Conformity Isn’t a Recipe for Excellence: Wisdom from George Carlin & Steve Jobs (NSFW)

Dur­ing the 1960s, George Car­lin had some­thing of an epiphany. Con­front­ed by the coun­ter­cul­ture, the young come­di­an real­ized that he was­n’t stay­ing true to him­self — that he was try­ing to be Dan­ny Kaye, a very main­stream star, when he was real­ly an out­law and a rebel at heart. (Watch him on The Tonight Show in 1966). Even­tu­al­ly, Car­lin learned “not to give a shit,” to break with mil­que­toast con­ven­tions that restrained oth­er come­di­ans, and that’s when his com­ic genius bloomed. Note that some of Car­lin’s com­ments here are … not sur­pris­ing­ly … not safe for work.

Steve Jobs, anoth­er child of the coun­ter­cul­ture, did­n’t learn Car­lin’s les­son over time. As Wal­ter Isaac­son makes clear in his new biog­ra­phy, Jobs under­stood from the begin­ning that excel­lence is rarely achieved by walk­ing down the path of con­for­mi­ty. In a 1995 inter­view, Jobs boiled down his basic approach to life. The mas­ter­mind behind the leg­endary Think Dif­fer­ent tele­vi­sion cam­paign (watch the ver­sion nar­rat­ed by Jobs him­self) said:

When you grow up, you tend to get told the world is the way it is, and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice fam­i­ly, have fun, save a lit­tle mon­ey.

That’s a very lim­it­ed life. Life can be much broad­er once you dis­cov­er one sim­ple fact: Every­thing around you that you call life was made up by peo­ple that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influ­ence it, you can build your own things that oth­er peo­ple can use. Once you learn that, you’ll nev­er be the same again.

You can find more pearls of wis­dom from Jobs over at Brain­Pick­ings, and we’ll leave you below with more cul­tur­al fig­ures med­i­tat­ing on life:

Stephen Fry: What I Wish I Had Known When I Was 18

Paulo Coel­ho: Suc­cess Nev­er Hap­pens With­out Tak­ing Risks

One of the Biggest Risks is Being Too Cau­tious…

Bono Tells Grad­u­ates “Pick a Fight, Get in It” (2004)

Conan O’Brien: Through Dis­ap­point­ment You Can Gain Clar­i­ty

J.K. Rowl­ing Tells Har­vard Grad­u­ates What They Need to Know

by | Permalink | Comments (2) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (2)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.