“Sometimes I think I’m crazy because I see things differently than everyone else.”
You’re not crazy if you don’t always agree with the crowd. Group dynamics is one of the most powerful forces in human psychology.
The Asch conformity experiments demonstrate that even the most seemingly logical of people can be influenced to make bad decisions due to one’s internal desire to conform to group expectations.
“Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within groups of people, in which the desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints.
…The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking.” — Wikipedia
Group dynamics can cause people to act irrationally and at their own expense or the expense of others.
Group dynamics can cloud the truth, cause us to desire junk, turn us against people we love, and even follow & support leaders who would do us harm.
Group dynamics is often at the core of prejudice and discrimination.
Independent thinking is far less common than it should be. It should be praised.
It takes an exceptional kind of integrity to stick up for what you believe is right and true when facing a group.
Being able to see things differently is a valuable skill and is often what allows us to make great strides in technologies and processes that benefit all. Due to group dynamics, however, truly new and original ideas are often ridiculed before they are accepted.
“For a work to be truly creative, it has to depart from the status quo at some point. That departure makes many people uncomfortable.” — David Burkus (99u)
The ability to see things differently than the crowd and maintain one’s integrity despite pressure to conform is a gift. Being able to see things differently than other people doesn’t make you crazy. It makes you valuable.
“The person who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before.” — *Francis Phillip Wernig
It’s better to be your genuine self and have fewer of the right kinds of people in your life than it is to surround yourself with those who only accept you as long as you conform to their idea of who you should be.
“But if I take the path less traveled I might end up feeling lonely and isolated.”
Yes, of course you might.
And if you take a road trip, you might get a flat tire or into an accident.
And if you take a walk in the woods, a tree may fall on your head or you may be attacked by a pack of rabid squirrels.
“‘Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?’
‘Supposing it didn’t,’ said Pooh after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this.” — A.A. Milne
The fact is, if you do anything in life and take any sort of risk, something “bad” may happen to you as a result.
Or it may not.
But the same could be said if you don’t do anything at all.
Some people choose to drift through life. They follow the path of least resistance and simply go wherever it leads. Their idea of an adventure may be running low on gas on the way to the gas station. Or if they are feeling especially adventurous, taking a tour guide-driven trip to an inactive volcano.
And that’s fine. Not everyone values the same things in life.
But choosing to take control of one’s life — and deliberately directing one’s self to where they want to go — will likely make one feel much more alive and in control of one’s life than the alternative of always going in the same direction to the same places as everyone else.
If you want to avoid feeling lonely and isolated at times, then following the crowd is certainly one way to attempt it. Although, it is also quite possible to sit in a room full of people and feel isolated and alone.
“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.” — Carl Jung
In reality, there are only so many things you can control in life. But the decisions you make and the life you lead as a result of those decisions is one of them.
It’s not so much what happens to you in life that matters as how you choose to learn from and respond to what happens. Because you can’t control everything that happens, but you can control how you respond to it.
Just because you may do something that makes you feel lonely and isolated doesn’t at all diminish the act of doing it and what you learn or how you grow as a person as a result.
Choosing the path less traveled is about finding one’s own way and using what one learns along the journey for the betterment of one’s self (and others).
It is very difficult to not grow while being out of one’s comfort zone. And conversely, very difficult to grow while in one.
And you may just find that you have what you need *within you* to overcome feelings of loneliness and isolation. You may just find you are a lot stronger and more resilient than you believed. You may just discover you don’t need to rely on others to give you an identity.
“Real men wear…”
“Real men drink [brand]…”
“Real men know how to…”
“Real men drive [brand]…”
“Real men like…”
Real men. Real women. Real people like whatever they want to like and do whatever they want to do. Their preferences are not dictated by fads, popularity, or the social norm. They don’t like things in order to appear more appealing to others.
Real people act with authenticity. And authentic people listen to their inner voice and make their own decisions based on their personal preferences and experience.
So to say “Real men like…” is practically meaningless.
