Genius or Insanity?

“Here’s to the crazy ones — the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. …” — Steve Jobs “Christen! Knee over the ball!” Christen Press talks to herself in the third person on the field when her finishing isn’t up to par.

Ali Hawkins, a fellow Tar Heel, ran every fitness session barefoot because that’s how she had trained growing up in Southern California.

Heather O’Reilly rips off her shirt as a personal reward part way through the beep test (a grueling fitness test). She claims it helps her mentally to reach a few more levels.

Christie Rampone never listens to music while running so that she can hear her breathing and be fully in touch with how she feels.

Casey Loyd (née Nogueira) sometimes didn’t warm up at all, or decided to dance instead of stretch. But she could break into a full sprint and rainbow a defender at any moment she chose.

“… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. …”

The life of Steve Jobs makes me consider the fine line between craziness and genius. Like many who rip holes in the status quo, he was single-mindedly focused on a vision that, at times, only he could see. Many of my teammates at North Carolina, the professional level and now on the U.S. national team share the craziness that extreme drive and passion induces.

In a physically and mentally intense training camp such as the one we just had with the women’s national team, players’ quirks and bizarre rituals become apparent. We are unique — from what we choose to eat, to how we conceptualize what we do, to our compulsive nature when it comes to training and competing. But exceptional individuals are just that: exceptions to the norm.

“… They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. ...”

I studied psychology at the University of North Carolina. In my Abnormal Psychology class, we learned that when certain personality traits cause serious impairment of function, then they become considered symptomatic of a disorder. But what about when some of those same traits lead to high achievement? Then we call it genius.

If you study the D.S.M. (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), you may notice that the distinguishing factors of several personality disorders — impulsivity, notions of grandiosity, preoccupation with ritual, perfectionism — also exist in the majority of high-functioning individuals. In this case, these traits do not lead to dysfunction and are not destructive. They are extremely potent tools for success.

Sometimes you have to do crazy things to push your personal limit or the limits society dictates. Nothing about greatness is normal. And neither are the ones who achieve it.

“… Because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” — Steve Jobs