If people think you’re strange, they’re right

I coined an axiom recently. Not many people get to coin axioms, so I’m pretty happy about it. Coining an axiom isn’t as glamorous as coining a phrase, but it does tend to get more long-term sociological respect.

I call my axiom “Johnny’s Rule,” and it’s this: If you’re the first person in your group to try a given thing, you’re going to look like a total idiot.

As axioms go, it’s not terribly sexy… but it’s dead on.

If you follow Laura, you’re trying to get your own thing going. You’re trying to start a side business, a replacement business, or to build your own social media empire. Maybe you even bought a product. Maybe you took one of Laura’s courses. Maybe you’ve had a bit of success. Maybe you’re even getting kind of excited.

And if you’re like most entrepreneurs, you’ve told someone about it and they’ve totally patronized you. Or they’ve suggested you not get your hopes up, and definitely that you shouldn’t quit your day job. Maybe you even made the mistake of saying you wanted to make money online — with “make money online” being the three dirtiest words you could say to most people — and had someone tell you that you were a sucker, that it’s all a big scam.

Well, remember Johnny’s Rule: If you’re the first person in your group to quit a job, you’re going to look like a total idiot to the people around you.

For that matter, if you’re the first person in your group to run off to New York to be an actor, to start a pet-sitting company, to homeschool your kids, or to attempt to build a new piece of software, people are going to think you’re a complete dope.

So you’re probably thinking: This really is one great, inspirational blog post, Johnny.

But look… remember what a “rule” is. Remember what an axiom is. It’s something that is always true. Always. Meaning that no matter what, if you’re the first, people are always going to think you’re stupid — regardless of the idea’s actual merit.

If your idea is terrible, you’re going to look like an idiot, yes.

But the same goes if your idea is the best idea ever. If what you’re doing will be of revolutionary benefit to you, or change the world, or save lives, or reinvent an industry, you’re going to look like a total idiot to the people in your group if you’re the first one to try it.

Bill Gates, trying to sell an intuitive operating system for an incomprehensible computer without having any great programming know-how? Idiot.

Steve Jobs, challenging the world Gates built? Taking on the PC world? Moron.

Thomas Edison, continuing to experiment with lightbulb filaments after failing nearly ten thousand times? What a total dumbass.

And the Wright Brothers, attempting flight? They were clearly out of their minds — and they knew it, because even after they had successfully flown, people kept telling them that building a flying machine wasn’t possible.

Look, I’ve got news for you: You’re not normal. You have weird ideas. You have a messed-up perception of what you’re “supposed to” do in this world, and how you’re “supposed to” live, and what it’s possible for a person to do. If you weren’t weird, you’d obey the rules. You’d stop doing such stupid things, and having such idiotic ideas.

But so-called “smart” ideas don’t change the world. They perpetuate the status quo. They reinforce the rules that they were born within. If you’re in a situation you don’t like, doing absolutely everything in the sanest, smartest way possible is a great way to guarantee that you stay there.

If people think you’re strange, they’re right. If people think you’re a little out of your mind, they’re right.

It takes unconventional decisions to create change in your life or in others’ lives. Stepping outside of boundaries and comfort zones is the only way to see anything different, and to create new results.

If you keep doing this entrepreneur thing, people are going to think you’re stupid, crazy, reckless, foolhardy, and naive.

And that’s cool. Because the willingness to be all of those things is what it’s going to take if you’re to ever succeed.

Need more actionable advice?
Get your FREE weekly marketing “to-do” list
straight to your inbox every Wednesday:
johnnybtruantJohnny B. Truant is one of the creators of Question the Rules: The nonconformist's punk rock, DIY, nuts-and-bolts guide to creating the business and life you really want, starting with what you already have, which is available now, and stupidly cheap through tomorrow only - Saturday, May 1st  


  1. Great post, Johnny. Needed to hear this, this morning. Is that your real name?

  2. My strangeness makes me cool.

    Who’da thunk it? :)

    Thanks Johnny.

