That Voice in Your Head that Says You Can’t
Thus we have become conditioned to expect retribution from authority for doing anything outside of the status quo. If you do anything that is unusual or unintended, you will probably suffer for it.
Of course, there is truth to this belief. If you don’t go to college, you’ll find it more difficult to get a traditional job at a large corporation with a secure income and good benefits. On the other hand, if you freelance it for a bit, these same companies would probably be drooling over you because you didn’t go to college but did well anyway.
If you drive down the wrong side of the road, you’ll get in an accident, simply because everyone else is doing things in an accepted way. That doesn’t mean it is the best way to do things; it is simply the way everyone has agreed to do it.
Be a Wolf Among Sheep
I don’t want to promote anti-sociality, but the truth is that I like that everyone else does things one way without thinking about it.
The reason is that it lets me take advantage of the loopholes created by the massive one-way-only system. If most people didn’t follow the implicit rules, there would be no advantage to playing by your own rules or in realizing that the unspoken rules are just that, unspoken and unaccounted for. Nowhere does it say that it is illegal to skip college and start a business anyway. Society is structured to make that a difficult decision, because society likes to keep people under control and under watch, but the greatest entrepreneurs did not play by the unspoken rules. The created their own perspective, based on what they saw rather than on what they were told to see.
In fact, by many accounts, the whole point of being an entrepreneur is seeing loopholes in the system and taking advantage of them in order to create a useful, profitable service. If there were no loopholes, there would be no entrepreneurial spirit. As a case in point, look at all the countries that make it difficult to start businesses by making the unspoken rules explicit legalities. There is a reason America is the land of opportunity, and that reason is because so much is left unsaid. Nevertheless, we still do a worryingly great job of keeping ourselves in line.
Excellence is not Normal
In regards to the Warrior Spirit, excellence is by definition going against the status quo. Anyone who aspires to something greater must expect to stand out and will eventually have to start doing things by their own lights. There is no handbook for happiness, no manual for fulfillment, and certainly there is nothing out there that tells you what you need to do to be your personal best. In fact, the only universally accepted guidelines on how to live (our educational, financial and legal systems) have it in their best interests to mediocritize you and me.
Luckily, they don’t do it explicitly, but simply in the way they encourage mediocre behavior that follows the rules. All we have to do is ask ourselves, “Is this really what I want to spend my time doing? Is there a better way to do this? Do I really agree with that, or am I only going along with it because it is the accepted norm?”
If we followed all the rules, everyone would go to school, get good grades by learning how to take tests, go to a good college so they can get a safe, secure job with good benefits at a massive, faceless corporation, lock themselves into persistent debt and mortgage, and teach their children to do the same.... Certainly not the worst fate, but not what I’m after in my life.
On the other hand, consider this idea of life: work wherever you want, choose where you live (or don’t even settle down), buy only as little as you need and never incur debt, hence maintaining your freedom to explore life and spend time with friends and family. Maintain your health through peaceful, stress-free living and set your own daily schedule, based on your own idea of when you most enjoy work, play, and rest.
It sounds ridiculous, or so exceptional as to be out of reach, but it is just as easy to do as the first option. The only difference is that society pushes us to the first option, and we have to opt out of the normal system to pursue the second option. But if you put as much time into the second option as most of us put into the first, it would be easy. We spend 16+ years of our lives in school (if you go to college) learning how to be good cogs. We then spend the rest of our lives working 9-5 (or similarly arbitrary hours) making money for someone else.
If you spend a fraction of that time building an alternative path, think of what you could accomplish?
I’ve been doing just that. I opted out of several time-consuming jobs to work a less secure one that gives me time to pursue other things, like writing, travel, and community-building. I said no to the kinds of jobs most people are desperate for after college. Sometimes, you have to say no in order to get what you want.
- Most rules of behavior are unspoken: Question whether the things you think you have to do are really necessary or simply accepted norms of behavior.
- Finances, educational, and professional 'rules' are the most imposing: We tend to get most impressed by the status quo in these areas of life, and they tend to be the most restrictive in terms of freedom and opportunity.
- Most people will warn you if you try to do things differently: Not only is it generally more difficult to play by your own rules, we've been conditioned to worry about vague and unspecified repercussions. Any attempt to do things differently will trigger fear in most people. Whether this fear is legitimate is for you to decide, but you should expect it.
- Excellence is not normal: Being exceptional requires going against the status quo. The normal avenues of creating a life encourage mediocrity. The path of least resistance in life usually doesn't go anywhere interesting.