In the 1980s, the term “nerd” was a bullying insult. Today, it’s a badge of honor to be called a nerd. Misfit is currently a term that carries negative connotations. Misfit is defined as “a person whose behavior or attitude sets them apart from others in an uncomfortably conspicuous way,” or “something that does not fit or that fits badly.” Fits badly into what exactly? Typically, it means fits badly into what the vast majority would deem “normal” in society.
Adam Grant’s book Originals delves into how non-conformists are the ones responsible for changing the world. A non-conformist is defined as “a person whose behavior or views do not conform to prevailing ideas or practices.” Not far off from a misfit really, but a book about how misfits are responsible for changing the world may not be as appetizing. Although the world may not be ready to embrace the term misfit, it’s the people who dare to think differently, to live differently, that prefer carving new paths instead of walking on well-trodden ground. Misfits care more about living differently than they do about what people think about their choice to do so.
To be objective requires examining what’s happening more than who’s doing it. For example, it’s easy to say that a teenager is “lazy” because they spend all their free-time with their heads buried in their phones. However, once we know what’s happening, we must then begin examining the why behind the what. Is the teen lazy or is the teen’s effort lazy? Why is the effort lazy? There’s crucial data in the latter question. Humans are motivated by purpose. If adults don’t create an understanding of why effort is important, if we don’t help our youth understand the greater transferable skill of why effort is important in creating both value and worth, then we must examine why we’ve allowed our efforts to become lazy.
If we throw in the towel because we feel it is too difficult, or convince ourselves it is futile, then we are simply projecting laziness onto others as a way of not examining the why behind our own actions. As adults, it’s our duty to know better, but it’s equally important to make sure we’re doing better. Doing better matters because it models why effort is important in the first place. It gives effort meaning. Effort is not easy. Effort is defined as “a vigorous or determined attempt, a strenuous physical or mental exertion and the result of an attempt.” Labeling someone else as “lazy” is simply a lack of effort on our behalf to examine why one might choose to prioritize idleness over productivity. Where did they learn how to do that? What efforts of ours did they experience that may be responsible for helping them determine how much effort they feel they are worth?
Rumpo, rumpere, rupi and ruptus are Latin words and roots meaning to break, as in “interruption” or “disruptive.” We likely assume these words to have negative connotations based on how we commonly heard these words growing up. Parents frequently tell children how rude it is to interrupt others, and teachers frequently tell students not to be disruptive in their classrooms. However, both are essential in regards to driving change and innovation.
Challenging what’s “normal” is how change is facilitated. Normal is comfortable because it doesn’t mess with our expectations. Normal is predictable and in that predictability lies the comfort of knowing what to expect. Most people aren’t bothered by things when everything goes according to plan; when everything is normal. Normal is often confused with “good.” If everything is normal then things must be good. The people we tend to admire most in our personal lives and in society are not the people who accept normal as being a good thing. They see normal as not enough. They aim to break the bonds of normal in order to search for what it means to be better.
The trick here is feeling worthiness that we are enough, whilst also desiring to push ourselves beyond into something more. Life is good. It’s a simple motto and it’s true. However, what’s also true is what makes it good is knowing that all life is fleeting. Self-improvement is not about proving our worth, it’s about improving our worth. Improvement for the sake of being disruptive to what we define as normal or comfortable.
Innovators, elite athletes, virtuoso musicians and creative geniuses are disruptive by nature because they don’t seek comfort. They aim to apply pressure to the boundaries of expectation and possibility. Even those that seek enlightenment. They too know that there is no known limit to enlightenment. They are disruptive in their pursuit of expanding their understanding of what it means to be enlightened. May we all interrupt our regularly scheduled programming today and aim to be disruptive!
As a preschooler, my daughter had a picture book by Mo Willems called Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. It’s a sweet, funny and clever book that captures the endearing side of a preschoolers temper tantrums. The takeaway as an adult though is equally funny as it is profound. Don’t get fixated on what others want from you and allow that to drive your decision-making. More importantly, don’t fixate on what your ego attempts to validate as rational choices based on the immediate irrational demands of others that only serve to validate their behaviors and choices.
