Following the rules is no longer sufficient to succeed. The generally accepted theory or belief that applies to almost everything we do can’t guarantee the life you seek and expect.
Instead of being encouraged to think for ourselves and discern what works for us and become individuals free to express our own unique brilliance in the world, we are largely punished for ‘breaking the mold’ and becoming our own person. The system rewards those who follow the rules.
But make no mistake, outliers rule the world.
Those who dare to improve things even when they are not broken. Those who change a system, a pattern, an approach, a belief, and seek new ways to get things done better, faster or simpler.
According to George Bernard Shaw, “The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”
You always have a choice to follow instructions or create new ones
A choice to disobey conventional wisdom and forge your own path.
Raymond E. Feist says “Never accept the proposition that just because a solution satisfies a problem, that it must be the only solution.”
It takes a major cognitive shift to understand that the way things are, and have been, can be challenged. Straying from the norm isn’t easy, especially when you’ve been following instructions all your life.
When you break away from the crowd, people start to notice and think you’re crazy or even mad to make a choice like that. Serial innovators go through this all the time. Nobody gets them. But they do it anyway. They follow their curiosity. By pushing yourself into new areas that of interest to you, you will have a chance to authentically define who you are, and break free of the limitations of what others think you should be.
People thought Elon Musk was crazy when he proposed Mars invasion and settlement. But he is pursuing his vision anyway. Reusable rockets were impossible. But Musk has defied logic and made history.
Elon Musk challenged some of the biggest legacy brands in the world when he created Tesla. He disrupted the standard model of selling cars and challenged the notion that American auto manufacturing was on its way out.
Kevin Kelly said “Over the long term, the future is decided by optimists”
To increase your odds of success in everything you do, you have to constantly defend your decision from people not gutsy enough to swim against the current — even though the evidence in front of them suggests they should give it a go. But after a while, the negative reactions die down. People will begin to observe and wait for the outcome of your “weird” choice.
Walter Isaacson once said, “When the conventional wisdom of physics seemed to conflict with an elegant theory of his, Einstein was inclined to question that wisdom rather than his theory, often to have his stubbornness rewarded.”
Most people want you to fail to prove that conventional wisdom is always right. A few will get curious and start asking the right questions at some point. But something else more powerful happens as you progress — It’s the realization that conventional wisdom is not always right and can be challenged if you have something to prove.
Permission is overrated
Fewer people actually do things. The great thing about doing things is that, for most of them, you don’t need anyone’s permission. Of course, there are some exceptions. If you want to take out someone’s appendix, for example, you need to be a surgeon, and there’s a path for that.
But you can do most other things without asking anyone. Write a book. Write a song. Start a YouTube channel. Make art. Start a business. Help someone who needs it. Start a podcast.
You don’t need permission to be and embrace who you are. And you definitely don’t need to apologize for the path you choose to pursue your life’s work, especially if you strongly believe that the path you have chosen is the best shot at creating something meaningful to you. Nobody can make you go back to conventional wisdom. Our hearts crave connection to a meaningful calling. Choose to follow it.
In the book, First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, Marcus Buckingham said “The world you see is seen by you alone. What entices you and what repels you, what strengthens you and what weakens you, is part of a pattern that no one else shares. Therefore, as Mr. Wilde said, no two people can perceive the same “truth,” because each person’s perspective is different.”
If you are anxious to change the world, create your amazing work, make an impact, ship your product, or follow your curiosity, you have to be willing to go against the status quo.
When you decide to fully commit to your gut and turn a calling into your own beautiful contribution to the world, conventional wisdom will stand in your way. If you have ever entertained the idea that you were born to do something significant, conventional wisdom will be your enemy.
Obey your gut!
It takes courage to challenge the ideas and practices that make us successful. But in a world that moves and changes so fast, holding on to conventional wisdom is no more the best option.
Mark Twain says “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
No matter how noisy the world gets, no matter how busy you become, there would always be something inside you — a small voice that whispers in the quieter moments of life, taunting you with the shadow of the unlived life. If you listen hard enough, you can still hear it. When you decide to follow it, you will be fighting against conventional wisdom.
When you make a decision to go against what society expects of you, and trust your gut, you will be choosing an uncomfortable and even painful journey that will be worth your while. The burden will be so enormous that you will have three options every step of the way: give up, give in or give it all you’ve got. Choose the latter.
Going against the current is tough. When you start doing something different, you’re pointing out where other people are going wrong — so they may get angry and defend why they do what they do. But it pays to obey your gut if you have the grit to finish what you start.
So, starting now, listen to that little nagging bit of doubt in your head about some piece of conventional wisdom that you’ve always secretly questioned. Try the exact opposite and see what happens?
When was the last time you questioned the default or tried to improve it?
What could you do? Who could you be? Why are you waiting?
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This article first appeared on Medium.