. They also probably talk a little too loud, drive a little too fast, and certainly make us within the lines folks a little uncomfortable.
God bless them!!