There have been two songs that keep running through my head lately. Not at all alike these two songs. One is old school country and the other pop from the 21st century. I do like them both, but what attracted me to them was the main line in their choruses. The first is from Waylon Jennings song “I’ve Always Been Crazy”. The words “I’ve always been crazy but it keeps me from going insane” have a weirdly attractive quality to them for me. Something that makes me smile and want to be a little more like that.
The second is Matchbox 20’s song “Unwell”. It has a different take on the subject with the line “I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell.” It’s a beautifully constructed song. Another of those beautiful melodies that we want to sing along to, but we realize that the words are taking us in another direction.
These two songs caused me to consider the word “crazy” and what my mother might have called one’s “wild side”. I’ve always loved the idea of having a wild side, but I can’t say that I’ve always been willing to show it to the world. Wild side can imply a lack of control, a disregard for norms, a risk of being judged. That risk can hold me back sometimes. There is a vulnerability that comes with being “a bit crazy”. A worry about being judged “a little unwell”.
However, I’ve valued the wild side in other people and how, when it is displayed respectfully, can really bring the best out in others in laughter, feeling freedom, creativity, brainstorming, etc. The spontaneity, lateral thinking, new ideas and other forms of breakthroughs that occur can be tremendously valuable as well.
I think we all have a bit of this crazy wild side in us. Perhaps when we let it loose in the way described above we refer to it with a friendlier label such as “free-spirited”. When I do I feel more alive. I’m energized. I’m not worried about what others are thinking, I’m focused on what I am doing. I’m exploring possibilities, not fretting about risks. I’m dreaming of success, not fearing failure.
How do you feel about the crazy side of you? Do you treat it as an essential element of who you are, knowing it needs to be engaged to keep you from going insane? Or do you try to keep it bottled up, apologizing when it gets out or claiming that you are a little unwell … out of sorts. Are you confident in who you are and what you have to offer? Or do you look to others for norms and how we think we need to behave?
Personally I like it more when I let it out. I walk around head up trying to make eye contact and saying hello to people whether I know them or not. I might whistle when I’m walking around. Jokes rather than complaints come to mind. I ask more questions than I make statements. I’m curious not judgmental. I’m contributing not concealing.
As leaders what do we do to encourage individuality? How do we create safe spaces where people don’t feel vulnerable and can be their fullest self? Do we draw people out and praise lateral thinking? Do we coach people towards inclusiveness and possibility? Do we show our own “free spirit” or “wild side” regularly so others know it is okay?
So maybe what I’m saying is we should embrace a little more of Billy Joel’s philosophy on crazy in his song “You May Be Right”. The main chorus tells us “You may be right. I may be crazy. But it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for.” Perhaps its best if we just let that wild side show!