Since the day you were born, society has tried to instill certain values in you.
Values are powerful because they can direct behavior and beliefs well after the context for those values ceases to be relevant.
The values you learned as a child followed you into your adulthood, even after those values stopped making sense for your life.
Conformity was the most powerful lesson you learned as a kid.
And that lesson has continued to haunt you.
The High Price of Standing Out of the Crowd
When you were a kid, it was painful to be different.
You were taught to not stick out, lest the other kids made fun of you. Being uncommon was a liability. And since you were more or less dropped into a random pool of children not of your choosing for seven to eight hours a day, you couldn’t opt out of this particular crowd.
So you learned to hide, to be average, to not stand out. You saw that the kids who showed any signs of straying from the Herd were punished socially. They were bullied, tortured, and treated differently by other kids, parents, and even teachers.
You learned from their example.
You learned that to be outside of the Herd was no place to be.
Stand Out or be Mediocre?
But then at some point as you got older, you realized something quite profound, either in college or when you went out into the workplace:
Being average got you nowhere.
All of a sudden, you needed to stand out or you wouldn’t get the top grades or the big promotion or the plum assignments.
Sure, you could keep coasting through. You could keep hiding in the middle of the pack. But you couldn’t help fight the sense that there could be something more to life than treading water.
You realized that being an unremarkable, interchangeable, faceless cog in the corporate machine assured you of only two things:
- being at the total mercy of your organization, and
- living a mediocre life
At that point you had a choice.
Since you were not a child anymore, you could opt out of this system that treated you like a fungible commodity.
You could choose to be remarkable, unconventional, and indispensable to those around you.
Or you could continue to put your head down, shut up, and slide into an unfulfilling existence of empty interactions and experiences.
Which did you choose?
I’d love to hear what you chose and why in the comments or on Twitter. Thanks for reading.
Image by Swami Stream