A “real” person is going to maintain their integrity regardless of the influence of outside forces — regardless of your desire that they like whatever it is you think they should like in order to be a “real” person.
To suggest otherwise is to suggest that you judge people based on whether they like or don’t like exactly the same things you do. And if they don’t, they’re not a “real” person.
To be real is to be authentic. To be real is to have a strong sense of self. To be real is to have a positive moral character. And above all, to be real is to have integrity.
A real person is going to like beer or mixed drinks or not drink at all.
A real person is going to eat meat or not.
A real person is going to like cats or dogs or none of the above.
A real person is going to be religious or not.
A real person is going to like watching sports or root for the same team as you or not.
A real person is going to drive an American made car or a foreign car or none at all.
The thing about “real” people is that you can’t tell them what to be — or who or what to like — and expect them to cater to you simply because you want them to. Real people are going to be real and make their own decisions and do what they want whether you approve of it or not.
Real people don’t exist to confine themselves to other people’s expectations. They’re not content with being labeled. They have no desire to fit within a box. They don’t cave in to peer pressure. And they don’t act with the intention of pleasing everyone.
And this is far more rare than it should be — and should be of far more value and far more desirable than a person who simply likes the exact same things you like, shares your exact point of view, or is easily influenced by the social majority or the flavor of the week.
Consider this the next time someone suggests “Real people…” do or like anything.
She had blue skin.
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through,
Then passed right by –
And never knew.
[ And let me be clear, celebrating your weirdness doesn’t mean being disagreeable. It doesn’t mean completely disregarding people’s personal comfort or disrespecting individuals or customs or the environment. And it doesn’t mean allowing yourself to be totally socially inept. Quite the opposite.
Even if you don’t want to conform, it is important to conduct yourself in a way that is compatible with the society in which you find yourself.
Eccentricities can be good. And being quirky can be good. But if “being yourself” means you’re an assclown — try to be someone more agreeable. ]
From the comments:
Jackie: I’ve been told I’m weird since I was in my late 20s. I’m now 63 working on being totally myself before my birthday next month! Weird is wonderful! Weird is wild, wicked, wise, real, delightful, devilish, roguish, reliably funny, and so many other things. Why would anyone aspire to “normalcy”? How flipping boring, don’t you agree?
Zero:I do agree. I love the unique things about people that make them interesting.
Of course, not everyone’s “weirdness” is compatible with everyone else’s “weirdness”, but it’s still so much better to live life authentically than it is to pretend to be something you’re not — or be caught up in trying to be liked for things that just aren’t a part of your genuine self.
To live that way is to live a lie.
Jackie: Tried living the lie. Hated it. Decided to be me. Then learned how to be me. Scares the crap out of many folks. Makes me giggle, giddy, goofy, and best of all weird because there is no concentration on “fitting in” or being “normal.”
The power of your influence nearly always appears smaller than it actually is.
Just because people don’t always appear to register whatever message you have to share doesn’t mean you should give up sharing it.
If it’s important to you, and your goal in drawing attention to something is for the greater good, then continue to find positive ways to spread that message, regardless of who you think is getting it.
As human beings, we have done some incredibly stupid and harmful things — to each other, the planet, and other lifeforms on it — simply because everyone else was doing it (so it must be ok).
So even if your message it is backed by overwhelming evidence, if it is contrary to popular belief means it will most likely be rejected before it is accepted. In fact, a study by Cornell University found that that people are actually biased against creative ideas(and “creative” can basically apply to anything that isn’t considered standard).
So whatever cause you believe in, if it isn’t already popular, prepare for a struggle to be heard.
But also know that there are always those who are open to hearing your message, even if they don’t fully agree with it (and that’s ok), or live by it.
As long as you are not being disrespectful or advocating harm to others, those who are at least peripherally aware of your cause may eventually come to realize the value — or at least some of the value — in what you have to share.
And that’s a start.
You can’t change the entire world at once, but you can influence those you come in contact with by spreading your message in a positive way and setting a good example to follow.
But whatever you do, causing intentional harm to others should never be an option.
