Common: Accepting the beliefs and behaviors embedded in the status quo as accurate “best,” “right,” and unchangeable.
Uncommon: There is immense value in being able to think and act independently in a world of conformity and convention – in fact, all innovation and novelty depend on it. It can be challenging to free ourselves from the explicit and implicit forces that keep our brain in the box, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Not surprisingly though, I am frequently asked, “How do I think and act independently when I am bombarded by constant influences and pressures to conform and/or think in a certain way?” This is an excellent question.
But first, you may be wondering how I view “conformity” in this context. More accurately, I mean social conformity: adhering to a set of very broadly cast beliefs, rules, and habits. And “convention” follows suit: “a set of agreed, stipulated, or generally accepted standards and norms.”
Both serve very important roles in society at times, but the danger lies in the uncanny correlation each has with complacency. Nature’s default setting is the path of least resistance, so just like visiting the gym, it takes an ongoing effort to maintain a creative and original edge in life.
Common:Feeling stuck or disadvantaged due to a supposed lack of resources.
Uncommon:Starting a successful company is a rush. But let’s first address a common myth about this frenzied process: Most thriving companies did not become successful as a result of ideal circumstances and abundant resources. Yet on some level, many of us believe they somehow had an upper-hand.
The reality is, very, very few businesses have everything they need from inception to build an admirable empire. What then, enables some businesses to prosper while others do not?
Answer: Resourcefulness. Successful start-up businesses run lean and make calculated decisions to maximize the return on their limited assets.
“But I don’t own a business and don’t plan to?” Fair enough. But don’t shut the door. Why? Founding a company in this instance is merely a parallel to something more important: your “personal business.” It is interesting to see how most people draw distinctively different lines between business and their private lifestyle. Personally, I see many striking similarities.
Common: Having your position or skill-set jeopardized by competition.
Uncommon: It has been said that only the strong survive. This may be most accurate in the animal kingdom, but in the emerging urban environment it is less about “survival of the fittest” and more so “survival of the smartest.” We have shifted from an era of physical power to one largely guided by brain power.
No, this is not a Darwinist dilemma that leads to extinction (at least not yet), but perhaps worse, a quandary leading to a slow, unfulfilling, but tolerable existence. There are few feelings worse than sensing you are “expendable” and fearing an impending doom (in this case, job loss).
In a world of technological convergence and merging borders it is becoming more and more important to differentiate yourself and bring something unique to the table. And let’s face it; these current times are also straining businesses and bosses. When push comes to shove, companies value financial savings as a very high priority. In other words, if a business can save money, they won’t worry about saving what they view as expendable.