Madness of Excellence: Find and Embrace the Crazy

The inspiration for this post, Joe Rogan, reminds me of Ron Paul in that he connects to the truth of any matter with pure unabashed common sense. The man makes some good points on a wide range of topics, even if they do come from a far away universe of psychedelic mushrooms, conspiracy theories, and a podcast sponsored by a plastic vagina and “cognitive-enhancement” pills.

He finds a poetic way of stating the brilliant and the obvious: you have to be crazy to be the best. Statistically speaking, most people will not be the best at anything they set their mind to. But you can still learn something from the idea that madness seems to accompany excellence. I think there are several reasons this is true:

  • Madness as an effect of greatness: First and foremost, I think that obsessive pursuit of excellence is going to have practical consequences. You will socialize with people less. You will relate to people less. You will have a less balanced view of the world. That’s a spiral that’s hard to get out of, and eventually leads to a kind of mild madness.
  • Madness as the CAUSE of greatness: As silly as it sounds, I think you have to convince yourself you CAN be the best, before you can ever put in the immense amount of work required to even just be good. At least that’s how it seems to be. In Wrestling Tough, I think one of the Brands brothers talks about having to delude yourself into believing you’re unbeatable when you step on the mat, and all you have to do is wrestle your best like you’ve done thousands of times in practice. Simple.
  • Crazy helps silence the rational brain: In many ways, the brain is a whining bitch. The question of “why the hell am I even doing this?” is the one that makes most people quit at any level. The problem is that this question has no good rational answer, much like the question of “what is the meaning of life?” So the moment you let your brain think about philosophical crap, you lose. I think that embracing the crazy helps keep the rational brain away. It’s a kind of active meditation.

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