If your values and the content of your message ring true, they will speak more powerfully than force ever will.
Your quirks. Your interest in unusual things. The small things that bring you joy. The odd things you do because they feel right to you. The unique things that you find funny — or fascinating — these are the things about you that make you truly unique and different from others — and they are among, if not the most beautiful things about you.
It can take bravery to be yourself and exert your individuality, but the alternative — to conform — is to become less of an individual. While there is an implied comfort & safety in conformity, conformity represents the ordinary. The status quo. And it is the enemy of creativity.
It is ok to fit in, but to actively change yourself to be just like the crowd is to yield your personal power & influence to others.
There is a battle being waged — not just in the Middle East — but right here, right now.
It’s the zombie virus — it’s real — and it’s an epidemic. The “living dead” are here — but they are not the walking corpses we’ve come to expect from the movies. It’s scarier than that…
Because the infected look like everyone else — they blend in & conform. In fact, many go to great lengths to buy all the “proper” products & do all the “right” things — because they live in fear of expressing their individuality.
The zombie virus has caused these living dead to become the end product of what they’ve been told & sold and what they’ve bought & been taught — it causes them to believe in the world they’ve been fed without question.
And that would be fine — as everyone should live their lives as they truly desire — except that many carry the virus without ever realizing they’ve been infected. And as a result, they’ve become slaves to the system and an often negative way of thinking. The infected live with fear & indecision — afraid to make bold decisions or to express their individuality. Afraid to venture beyond their comfort zone.
And as a result, carriers of the virus often settle for much less than the amazing things they are capable of achieving. I know — because…
I was infected, but I’ve learned to resist the virus — and you can, too.
Without even realizing I was a carrier of the zombie virus, I started bowing to societal pressures to keep my head down and to not question authority and to ignore common sense. I started to equate my own and others’ job titles as true indicators of “importance”, “success”, or value. I started to believe that what I owned, what I wore, or what I drove was a real reflection of who I was as a person.
I almost let the infection overtake my desire to live a life less ordinary. I started thinking, “It’s too late to live the life I want — if only…” — and as a result, I almost settled.
I began to give more weight to what people thought instead of what was actually true. I started to believe that I was the labels that people gave me — good and bad. I began to think that I needed approval to do what I truly wanted.
I started showing acute signs of the virus & didn’t even know it. And much to my surprise, I contracted it at an early age.
My entire life, I’d gained esteem by trying to impress others — I considered others’ praise to be an estimation of my own self-worth and I sought it out without understanding that the only source of true self-worth & confidence doesn’t come by counting on others to give it to you — it comes from within.
I started to believe that in order to be “happy” I had to settle — because the world is full carriers of the virus who do.
Awareness is the first step in fighting the zombie virus.
Symptoms of the zombie virus (details) are highly contagious. As such, the infected are everywhere — telling you what you can’t do, convincing you to conform, and suggesting that any alternatives other than the most popular are “impossible” or “unrealistic”.
“That’s what we wanted to get across in that moment, particularly when Shaun goes to the shop when he’s all hung over. He doesn’t notice any of the zombies around him just because he never had before, so why should he at that point?” — Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead)
The infected are cynical & pessimistic. They say things like “it doesn’t get any better than this” and “why even bother?” — they may even go so far as to seek to crush your ambitions, stifle your creativity, derail your dreams. They point out the problems in every plan — they say it can’t be done instead of focusing on ways that it can.
It is almost certain that it will be a carrier of the virus that is first to put you down when you attempt to be “great”. Carriers confuse egotism with self-esteem or integrity. In the most ironic of ways, the infected will wear their “Just do it.” logos — while at the same time they tear you down for trying.
The infected see walls & obstacles instead of portals of opportunity — and in turn, they become obstacles instead of gateways along other’s paths. They spread their “facts” and their “that’s just the way it is” mentality without ever questioning their own reality.
