Have you ever had anyone tell you you’re crazy? If so, congratulations! If not, why not? When my friends tell me I am crazy, I know I am pushing beyond the standard norm. I know that my dream is big and makes them uncomfortable. Living boldly is not conforming. Living boldly often results in folks telling you that you are crazy.
We begin life with zero constraints on our potential. In time, we conform. Our parents tell us something that sticks with us for the rest of our lives. This is how the box we keep ourselves in begins to form. Society tells us that everyone in our race is a certain way, so almost unconsciously, we begin to conform. We grow up in a certain region that has a particular stigma, so we adopt it unknowingly. The box continues to shrink in on us and further defines our behavior. Someone told you that you were lazy once, so you became lazy. Someone tells you that you will never amount to anything, so you make sure they are correct.
Until we let go of the shackles or constraints we have allowed others and society to burden us with, our lives will be about getting along. My friends from New Zealand told me about “Tall Poppy Syndrome.” It is an aphorism that describes the cutting of the tallest poppy to ensure that no poppy stands above. For society, it results in the cutting down or criticism of someone that stands out. People who succeed are resented and made to feel guilty for having achieved success. We see this happening regularly. Someone achieves a level of success they have worked toward and made to feel guilty for having achieved it. There is a particular term in our own society that triggers this feeling for me: “Giving Back”. In our society, we talk about giving back to those less fortunate. It implies that we took something from someone in order to have it in the first place. “Give back” implies guilt. My preference is to lend a hand to pull someone up or push them along. So, a society indoctrinates the tallest poppy story into its culture, and therefore early in their lives, the children learn to resent anyone that stands out. They focus on conformity rather than striving for excellence. This phenomenon is not unique to societies. It happens every day in businesses and families. The parent is denied a promotion and laments to the family about the unfair treatment. The children learn that when they are denied something they deserve, it is someone else’s fault. The seeds of conformance are planted.
Stop allowing the constraints of others and society to control your mindset. Use the force of will to break out of conformance. Conformity is mediocrity. Here are a few ways to being to alter your mindset and stop playing it safe.
- Be audacious. I am not going to tell you that you can be anything you want to be because let’s face it, you might not be built like Michael Phelps or have the mind of Albert Einstein. But that should never keep you from dreaming big. Each of us has the capacity to accomplish great things. We write down our big dreams, then we mention it to someone we love. To our disbelief, they begin to tell us all the reasons we can’t achieve this big dream. Instead of thanking them for their feedback, and moving on, we allow it to creep into our thoughts. “Maybe they are right, who am I to think I can do that?” Before you know it, we are back to conformity and staying in our box. This leads me to my next point.
- Community beats conformity. If you get around a community of other audacious dreamers, you multiply your chances of success 10-fold. I am not talking about your current community of family and friends. You love them, but it is highly likely they are all about conformity and staying in the box. You will want to seek out a group that will encourage you, mentor you, and inspire you to stay the course. If necessary, you should plan to pay to join such a community. They are out there. I am a part of two of these communities so that when my will to push forward begins to wane, I can tap into the energy and inertia of the group in order to press on. Pursuing your dream can be a lonely journey, so make certain to join groups that will keep you company along the way.
- Set goals. A goal is not a goal if it is not written down. When you write down your goals, it is important that you get very clear on why that goal is important to you. The why is the motivation and inspiration to stick with it when times get tough, and times will get tough. Your goals should also identify a timeframe. The when helps you lay out the steps in between writing down your goals and accomplishing them. Your goals should scare you and inspire you. Remember that to the best of our knowledge, we only get one chance at this life. Play it full out and you will have far fewer regrets when it is all said and done.
- Study and emulate boldness. Who in your space do you admire? What do you admire about them? Don’t hesitate to emulate others because it can be the fastest way to progress. If someone has been there and done that, it would be foolish to not look to do what they have done. If you are unable to understand or observe what they have done or how they did it, ask them! There is no shame in asking them to share their story. If you ask and receive a no, at least you were bold in the ask. There are so many books available and an endless treasure trove of articles and videos on the web. Seek out the wisdom you need to take yourself to the next level. It is also worth noting that there is always another level. We never “arrive” and nor should we ever desire to.
- Seek clarity of purpose. Don’t be bold and audacious for the safe of being bold and audacious because that is just annoying. The clearer we are about our vision of a life well lived, the better our chances of avoiding conformity. We won’t accept status quo when we are passionate about our life. The best strategy I know for achieving greater clarity is to invest time in meditation and journaling. Shut out the rest of the world and all the noise so that your mind can work its magic. This is a skill and, in the beginning, can feel like a big waste of time. We are so used to being entertained and consuming information that silence is deafening. The idea of sitting in silence for thirty minutes seems like a waste, but it can change your life. In car racing, the drivers talk about slowing down to go fast. This means they slow their entry into a turn, allowing them to more efficiently roll through the turn. They are effectively slowing down to speed up. This is how meditation and journaling work. You take time (slow down), to ponder a topic such as your future or you just think of nothing except your breath. There is no better strategy for getting clear on your desired future.
Conformity is the path of least resistance. It is allowing life to happen to us instead of directing life in a way we desire. Conformity is the preference of governments and the media. Conformity allows us to blame others for our circumstances and abdicate responsibility. Conformity is weak in every way, shape, and form. My hope for all of us is that we are audacious with our goals and bold in their pursuit. The next time you are describing your big dreams to a friend and they tell you that you are crazy, I hope you smile and accept it as a sign that you are on the right path. Be bold and be audacious in your dreams. It’s your choice.