To innovate, you must be stubborn on your own artistic vision!

Question: Why is stubbornness seen as bad?

“How dare you not obey me!”

This is my theory:

Whenever people do contrary to what THEY want you to do, they call you ‘stubborn’ (and all these other words, to make you feel guilty for not obeying them).

When I think about innovation in technology and society, it has only happened with the willpower of a few stubborn individuals.

Innovation happens from stubborn individuals

For example, Steve Jobs was one of the most stubborn, inflexible, and inexorable individuals. He wanted things his way; in his own artistic vision. He wouldn’t budge on design decisions. If it weren’t for his quest for perfection, we wouldn’t have the beautiful technological designs we have today.

Let us do a thought experiment:

What if Steve Jobs WASN’T stubborn?

Apple (as we know it today) wouldn’t exist! If Steve Jobs wasn’t stubborn, and more “flexible” and “open minded” — we would probably have more ugly beige-Windows PC devices.

Or let us take Elon Musk for example. If he weren’t so stubborn about his artistic vision with Tesla, we would have more ugly electric cars.

Stubbornness in children is good

Children are stubborn, which obviously upsets us parents. Yet, perhaps there is some wisdom to their stubbornness, and wanting to do things their way.

Perhaps if we indulge our children a little bit more, maybe they will become more “greedy” and “selfish” or “self-centered”, but perhaps this makes for a better leader, or a better innovator, or entrepreneur?

Imagine the opposite: a parent who says “no” to all of their children’s requests.

For myself, I am very very grateful that my mom indulged in all of my interests– Lego, electronics, computers, technology, photography. If it weren’t for my mom, I certainly wouldn’t be the computer and technology-savvy individual I am today.

Society doesn’t want you to be stubborn

Society desires and demands for obedient individuals. If an individual says “no” to his superiors, his teachers, etc– we are labeled as “deviants”, “trouble-makers”, “mis-fits”, etc.

I am very grateful being grown up in America– at least America has some spirit of individualism (we really don’t). I am a big fan of the notion of ‘exceptionalism’ in America– that every child, every individual can be exceptional! This line of thinking is far superior than the opposite: thinking that everyone is generic and same-same (mediocrity thinking).


Some basic takeaways:

  1. If you want to truly innovate new revolutionary things, you must be stubborn! Otherwise every innovation you create will be a boring and mild incremental ‘upgrade’.
  2. When someone calls you stubborn, self-centered, arrogant, etc– really think, “WHY is this individual calling me this? What is their motive?” Generally speaking, people judge you as ‘stubborn’ when you refuse to obey them. Also ask yourself: “If I do obey their command, what will THEY personally gain from my obedience?”
  3. Think of ways you can be MORE stubborn in life to achieve what you desire. For example, if I weren’t so stubborn on desiring to become self-employed, I would have never done it.

Avoid a life of boring mediocrity (living like the ‘average’ person). Let us hate the average; let us love the extreme!


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