When I study people who have done extraordinary things, when I look at when I have accomplished what others said was impossible, there was little regard for other’s rules of thinking, rules of what can or can’t be done, or even what should or shouldn’t be done.

Look at Elon Musk, Steve Jobs… and me.

For example, in my own life this link was clear by to me by the tender age of 8 years old.

I just couldn’t watch and do nothing! I was in the second grade. This was “back in the day” when teachers hit kids (boys) and children were labeled “retarded” and “neither educable or trainable”. Children spoke nicely to their teachers, and followed lots of rules, there were no “safe spaces” and no political correctness…

That was the year I was blessed with one of those awful teachers (yes, she did put boys over her knee and paddle them) and a sad, young girl in my class who was tagged as “retarded”. My teacher, let’s call her Mrs. E, pretty much ignored this little girl; I’m sure she was frustrated.  She didn’t have the skills (or temperament) to deal with a kid like her. And, there was no special ed, no individualized plans for kids with special needs, no assistants in the classroom, and no help for ill-equipped teachers or drowning kids.

One day, I just couldn’t stand it any more. I knew what Mrs. E was doing was wrong. I didn’t know how, but I knew I could make a difference. I was in The No-Doubt Zone™.

So, I opened my “big mouth” and explained to my teacher just how wrong it was not to work with this girl, how she deserved more, and how totally unacceptable this was. Good thing girls didn’t get paddled like the boys. Gender discrimination definitely worked in my favor as I spoke in a way that would have gotten the boys hit, and, if my teacher wasn’t so shocked by my blatant disregard for the rules and proper etiquette, I’d have been thrown out of class, if not out of the school entirely.

Mrs. E glared at me, her face livid with rage and indignation. Finally, she said, “Since you think you can do better than I can, she is now your responsibility. Every day you will finish your work, and then you work with her.”

That’s how it went for the rest of the year. Every day I finished my work (it was easy and boring anyway) and set out to teach my young charge. She learned well, surprising everyone. After that, the school sent me another child to work with as well.

My path as an educator, a renegade… an insurgent… a rule-breaker… a visionary… moved forward. I found I could learn what I needed to learn, to get the results I wanted if I was determined to do so. I learned to commit, take action, and figure it out along the way. Just because people thought someone was retarded and incapable of learning didn’t mean they were right, and I was determined to prove them wrong.

It’s clear, innovators, visionaries, people who make a difference are rule-breakers, renegades. If you accept the rules, you may not even see what’s possible. And you certainly won’t make something different happen.

Disclaimer: I’m not suggesting that you go out and break the law in any misguided attempt at rebelling against the powers that be. I was a kid, and boundaries were meant to be tested. In fact,  I still think they are.

So, think of a time you created something extraordinary, went beyond what others thought possible, a time you were in The No Doubt Zone™, did you:

  1. Focus on being sure to follow the rules?
  2. Focus on the obstacles or how to get around or change the rules?
  3. Shift your paradigm from the one reflected in the rules, to one encompassing new possibilities?

I’d love to hear your stories!

Stay tuned as we dig deep into The No Doubt Zone™, how to cultivate it, and use it to create extraordinary outcomes.