  3. Johnny, you’re just everywhere this week! I like it.

  4. Alison – You should hear the audio we did for Question the Rules where I suggest that people could use a pseudonym if they wanted. You know… not that that has anything to do with your question.

  5. Great post, Johnny. Promise I’m not stalking you. You’re just like everywhere. LOL!

    This is also my first comment on Laura’s blog. Hi Laura!

    The ironic thing about this is that even people that you think would be the first to encourage, sometimes don’t. This especially sucks when it’s someone you respect because they can really deflate your tires. You’re probably used to family and friends having doubts, but when you hire someone and they tell you your ideas suck, well, that’s painful. Ahem.

    Personally, I now guard my ideas like their my own babies. Nobody hears about them except the hubs while they’re still in the incubator.

    And when they’re ready to hatch, sometimes you just gotta say, “You know what? I’m going to do this because I think it’s a good idea. If I look like an idiot and fall on my butt, well, then I’ll just try try again.” :)

    Your course looks awesome too, btw.

  6. Right on, Johnny!! I’ve been looking like an idiot for decades…and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Thanks for affiming all of us.

  7. All I can say is, “Amen, brother. Amen. Amen. Aaaamen!” And thanks!

  8. > It takes unconventional decisions to create change in your life
    That sounds like a perfect note for a fortune cookie. I like it.

  9. Everyone thinks Im talking crap when I talk about making money online! They think Im a bit nuts!! But most just don’t understand, its not their fault, but it is a little annoying……I started on a mission to be ‘rich’ by 2011 (www.richby2011.com)…..it was just a bit of a joke and a diary of learning about blogging and affiliate marketing etc… but its really turning into something now! And now there all talking about it!!! ha ha….. I run a local website with news and reviews and business,( http://www.talktorbay.com) Ive been on the radio and the Mayor even emailed me this morning! Alright Im not rich yet…but Im not talking crap either!

  10. Hey, Johnny, in military-speak or “action-adventure” jargon, “taking point,” means you get shot at first. Kind of like the pioneers. ;)

  11. Crap. You know I mean “getting shot at” metaphorically, right?

    I never met a “phor” I didn’t want to mix, too. Yeesh.

  12. Terrific message for those of us who have been around the block awhile and were raised to think conformity was a good thing. I’ve long since learned to ignore the “Sit down and shut up” mentality, but it’s still terrific to get a fresh blast of reminder.

    This message, coming near graduation time, is also timely. As we kick our graduates out into the cold cruel world, they should be equipped with Johnny’s Axiom! I plan to include it in some of my graduation notes.

  13. Stephanie Phillips says:

    Great post, Johnny! I fight with the should do/want to do stuff everyday (I still work a 9-5). My upbringing tells me that I should work in a well established organization that pays well and offers good benefits. But what’s the point of that if I’m not happy?

    My well-meaning mother is the one who always drilled this into me. She was the one who worked at the same job her entire career. Now that she’s retired she’s experienced so much more in her life than she ever did before and she still works. But she enjoys the work she’s doing and, when it’s not fun anymore, she moves on to another adventure. She’s been a bar tender, a ski instructor and, now, a realtor. She made the comment not too long ago that if she had it to do all over again, she would have done something more “adventurous and creative” with her life. My jaw nearly hit the ground…lol I guess I now have the permission to be an “idiot”. ;)

  14. They called me MAD at the University… :D

  15. There is no such thing as normal for sure.

    Many people think my expression of “Comfortably Organized” won’t cut it because if someone wants to be organized, then they want perfection. Oh well, they can keep the perfectionist tendencies – especially if it works for them;-) But for the rest of us…let’s live it up, comfortably organized!

    I’m probably strange. :-)


  16. I always wondered what “too smart for your own good” meant.

    Now I know.

  17. So true! I am currently in the throes of being on the “pause” button with my friends regarding my newly launched business. I have a feeling they are all holding their breaths, on pause, so to speak, waiting to see if I will make a go of this business or go back to work. Can’t wait to prove them wrong! Thanks for this post.

  18. And even if they’re right? Screw it! Strange people like us do what we do because it’s what we feel is right. :)