I believe that humans are aspirational creatures. Deep down, we hope that in some way, we will be extraordinary. We want to believe that we will make our own positive little (or big!) dent in the world. It helps to give life meaning and purpose.
The thing is, the path to being extraordinary involves being different.
You need to do something, believe something, or simply be something that is not ordinary.
This isn’t always easy. In fact, most of the time, it is fucking difficult.
It requires that we step away from what most people do, and walk our own path. And when we do so, others may look at us as if we are strange. At the worst, they will laugh, snicker at, or bully us because hey, who are we to be different?
On my transition from academia to entrepreneurship.
Recently, I have been reflecting a lot on my transition from academia to entrepreneurship. It was definitely a large transition; especially because most of my friends don’t understand and/or appreciate the startup world.
The weird thing is that although some people laughed at me and discouraged me, I realized that internally, the change was actually pretty easy.
I’ve thought about it a lot, and I think I know why.
I have always just been different.
I don’t mean being different in a good way. For example, I’ve always been more athletic than most. Luckily for me, being athletic is a big advantage as a kid.
I mean being different in a bad (or potentially bad) way.
Here are three examples:
- I used to stutter badly as a kid. Stuttering is not a cool thing. It gives people a really quick way to make fun of you. And what are you going to do in response? Begin speaking and stutter more? These days, I’ve learned to handle it pretty well, but as a child, it was an uncontrollable disadvantage in life.
- I can’t function in the morning. I’ve always been this way. Waking up early in high school sucked. In college, I rarely made morning classes. At work, I would occasionally sleep through morning meetings. And when I made them, my brain was slow. In the early mornings, I am always groggy and cold. Come midnight, my body is warm and I have energy. I am convinced I have delayed phase sleep syndrome, a case where your circadian rhythm is shifted from normal.
- I am more positive and laid back than most. My theory is that I just have a different world outlook than most. In my mind, we are here to live as well as we can in our time on this pale blue dot. I just don’t care about as many details as many others seem to. I’m here to have a good life. That shit you consider a problem? Yeah, its not such a big problem. Many friends who know me well just write it off that I am “well, just being Alex”. This isn’t necessarily bad, but somehow it occasionally gets twisted around to be bad in social situations. My usual reaction? I don’t really care. Why? It just doesn’t matter that much.
These are three cases (and I’m sure there are more) where I am naturally different than most people. Each of them can be a mild or huge disadvantage. It means that I will be occasionally picked out of the crowd because I am weird. It means that I can’t function on the same schedule as many in the corporate world.
I never could fully fit in with everyone, because I’m different than them. At first, it used to bug me. But over time, I’ve learned to accept and embrace the differences.
I am just different, and there is really no other way to handle it but be me.
A gift in disguise.
Being different, accepting it, and living with it has turned out to be a great gift.
Why? Once I’ve learned to live with it, being different isn’t scary any more. It doesn’t require any courage. It doesn’t bother me.*
Being different is my normal.
It lets me do things that others don’t. When I want to try something new, or be something new, I can just do it. I may be different, and others may notice it; they may even comment on it, or laugh at it, but who cares? Being different is fine by me.
In reality, we are all different, whether it be race, class, social status, sexual orientation, personality, looks, personal hobbies/interests, whatever.
The big difference is how we choose to deal with these things. And I say “choose”, because it is a choice. We can either deny ourselves, try to conform, and make ourselves miserable. Or, we can accept it, learn to live with it, and as a consequence, learn how to be different.
Choose the latter. Learn to be different, and learn to embrace it.
Make different the new normal. Therein lies an incredible source of power.
* Unless I’m cranky because I woke up early that day. Then all bets are off.
P.S. This is post number #22 in a 100 day blogging challenge. See you tomorrow!
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