Summary: The Power of Starting Something Stupid By Richie Norton
Summary: The Power of Starting Something Stupid By Richie Norton

Summary: The Power of Starting Something Stupid By Richie Norton

The Anatomy of Stupid as the New Smart

If someone thinks that your ideas, or the changes you want to make, or the dreams bubbling up inside of you, are stupid, welcome to the Club. You’re in the company of the world’s leading innovators, change agents, thought leaders, inventors, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, philanthropists, executives, employees, educators, youth, moms, dads, families, philosophers, mentors, and more.

We all want to be smart. We’re scared of failure. Scared of falling behind. Scared of being foolish. Scared of looking stupid. No one wants any of that.

Or do we?

Maybe the smartest people in the world know something we don’t. Maybe they know that in order to be smart, in order to make significant contributions to the world, and in order to spur significant change in their own lives, they sometimes have to act on ideas that others might initially perceive as stupid.

The traditional idea of stupidity is as old as time. Pick up any dictionary, and it will offer some derivative of the definition, “lacking intelligence and common sense.” This type of stupidity is unhealthy stupid. It is dangerous, and clearly not the kind of stupid you want to embrace. Unhealthy stupid indicates that a thing or idea is inherently faulty, meaning that the stupidity is a permanently ingrained and inseparable element.

Stupid as the New Smart, on the other hand, is healthy and should be sought after and embraced. Stupid as the New Smart is that pressing thought that just won’t go away. That nagging hunch, that golden idea, that lofty dream, that if it weren’t so seemingly “stupid,” might actually have the chance to become something truly significant—in your own life, and quite possibly, in the world at large.

Stupid as the New Smart infers that while an idea may appear to be inherently faulty, the idea is, in reality, sound and in your best interest to pursue.

Remember Gavin’s Law: Live to start. Start to live. Individuals and organizations that live to start dreams, really do start living and breathing those dreams. It is distinctly significant that the title of this book is The Power of Starting Something Stupid rather than simply “The Power of Stupid”

The most challenging part of nearly any project is the initial exertion of energy (and courage) required to begin. Once you’ve overcome the often-debilitating power of resistance, the momentum to keep going leads from one thing to another until you reach your goals . . . or something even better.


The Bezos Test: Will I Regret It When I’m 80?

Jeff had a secure, well-paying job, a job that made him happy. By a societal measure, the guy had it all. Everything, including a wickedly stupid idea.

So when he asked himself, “When I’m eighty, will I regret leaving Wall Street?” he countered his question with a more specific dream: “Will I regret missing a chance to be there at the beginning of the Internet?” When he assessed his current situation against the lure of his stupid idea, the choice was clear. He just had to jump ship. He got a loan from his mom and dad, hopped into his car with his wife, and drove from New York City to Seattle in order to start a website out of his garage. This is the story of Jeff Bezos, and the birth of

In an interview with the American Academy of Achievement, Bezos explains:

I went to my boss and said to him, “You know, I’m going to go do this crazy thing and I’m going to start this company selling books online.” This was something that I had already been talking to him about in a sort of more general context, but then he said, “Let’s go on a walk.” And we went on a two-hour walk in Central Park in New York City and the conclusion of that was this. He said, “You know, this actually sounds like a really good idea to me, but it sounds like it would be a better idea for somebody who didn’t already have a good job.”

Did you catch that? Bezos had a good idea, even his boss thought so, but he was told it would have been a better idea for somebody who didn’t already have a good job! Sometimes it’s not the idea that’s stupid, it’s the idea within the context of the current situation.

What if Bezos had waited until a non-stupid time (a time when he didn’t “already have a good job”) to start Amazon? Judging by the magnitude of growth experienced in the world of e-commerce within such a consolidated period of time, his river may have run dry before he could float a single book down it! Instead, Bezos did the “crazy thing” and became a living legend, even gracing the cover of Time magazine in 1999 as “Person of the Year.” Jeff Bezos changed the world as we knew it, all because he was stupid enough to start.


The Business of Stupid

IBM conducted a face-to-face study of more than fifteen hundred CEOs from sixty countries and thirty-three industries and identified creativity as the most important leadership quality for future success in times of complexity. The study explains, “Creative leaders invite disruptive innovation, encourage others to drop outdated approaches, and take balanced risks.” Conventional wisdom has its limitations, and in today’s fast-paced global economy, organizations demand creativity and unconventional thinking to maintain the competitive edge—organizations demand the New Smart.

If creativity really is the most crucial factor for future success, why aren’t more people disrupting the status quo with new ideas? It’s simple. The majority of people don’t have the courage to push past stupid and engage the New Smart.

Creativity is at the heart of every stupid idea. In fact, it would be safe to say that more often than not, creativity and stupid are interchangeable. Stupid ideas come from a very powerful, creative space within our hearts and minds. The natural tendency is to recoil from these ideas, because everything inherent to that kind of creativity requires breaking away from the norm, going against the grain, and leaning into risk and fear. To many people, great creativity is just not worth the risk (or the discomfort)—particularly not within the firmly established culture of an organization as a whole.

