The Definition Of Insanity

I’ve little doubt you’ve heard people say something to the tune of “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Let’s get literal here for a second and create a platform on which we can build. Let’s define insanity.

in•san•i•ty [in-san-i-tee]
1. The condition of being insane.
2. Law. such unsoundness of mind of mind as affects legal responsibility or capacity.
3. Extreme folly; senselessness; foolhardiness.

And insane.

in•sane [in-seyn]
1. Not sane; not sound of mind; mentally deranged.
2. Of, pertaining to, or characteristic of a person who is mentally deranged.
3. Utterly senseless.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, lets keep focusing on it. There is nothing there that mentions repetitive actions or results or even alludes to anything like that, BUT for the sake of me continuing to write this post, can we set an assumption together? That is this: Let’s continue defining insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Are we clear with this groundwork? Yes? Okay, good.

Okay. Let’s review some famous people in history and decide whether or not they’re insane based off our previous definition.

Thomas Edison
This guy was perhaps the most well known inventor in modern day history having well over one thousand patents to his name. Familiar with the filament light bulb? Edison did that. He wanted a bulb that would withstand a forty hour lab test. After testing 1,600 materials and writing 40,000 pages of notes, he finally succeeded with carbonized bamboo! He tried various sorts of metals, fishing line, coconut fiber and beard hair. Just think if he would have given up at beard hair and ended his trials there. I can only assume he would have felt like a real buffoon when someone else came along and tried carbonized bamboo and succeeded.

So, Edison tried 1,600 times and had 1,600 failures but kept expecting to succeed. Insane?

Henry Ford
Ford’s first company, Detroit Automobile Company, went bankrupt due to customer complaints of high prices and poor quality. His next attempt, Henry Ford Company, failed. During this time in history, financial backing was very difficult to come by especially in the automobile business and with two high profile failures under his belt, Henry Ford probably should have called it quits. He tried a third time, launching Ford Motor Company which is one of the oldest auto manufacturers on the planet and has been wildly successful for almost a century.

Ford had very well known, very public failures and had a pretty severe stigma attached to his name but succeeded anyway. Insane?

Stephen King
Though probably not quite as impactful as our prior two examples, Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, was rejected thirty times by publishers. So many submissions and so many failures. So many instances of doing the same thing over and over again, receiving the same result and yet hoping or expecting for something different. As we all know, this guy has become obscenely successful and has remained a best selling author spanning five decades.

Though some may argue not right in the head… That’s neither here or there. The question is: Insane?

There are so many examples to illustrate the point here but we’ll leave it at three. Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Stephen King. Insane? I say no. There is a very important link among these three and everyone else who has lived through failure to succeed. Adjustment. If you want your situation to change, you must change some things in your life! That’s where we’re going with this today.

If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always had.

I used to be irresponsible with money. I’ve always had the good fortune to be able to make decent money and have always had the good fortune to be able to spend money very well. In my earlier years I began by putting things on credit cards to “build my credit.” I’d purchase on credit, pay it off each month in full and repeat. Nothing wrong with that. Then came the first time I didn’t pay my bill in full. I justified that it was just one time, just a little interest, just until next month. Long story short, this began a habit of justification, more credit cards, balance transfers and consolidations. I ended up behind on everything. I was stuck in the pattern of doing exactly the same thing every single month, falling further and further behind, digging myself deeper and deeper and not even realizing what was happening.

If I could travel back and give myself this advice, well, first the younger me probably wouldn’t listen, but second, MAN would that have been helpful! Keep doing the same things and you’ll keep ending up with the same results! So elementary but so crucial. We must change some things to change our circumstance.

What does this mean, exactly?

Well, lets see here. Once I realized I was so far in debt and seemingly screwed I stopped and evaluated my situation and figured out what led me to that point. I had been consistently spending more each month than I had been earning. I found that my mindset was one of optimistic justification. I found myself thinking “I’ll make more next month to offset this.” “I’ll transfer this balance and get zero percent for twelve months, that way I can focus on paying off other cards.” “I’ll use this card only in an emergency.” Funny how an emergency presented itself right away.

I realized I had been doing the same thing over and over for so long without changing a damn thing that I put myself in a pretty dreadful position! I determined then, in an instant, that I needed to begin to change my habits. I put myself on a strict budget and forced myself to stick to it by not carrying credit cards or even my check card. When I ran out if cash, that was it, nothing to fall back on. This worked well for me. I minimized my expenses by cutting out luxuries like eating out. I ate at work a LOT. (I was fortunate to eat at work for free) I cancelled my gym membership. This is something I value greatly in my life but at the time I felt I could not justify the expense. When my lease was up I put my belongings in storage and lived out of my car. I would shower and do laundry at my parents’ home. Extreme? Absolutely. Effective? Absolutely, and even more so. All the money I stopped spending in these areas of life I turned to bad debt and watched the balances fall to zero.

This was an uncomfortable but very powerful time in life for me. I would do it again in an instant.

Pay attention to what you’re doing and begin to notice the results everything is bringing to you. If those results are not pinnacle then figure out what and how to change to affect the results favorable.

I welcome comments and emails about what you’ve changed and the results you’ve seen!

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