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You Don’t Have To Be Crazy To Work In Social Media But It Helps

One of the reasons I’ve been so attracted to social media is that’s it’s been a magnet for entrepreneurs and early adopters. Over the last 5+ years that I’ve been doing this, nearly every person I’ve met working in this space is an entrepreneur. And usually totally insane. You’d have to be really.

It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland:

The Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad?
Alice Kingsley: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.

Now not everyone is crazy, just the really good ones. I’ve finally learned there’s a reason for this.

Yesterday I stumbled across a great piece in the NYT on entrepreneurship and hypomania. I’ve long suspected that I have hypomania so this article really hit home.

[A] thin line separates the temperament of a promising entrepreneur from a person who could use, as they say in psychiatry, a little help. Academics and hiring consultants say that many successful entrepreneurs have qualities and quirks that, if poured into their psyches in greater ratios, would qualify as full-on mental illness.

Which is not to suggest that entrepreneurs like [this] are crazy. It would be more accurate to describe them as just crazy enough.

“It’s about degrees,” says John D. Gartner, a psychologist and author of “The Hypomanic Edge.” “If you’re manic, you think you’re Jesus. If you’re hypomanic, you think you are God’s gift to technology investing.”

Wonder why all the early adopter in social media seem like a bunch of echo chamber egoists? We’re not narcissists, we’re just hypomaniacs. (Okay some of us are total narcissists.)

I hadn’t heard about this book before but The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (A Little) Craziness and (A Lot of) Success in America is now added to my Amazon wish list.

The things that stuck out to me is the passion, the conviction and the lack of sleep. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked where I find the time to be as active as I am at work and on social media.

I don’t require as much sleep as one might think.

When you can work for days on end with little to no sleep there’s obviously a benefit there (he says after spending 14 hours at work). But it comes with trade offs (like family, sanity and health). Even hypomaniacs can’t keep this up forever. This is part of the reason I wrote Forget Strategy: How do you Scale the Social Media Strategists.

So my advice to all my crazy friends is to be crazy and conquer the World but try and remember to spend some time with family and get some sleep.

To investors and employers my advice, in addition to how to listen to us without going crazy, is try and pace us. Don’t let run ourselves into the ground.

Photo credit by Stéfan

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About Tac

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.

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