Carriers of the virus are the first to accept the status quo and it is their belief that you should, too — else you’ll be branded as “different” or a “maverick” — as if being labeled as different is the worst thing in the world. As if thinking you are capable of something bigger & better than average in your life is a bad thing.
As if you’re supposed live your one & only precious life based on what others think or what they expect of you. As if standing up and being counted as a free thinking individual is not something that should be celebrated & encouraged.
It is not uncommon for victims of the virus to live their lives as psychological slaves — dependent on others’ approval & recognition — it is a life that is measured by comparing themselves to the crowd. They live in fear of being judged as anything other than what is expected of them. They’ve come to believe that others are responsible for their life circumstances and they are quick to say, “but my situation is different” and “but I’ve really got it rough”.
In the mind of the infected, everyone else’s life is inexplicably easier by comparison and full of “lucky breaks” and “good fortune” that are absent in their world.
The zombie virus is a maker of mediocrity — it makes you forget that you were born to be great. It convinces you that the “greatness” of Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, or Albert Einstein are unattainable exceptions to the human race instead of what they truly were, “ordinary individuals” doing extraordinary things. These people were born, grew up, and pursued their budding interest as amateurs —just like everyone else. But they persisted in their drive to refine their skills and hone their unique talents — and that, they did.
No, you are not Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, or Albert Einstein — but their unique potential was theirs — not yours. You have your own — and the only person’s unique and incredible potential you should try to live up to is yours.
Being infected makes you forget that you — yes, YOU — too, have amazing potential just waiting to be tapped into. To say that you are an incredibly unique individual is an understatement. In the whole expanse of time, there will only ever be one person exactly like you!
No matter where you are in life, you have potential that is going untapped — you are capable of achieving far more than you probably believe.
You were meant to be — and I’m appropriating this word — a “pirate”.
Like zombies, these “pirates” are also not what you would entirely expect from the movies — nor am I referring to “illegal downloaders”, either.
No. The real pirates of the world are maximizers of potential — free thinkers, capable of making bold & brave decisions and avoiding value judgements. They are capable of seizing each day sailing across an ocean of opportunities pursuing their dreams with passion.
Pirates are captains of their ship! — They take responsibility for their lives and live with purpose. Rather than float where the current takes them, they steer their vessels to where their dreams & desires lead.
When the world tells them that the Earth is flat, but offers no real proof to back it up, they set off in their ships to see for themselves. And when their fear tells them they cannot do something, they look that fear in the face and say, “Watch me!”
“People [Pirates] who soar are those who refuse to sit back, sigh and wish things would change. They neither complain of their lot nor passively dream of some distant ship coming in [Again — Pirates are captains of their own vessel]. Rather, they visualize in their minds that they are not quitters; they will not allow life’s circumstances to [the infection] push them down and hold them under.” — Unknown
Pirates are explorers & adventurers — undeterred by stormy seas because they know — “Smooth seas do not make skilled sailors.” — African Proverb. They know that “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” — William Shedd
They know that zombies resolve to do what’s quick & easy, but there are no shortcuts to success — so they resolve to be disciplined and do what is hard & necessary because it works.
Nor are they afraid to sail into the unknown, because they understand — “One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore.” — Andre Gide
I call them zombies and pirates — you might call them something else — but regardless of how they are labeled, these types of people are real.
In my world, Mark Twain was a pirate — “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Sir Cecil Beaton was a pirate — “Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play—it—safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary [zombies].“
Ralph Waldo Emerson was a pirate — “To be yourself [a pirate] in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else [of zombies] is the greatest accomplishment.”
“Here’s to the crazy ones [pirates]. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round heads 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 them, or vilify them. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race [zombies] forward. And some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people [pirates] who are crazy enough to think they can change the world [overcome the zombie virus] are the ones who do.”
This is a call to arms!
We must resist the virus and find ways to overcome it — lest it overtake us and make us zombie slaves in a world of mediocrity!
Thanks for reading. I think you’re awesome.
— Zero Dean
January 17, 2011
Since posting this a couple of days ago, I was inspired to create a website & movement around the Pirates vs Zombies idea.