Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. ~Mark Twain
Kamp Kiawah campers just arrived at the beach—twelve mostly happy, mostly engaged seven-year(ish) olds. These kids have a blast for the most part—and it’s a nice break for their parents (probably golfing, or shopping, or spa-ing somewhere around the island). Yet, it seems there is always one kid hanging ten feet away from the group, in his own world perhaps. Is he the “bad” kid? Or is he the Steve Jobs of the group: bored with their games, busy inventing games of his own? (See Dean Bob Bruner’s blog post on Jobs’ legacy.) The others kids seem to be having a great time, jumping and playing and following the counselor’s lead. If I look closely, I think they are actually playing “follow-the-leader.” The rules of the game make it fun for everyone and prevent mayhem. Conformity works. Playgrounds, schools, jobs, interviews.
One who walks in another’s tracks leaves no footprints. ~Proverb
As I watch the kids play, I can’t help but be drawn to the one kid off to himself. As you can see, I’m too far away to actually hear him or even see what he’s doing, but I’m drawn to imagine what’s going on in his mind and think about what we can learn from him. Is he imagining another game? Is he happy? What are the others thinking about him? Does he care? By not conforming, is he causing havoc, or creating the possibility of something new happening at Kamp Kiawah today? The world is full of the “Steve Jobs-type” kids—who, as adults, didn’t conform with the rest of the world yet changed the world in a significantly positive way: Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, James Joyce to name a few. Nonconformity works, too.
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. ~Dr. Seuss
In today’s world if you aren’t comfortable leading change, then you will be the one left out. Throughout my career I’d like to think I’ve pushed the limits of conformity. I’ve been the champion of change in nearly every role I’ve undertaken. In general I like to challenge the rules and the status quo. Most times it has worked for me; sometimes not so much.
Most importantly, those times that I have sat on the sidelines, and not challenged the status quo, are the times I’ve been the unhappiest, the least satisfied in my career. Now I urge those around me, and I urge you: be a champion of change, challenge the status quo, lead even when know one will play with you. The price of NOT is too high, at least for me.
Not all those who wander are lost. ~J.R.R. Tolkien