What do these four people have in common: Noah, Galileo, Tesla and Nkrumah?

Yes, they’re all dead, and yes, they all changed the world with their visions, but that’s not it. No. Here’s what all four of them had in common: at one point or the other, all the people on this list were thought to be crazy. Yep. Bonkers. Totally nuts. Off their rockers. One ball short of a kenkey party. Stark raving mad.

When Noah was telling people there was going to be a great big flood which would wash away all living things from the earth, of course, everyone thought he had totally lost the plot. What he was saying simply did not fit in with their understanding of how things work in this world, and so his words made no sense to them. Until they were drowning. Then they understood. But of course, it was too late, and the Ark doors wouldn’t open for them.

Galileo was actually hailed as a genius by many, including the almighty Catholic Church – which was also the political seat of power in Italy back then – until he made an absolutely ridiculous claim. Galileo suggested that when the sun rose in the east and set in the west, it wasn’t revolving around the earth, but rather, the earth was revolving around the sun, and so were all the other planets. The Catholic Church promptly changed his status from Smart Man to Mad Man and locked him up in his own house for the rest of his life. Of course, now that his theory has been proved by every astronomer in the world, the Church can’t deny the guy may not have been so “cray-cray” after all.

Nikola Tesla was probably one of the smartest scientists in human history. This is the guy who created Wireless Technology, Radar and Robotics, among thousands of other great creations. Now Tesla’s behaviour was what people didn’t seem to understand. He had no home address, and chose to live only in hotels. He had an obsession with the number three, imported special seeds to feed the pigeons in the park, and spent ages calculating the volume of his food before eating it. Yet this same guy, who everyone thought was crazy, found a way to transmit electricity without wires, and provided power for the entire city of Colorado Springs free of charge at a time when people were still marvelling over the novelty of Thomas Edison’s newly invented light bulb.

Kwame Nkrumah built the Akosombo Dam at a time when Ghana hardly needed ten percent of the total power it could produce. People in his own government considered it a colossal waste of time and resources for a country which couldn’t even afford to pay its cocoa farmers. When they learnt that Akosombo was actually just one of five dams that Nkrumah had planned to build in a circle, with the outflow of each one forming the inflow to the next, creating a self-perpetuating loop of never-ending power, one of his colleagues actually described it as the “murmurings of a megalomaniac”. Today, that megalomaniac’s mad murmurings make absolute sense to a nation that would give anything for a reliable source of power.

My friends, sometimes, sanity is all about timing. The truth is that people assess you based on their understanding of the world and not yours. This can be particularly problematic when you have a vision or a perspective that they can’t see or understand. When you have a vision or talent that is not shared by the people around you, it forces them to make a choice; either accept that they don’t know what you know, or that you’re crazy. I’m sure you can imagine the easier option for such people.

Those who care about you will believe in your vision and support you with it, no matter how outlandish or crazy it may seem. Those who don’t care about you will not understand why you think you can do things that they can’t. And to prove you wrong, they must bring you down.

My dear friend, never lose faith in what you know. Don’t force yourself to conform to the rules of those who don’t see what you see. After all, what’s the use of having vision only to be guided by the blind? Let them call you names. Let them think you’re crazy. Let them say what they like. In the end, when the rains come, when the lights go out, they will all realise that you were right all along, and their earth does indeed revolve around your sun.

My name is Kojo Yankson, and you may not know what I’m doing, but I do.


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