Hugh MacLeod was working in advertising when the dotcom crash hit. He quickly became unemployed and broke.
Hugh realized that he hated being at the mercy of layoffs, recessions, and downsizing.
He began doodling on the back of business cards, started a blog, and the rest is history. Now a successful cartoonist and entrepreneur, Hugh set out to tell his story and share the lessons he learned.
What he produced was Ignore Everybody: And 39 Other Keys to Creativity, an impressive book about walking the unconventional path, working hard, and being brave enough to be passionate about your ideas.
One of his big pieces of advice (and the title of his book) is to ignore everybody. Everybody who doesn’t get it, everybody who stands in your way, everybody who wants to hold you back.
It’s a powerful piece of advice and hard-won. But why is it so hard to follow?
Ignore Everybody & Evolutionary Psychology
Good ideas alter the power balance in relationships. That is why good ideas are always initially resisted.
– Hugh MacLeod, Ignore Everybody.
Human beings are social creatures. We are social creatures for very good reasons. A single human being is pretty puny on its own. We have no fangs or claws for protection. We don’t run particularly fast (certainly not faster than a savannah lion).
Our best evolutionary strategy was to stick together. As a group, we can coordinate defenses and pool our resources for survival.
- Do the alpha males and females of the group like me?
- Where do I rank on the pecking order?
- Who is lower on the totem pole than me?
- Am I safe from social exile and ridicule?
The early humans who navigated the social hierarchy were more likely to survive and reproduce. They are our ancestors.
What that means for us is simple. We care way too much about what others think of us.
In fact, a quarter of people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death. Think about that for a second. The fear of being made fun of or failing in front of peers is more terrifying than oblivion for these people.
Even if an adaptation made sense in our distant past, we do not need it to continue to control our behaviors today. We can take control of our evolution.
The urge to conform is so strong that when the status quo is dangerous, oppressive, or evil, we still struggle to go against the group. If the conventional wisdom is irrational or insane, we still feel like we’re wrong because we think different.
Ignore everybody. It’s difficult but necessary when you’re truly challenging the status quo.
The Hard Decisions
You don’t know if your idea is any good the moment it’s created. Neither does anyone else.
The most you can hope for is a strong gut feeling that it is. And trusting your feelings is not as easy as the optimists say it is. There’s a reason why feelings scare us—because what they tell us and what the rest of the world tells us are often two different things.
– Hugh MacLeod, Ignore Everybody.
There will be many people who question your decisions or your thinking as you move closer to creating an agile lifestyle.
They will not get why you gave up that seemingly secure and cushy 9 to 5 job. They certainly will not understand why you quit law school halfway through. And they will not get it when you refuse to accept thirty years of indentured servitude for the “dream” of homeownership in the suburbs.
It will not be easy. In fact, tens of thousands of years of evolution will be working against you.
But nobody ever changed the world by defending the status quo.
Image by roland.