Right Intent: Explaining the Unexplainable

In the recent post, “The Sound of One Hand Clicking and Right Intent” I ended with the comment, “So what is the sound of one hand clicking? To me it has nothing to do with technology or recording music, but goes back to the vague idea of right intent … expect more explanation of the unexplainable soon.” I didn’t have an answer then and after a couple weeks of racking my brain, I still don’t have an answer now. Maybe that’s because intent is one of those concepts that fall into the “I know it when I feel it” category. At this point it would be easy to become philosophical, but that’s boring. Instead, thinking about right intent reminded me of the famous Apple ad campaign from 1997, “Think Different.” Go ahead, take 30 seconds and watch it, I promise it will be worth it.


Apple was almost out of business and Steve Jobs had just come back. He wanted to remind the world that thinking differently had made Apple great in the past and it was going to make Apple great again. It highlighted how the perspectives of the “different” people had transformed the world thoughout history. It was the perfect example of the power of “right intent.” Not coincidentally, these people are also often considered “the crazy ones.” The full quote from the ad goes like this.

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward. Maybe they have to be crazy. How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels? We make tools for these kinds of people. While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

The ad featured visionaries from all walks of life. Interestingly, people think Jobs wrote this, but the story of how this ad was created is as amazing as the quote. This long article from Forbes has the incredible details. To summarize, it was written by Rob Siltanen and based on a speech by Robin Williams in the movie, “The Dead Poets Society.” Reading the Forbes article, it is a miracle that the ad ever saw the light of day. Later, Jobs commented on this quote in an interview for the PBS documentary “One Last Thing” in 1994:

When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it. I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

These wise words give me chills, but as the Forbes article illustrates, the details of how this happens is messy. It is full of false starts and setbacks, “failures” that become “successes” and maybe “failures” again. Through it all, the common theme seems to be right intent AND the commitment to “do the dirty work.” Nobody knows what the future holds, but humans have survived millions of years so somebody (or something, if that’s your preference) is taking care of the flow. 

So there are a few of my existential thoughts as we wrap up a crazy and amazing year. Again, best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and Happy New You!