Iconoclast: What does it take to be extraordinary?

In the pursuit of excellence and freedom, there are a few domains to consider. One is the field of expertise, a major contribution of which, Deliberate Practice, I have discussed elsewhere. Yet what about those unique individuals who really change things? Those people (‘freaks’ – in a good way!) who change the world. What is different about them? How do they do it?

Gregory Berns calls them Iconoclasts in his book of the same title, where he notes that they “see things differently than other people. Literally… because their brains do not fall into efficiency traps as much as the average person’s brain.” Berns argued that one way is to “bombard the brain with things it has never encountered before.” And Adam Dachis was saying much the same thing when he suggested doing things that make you feel uncomfortable. When we have rich experiences, we are able to access a more profound heuristic to understand the world around us, being less constrained by the examples that happen to be before us or the ways of thinking that we grew up with.

Berns also  noted that these individuals are less subject to the desire for social approval, which reminded me of my old friend Wayne Dyer speaking of self-actualized people being “independent of the good opinion of others.” Robert Greene pointed out that thinking for yourself can be dangerous, and suggested that one should, “Think as you like but Behave like others”. Perhaps that might be a good start though it might be more rigorous to refer to the importance of social intelligence.

Being able to think for oneself is challenging. It is hard. It is scary. And it must be done carefully.

The results can change the world.