Pigeons occupy cities in great numbers. They are everywhere, pecking about and scavenging for food. Their actions are selfish. Their actions are for their own survival. They don’t care about us. Feeding a pigeon may put a smile on your face, but rest assured, that it’s a non-reciprocal relationship. To keep with metaphors of the winged, comedian Mitch Hedberg has a brilliant joke, “I find that ducks’ opinions of me are very much influenced over whether or not I have bread.” There’s sound philosophy in that statement.
Our paths are all unique. When searching for the right path, the path paved by reasoned choice and a non-egoic existence, our decisions simply won’t make sense to a vast majority of others. The world is filled with pigeons and ducks. Don’t let the pigeons drive the bus, and don’t seek to be loved by ducks when you are not carrying bread. Neither will serve to get you where you want to go, nor feed you along the way.
Core is defined as either the tough central part of various fruits, containing the seeds or the central or most important part of something. If we view our minds as our cores, containing the seeds (the choices) that drive us, aiming to strengthen our minds is then essential to achieving stability. It simplifies every daily to-do list. Of all the things we “need” to accomplish today, of all the things that occupy space in today’s calendar of events, meetings, and errands, how many blocks have we devoted to developing our minds?
The expression “haste makes waste” means doing something too quickly causes mistakes that result in time, effort and resources being wasted. The same can be said for how we choose to spend our days. It’s amazing how quickly the nights go when we get home from work and just sit on the couch watching TV. Idle hours pass fast! The cost of “relaxation” is expensive. We’ve wasted our most valuable resource: time! We don’t get to purchase, bargain, beg, steal or borrow more time. The more we choose to be productive with our waking hours, the more we get out of our days, and the longer the days feel.
Inevitably, a good deal of the hours we have each day are predetermined for working and obligation. If we spend our free time choosing only to “recover” from the energy spent on obligation, fulfillment will always be out of reach. When we put effort, even small effort, into choosing to make our bodies, minds and relationships stronger, our days are extended by the experiences we create for ourselves. Hospitals are filled with people forced to be still, and what is the most common wish? To get better so they can get back to doing. They don’t wish to be better to go home and be idle. They wish to have the time to be active. Being present and in the moment cheats time because the present is always, while the past is gone and the future is uncertain.
There’s a “Chicken and the Egg” scenario that seems to occur in people with therapeutic training. Part of being an insightful therapist is being perceptive, but that’s putting it kindly. What it really means is that good therapists have strong BS meters. They can sense bullshit, call others out on it, and do so with compassion and empathy. So the question is: Do therapists learn to develop good BS meters in training, or do they innately have good BS meters that draws them to the profession in the first place?
Perhaps the greatest flaw for those with strong BS meters is being unable to get whiff of our own BS. This seems to be one of the most profound human user errors; being able to see the errors in others, but not ourselves. Our good friend, the Ego, is responsible for this. The Ego is roof and umbrella, constantly sheltering us from our own BS. Ironically, the more sophisticated the BS meter palate, the more it’s seemingly unaware when focused on the self. The fools we suffer most end up being ourselves. Like any other conundrums, awareness is the first step in finding a solution. Focusing our BS meters inward towards the choices we control and accepting that’s where the primary problem lives.
Inquiry is the birthplace of any progress. As Einstein beautifully stated: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” This is why therapy exists for most; to help us see our problems from different angles. Good therapists simply know how to ask the right questions to help us discover new levels of consciousness in ourselves. To wake the ability to see and think beyond our egos. Some people are fortunate enough to have minds gifted enough to do this through self-inquiry alone. Others may have strong enough trusting relationships with family, friends and/or loved ones to help them grow. There is no right way, but there is a wrong way. To choose not to do anything to help ourselves grow to be better people.