“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” – Henry David Thoreau
In her book, A New Set of Eyes, Paula D’Arcy tells a great story that occurred while attending an educational event several years ago at Yale University. “Upon arriving,” she wrote, “two hundred counselors and educators were led into an auditorium and were given a word problem that had a mathematical answer. Without benefit of paper or pencil we had to solve the problem and then stand with any others whose answer agreed with our own. Three groups were formed. The largest group, which I joined, thought the correct answer to the problem was 38. Approximately eighty-eight others believed the correct answer was 21. Two men [however] decided the answer was 11. The program organizers then left, promising to return in one or two hours. In their absence they wanted each group to convince everyone in the room that their answer was the right answer. . . In time the largest group grew larger, becoming the clear majority. When the leaders reappeared, the second group had shrunk to thirty-five and the two men who originally believed 11 was the correct answer had never changed their minds, but also never convinced anyone else to join them. I remember the evening with a certain vividness. The correct answer was revealed to be 11.”
Within democracy majority rules, but that does not mean that majority is always right. In fact, often times the greatest ideas and greatest solutions come from the oddballs who zig when everyone else zags. They are the innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurial thinkers. They are the ones who step to the music of a different drummer.
Each of us has that capacity, I believe, to be the oddball with the great ideas and great solutions – if only we have the courage to trust that different drummer we sometimes hear and to step to his music.