What does it mean to be an original?
This is what I have been pondering lately thanks to my new audio-book “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.” I can’t help but wonder: In business and in life, how do we stop following the crowd and start thinking for ourselves? Why do we always take the easy road and avoid risk and independent thinking?
Well, because it’s scary. And we hate rejection.
So we stay safe inside our cave that someone else carved out for us. But we forget something important when we do this. We become the sheep. We follow the herd. We lose our originality and our independent thought even though that is exactly what we all crave: the deepest truest expression of ourselves.
Now I want you to ask yourself a few questions. And be honest. No one is judging you.
- Do you want to sell multi-level marketing products or do you want to create them?
- Do you want to be a teacher or do you want to build a unique school that fills in the gaps in our current school system?
- Are you the kind of person that SHARES regurgitated posts on Facebook or CREATES unique content?
- Do you want to fit in or stand out?
- Do you have unique thoughts or do you just vouch for others ideas?
If you find yourself with the same political ideas as your parents, sharing posts on Facebook that are not uniquely your own, browsing magazines for the latest fashion styles, keeping quiet in a staff meeting because you are afraid your idea won’t be accepted, or selling a product that you didn’t create… well, let me say this nicely, you aren’t original. Not even close.
Because let’s face the facts. If you want to be an individual you have to get used to NOT being liked. You also have to get used to taking risks. Remember, the sheep are liked by the herd. The individuals are disliked. Even rejected. New ideas and new thoughts are always scary, challenged, and rarely accepted at first. There is a large research study that shows we don’t like something until we hear it at least 5 times. So new ideas aren’t popular. If you want to be a true individual, your first step is to develop the originality within yourself by giving up the desire to be accepted by others. Because if you want to be “popular” you will never be a pioneer. You will never be an original. Originals, by nature, stand out from the crowd. They go against conformity. So start loving yourself and stop looking for approval elsewhere. This doesn’t mean you will be hated, but it does mean that you can stand it if you are. (Of course there are ways to present new ideas so they have a greater chance of being accepted, but that is a conversation for another time.)
Well, did you know that original thinkers tend to be last born children? Look at the best most unique comics of our time. Take, for example, Chelsea Handler or Stephen Colbert. They are the youngsters in their families. In fact, you are 85% more likely to be a comedian if you are a last born child than a 1st born child. First born children are rarely independent thinkers. Why is that? Because their parents were harder on them and more rigid in their rules while raising them. They basically unknowingly squash their unique ideas. I remember telling my dad once that I wanted to own a horse stables or I wanted to be an actress. He quickly squashed that dream. “That’s not responsible” he said. “It’s much better if you become something practical like an engineer.” So I went to college as a chemical engineer and lasted exactly 3 months. Why? Because it wasn’t me. I rebelled. I changed schools a dozen times eventually graduating with a business degree that was mostly meaningless. I am a creative that has been molded my entire life to be unoriginal. My hobbies were drama club and speech and debate. I loved drawing. I hated team sports and spent most of my free time riding my horses or reading books. Yet I was pushed into a “safe” career that I am sure I would have hated. And it wasn’t just my parents. I certainly don’t blame them. It was also my community. The school I went to. The subjects I was taught. The rigid and single-minded educational system that I went through. There was very little thought into fostering individual creativity. I bounced around my 20’s not knowing WTF I wanted to do with my life. And sadly, I still don’t. I’ve had several different jobs. Right now I am a nurse. It’s a job. Maybe one day I will find a way to use my love for public speaking, helping others and writing in a way that actually makes money. But until then, I will foster my originality in other ways.
So how do I stack up to my own criticisms? I’m certainly not immune to them. I am a 1st born child. I have plenty of MLM products. I also have a traditional job. I let go of what everyone thinks of me which is one of the most freeing things I have done for myself. I despise regurgitated content on Facebook and I am working to find my own voice and originality. Those that know me would say I already have. I am definitely an individual but I think I hold back on my ideas for fear of failure. I tend to want to stay inside my comfort zone and I’m working on this.
I am also working to encourage my daughter Penelope to be her own person. I am trying to offer reasonable discipline without breaking her spirit. It’s a challenging job. My goals as a parent are to foster her unique qualities instead of trying to make her conform to be like everyone else. I have no idea if I will be successful with this (ask me again in 20 years).
How about you? How are you going to foster your uniqueness?