Making space for the New Smart in business and in life is not only possible, it’s essential in order to maintain the competitive edge, foster greater fulfillment, and achieve meaningful and sustainable success. Within the framework of your organization (or your life) as a whole, you simply cannot afford not to make space for stupid.


Crush Fear: How to Turn High Fear into High Achievement

Our greatest threat as it relates to pursuing our goals isn’t lack of time. It’s not lack of education or lack of contacts or lack of qualification. It’s not logistical challenges or even the doubt and criticism of others. Nope, the biggest threat we face is the fear we generate as we think about all these things. More specifically, our biggest threat is our inability to overcome that fear. Let me say that again: It’s not the circumstances that we should feel threatened by, it’s the fear of the circumstances that poses the real threat.

This is because unresolved fear cripples achievement. We want to achieve, but because of our fears, we are unable to. Fear causes us to exercise bad judgment and to make decisions from an emotional, unreliable, and downright unhealthy state of mind—all significant roadblocks on our way to success.

It’s not the circumstances that we should feel threatened by, it’s the fear of the circumstances that poses the real threat.

Another very real threat posed by fear is that if it is not properly mitigated and overcome, it can be absolutely debilitating. Ultimately, that’s why so many people stay stuck. They’re so afraid of making the wrong choice, heading in the wrong direction, or looking stupid, that they don’t ever go anywhere at all.

The bottom line is that people with high aspirations are going to experience a proportionately high level of fear. Renowned Harvard professor Chris Argyris said, “Behind this high aspiration for success is an equally high fear of failure.” Essentially, fear is the freaky troll under the bridge that leads to achievement, and there’s no way around, only through. If you choose not to manage your fear, in whatever form it takes for you individually, eventually your choice will equate to zero goal achievement.


End Pride: The Humble Power Alternative

Why do so many people, businesses, marriages, and even entire empires fall? We’ve probably heard the proverb “Pride goeth before a fall” but could the answer really be that simple? Arguably, all other vices could fall under the umbrella called pride, and if pride really is at the heart of humanity’s greatest ills, then it is, by that measure, the most destructive power in the world.

Obviously we’re not talking about the kind of pride a mother feels for her child, or the pride you feel for your country, or the pride you experience when your team wins a big game. We’re discussing the kind of pride that keeps people blinded, stuck, and isolated. The kind of pride that prevents them from experiencing lasting success.

People have trouble reaching goals and pursuing dreams for one (or many) of the following pride-related reasons:

They are too prideful to risk appearing stupid.

Pride convinces them that they’ve already done enough—they experience a sense of entitlement.

Their pride causes them to blame others (or their circumstances) for their lack of success.

Prideful people buy into a scarcity mentality—“In order for me to succeed, you must fail.”

These are a handful of ways pride keeps people stuck where they are. But stupid people know that doing the crazy thing—even if that means being humble enough to drop everything and begin again—is a winning formula for success.

To overcome this type of pride, one must understand that vulnerability is a good thing. It inspires us to seek continual learning, and, most important, it grants us the courage to change. Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, says, “Vulnerability is not weakness. . . . [It’s] emotional risk, exposure, uncertainty. It fuels our daily lives. . . . Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.” Brown continues, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change”—all components of the New Smart.

Overcome the pride born from fear of looking stupid by embracing vulnerability.


Leverage Existing Resources

Leverage is the process of maximizing the resources that are available to us, in order to increase effectiveness. When we leverage, we aggregate and organize existing resources to achieve success.

Many high-potential ideas fail before they even move from stupid idea to project phase, because we become so fixated on the lack of resources we think we need for success

When this same energy is effectively channeled by ingenuity, we find ways to effectively leverage the resources we do, in fact, have available to us. Ironically, in so doing, we overcome the very circumstantial barriers we were fixating on in the first place.

Trying to implement your stupid idea without leveraging existing resources can be compared to trying to lift a car without using a jack. Leverage allows us to raise the car off the ground by simply turning a lever with one hand. There is still work required, and the process still takes time, but when effectively applied, leverage can increase the chance of success exponentially.

Leverage is nothing new. The concept is as old as time. Farmers leverage existing soil, seeds, and water to produce crops. Inventors leverage existing materials to produce new products. Manufacturers organize materials and design machines to produce other people’s stupid ideas. Artists leverage existing materials to create art. Benjamin Franklin didn’t invent electricity; he just leveraged it.

Think about your local supermarket. Do they actually produce anything they sell in the store? In some circumstances perhaps they do, but for the most part, your local supermarket leverages everyone else’s existing products to stock their shelves with the food you put on your table. Movie theaters play movies made by other people, radio stations play music written by other people, and newspapers tell other people’s stories. Teachers teach other people’s information, and even authors often cite other authors to support the validity of their own claims.

And yet, we balk at the idea of leverage. We shy away from leverage for the same myriad of reasons we don’t readily overcome our pride, ask for what we need, receive from others, or extend trust. We tell ourselves that if our success isn’t built independently, from the ground up, it is somehow less respectable. Let me ask you, if a farmer doesn’t lay his own eggs, is he really a fraud?

If you are convinced that the only way to respectably succeed is on your own, you will never achieve your highest potential for success.