That is actually NOT the definition of insanity.

Do you know what the definition of insanity is? No doubt you have heard a proposed definition of insanity many times. In nearly every meeting about change, or broken processes someone breaks out TDOI. If you haven’t been in a course-correction meeting since the Korean War, here is the statement I am referring to:

 “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”  -unknown

This quote has been misattributed to everyone. Einstein, Twain, Franklin, Cheech, Chong.

But it is not true. I have degrees from The University of Wisconsin in both journalism and psychology. Which makes the inaccurate reporting of this psychological definition feel like a wheel of cheese under my proverbial mattress.

Here is the actual definition

Insanity:

noun. The state of being seriously mentally ill; madness:

or:  extreme foolishness or irrationality.

Insanity comes from the Latin ‘in’ (meaning not) and ‘sanus’ (which makes me snicker, but means healthy).  

When you put them together you get insane, meaning not healthy.

My suggestion

I encourage you to continue pointing out the problem of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. But let’s lose ‘the definition’ part. Definitions sound so… definitive. This statement is more of a creative observation. So let’s try it like this:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

We can call this a metaphor instead of a definition. It still works. Yet it doesn’t make me want to throw my DSM-IV across the conference room table. Deal?

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When the going gets tough read this.

My career goal is to create the perfect advertising agency. Simple right? Or maybe not. Because attaining perfection is hard. And elusive. And a Milton Bradley board game that makes you feel like MacGyver racing the timer on a bomb in your rec room. But creating the perfect agency is my goal because it’s hard. And because achieving it would help make everyone involved (including my clients, my teammates and our families) happy, sought after and prosperous.

If you are undertaking something hard, and I hope you are, it will test you, repeatedly.  Like a diabetic tests their glucose. Your mission is like a boxing match. You step between the ropes and square off with whatever or whoever is standing between you and your goals. And you start throwing all you have at each other. Only one of you will win. The one who wants it more.

Today I read a great quote that I want you to put in your pocket. As you fight for your dreams, your goals and your right to party  pull it out between rounds and use the quote as your smelling salts to help shake off the cobwebs and the fatigue.

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other thing -Abraham Lincoln

My friends, Abe Lincoln knew what he was talking about. Though he faced immense opposition, his personal resolution lead to the single most important victory in American history, both for our nation and for us as humans. He also used his unwavering resolve to achieve his other lofty life goals of getting his face on the penny, creating a popular log-based toy, and building a car company with Matthew McConaughey.

So keep doing that hard thing. Keep fighting for your ultimate success. Keep your eyes on the prize. And keep Lincoln’s quote close at hand. Because as he can attest, you never know when you might take an unexpected hit. (What? Too soon?)