David Heinemeier Hansson

September 15, 2022

Unreasonable people

It takes unreasonable people to do unreasonable things. It's highly unreasonable to set off to change the way cars are powered across the world. To turn what started almost as a joke – a car driven by a floor full of laptop batteries?? – into that unreasonable reality that we stop pouring liquid flammables into a car that then propels itself forward through a series of tiny explosions.

Now Elon Musk gets enough praise for kicking off the modern phase of the electric car, and he doesn't need any more from me. In fact, I've long been extremely critical of his self-driving efforts and the delusions I saw in them.

But that's exactly the point here. The unreasonable people who end up changing the world continue to be unreasonable after their crowning achievement has become a success. Yet then polite society is so eager to squeeze the unreasonable qualities out of them after the fact. It's foolish.

Again, this doesn't mean that every subsequent and unreasonable idea that falls out of someone like Musk is eventually going to be proven right. But it does mean that we should be grateful for the unreasonable self-confidence that makes Musk believe this to be true! That's where we get the big, interesting swings from. The cone of confidence that protects his motivation from that of more reasonable people, and their oh-so-reasonable objections.

This isn't an excuse for said behavior either. It's merely an acceptance that we're better off as a society when unreasonable people continue to be unreasonable, undeterred by the chatter and the criticism. Because we, mostly, have the license to ignore those unreasonable ideas that peter out, and revel in the ones that soar.

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.