Byron's Babbles

The Sanest Insane Thing

Posted in Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 24, 2022

As she was making her way westward on the the wagon train in April of 1855, one of the characters in Book 2 of Threads West An American Saga: Maps of Fate by the award winning historical fiction author Reid Lance Rosenthal made the comment that this was “the sanest insane thing I’ve ever done.” The characters in this book went west for many different reasons, but all carried a dream of creating a better life for themselves and their families in this new, undeveloped territory. I love the paradox of sanity and insanity that Rosenthal created here. Though the emigrant characters of the book may have been prepared for the trip physically by bringing the supplies necessary and hiring qualified wagon masters, few were prepared psychologically for the intensity of the pioneer experience. This could be said for many of our experience. Were we prepared for the intensity of the experience?

“You have to forget about what other people say, when you’re supposed to die, or when you’re supposed to be loving. You have to forget about all these things. You have to go on and be crazy. Craziness is like heaven.” ~ Jimi Hendrix

That’s why I love the quote above from Jimi Hendrix. Sometimes we just have to do the crazy. Over the last couple of weeks I have been to holiday gatherings with people from my past work of being a principal of a school we took over. Every person I have encountered has discussed the intensity of that experience. It was crazy insane to leave a great teaching position at a great school to be a principal of a failing school, but it really was heaven. Every student deserves a great school and we made that possible for students on the south side of Indianapolis. In the process, I became part of the family of one the greatest group of teachers and staff members in the world. One of the things that always gets brought up when visiting with those family members is just how much fun we had. It was crazy insane at times, but it was also heaven.

In A First-Rate Madness, author and psychiatrist Nassir Ghaemi, used the provocative thesis: “For abnormal challenges, abnormal leaders are needed.” I love this. I am not suggesting any of us had mental illness or disorders. Ghaemi argued, however, that “[w]e should accept, even celebrate” the possibility that our decision-makers have dealt with mental illnesses — disorders which, he wrote, tend to promote the qualities of “realism, resilience, empathy and creativity.” As Hendrix said, we have to forget what people say and “go on and be crazy.”

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