Sometimes It Pays To Be Insane

It’s been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. People use this definition to justify giving up one course of action in favor of another. Conventional wisdom would have us believe this is the intelligent choice. But conventional wisdom is often wrong.

Consider the following quote from Jacob Riis, a newspaper reporter who lived around the turn of the twentieth century:

“Look at a stone cutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred-and-first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not the last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

Imagine this stone cutter sitting down to do his job. He hammers and hammers and hammers to no avail. Friends and family encourage him to give up this “mad” endeavor. They point out how, despite his efforts, he has made no progress. And from all appearances, they are correct. He is, according to their definition, insane. But is this any reason to stop hammering? Not unless he was already looking for an excuse to quit. Otherwise, it is time to get back to work.

What is true for the stone cutter is true for us as well. Keep hammering. Sometimes it pays to be insane.