June 10, 2019, by John
Here’s to the misfits
I’ve never felt as if I’ve truly fitted anywhere. This is not because I haven’t tried hard enough. I remember being a young 7-year-old in primary school trying to fit in with the ‘cool kids’. Whilst other students were having their lessons, I ran out to play at the fitness corner. I still remember one of my friends shouting through the window, ‘Teacher, teacher, why is John able to play outside?’
Later that evening, I was hauled to the front of the school on the stage. There, I was given a good scolding by the discipline master.
Today, maybe you have felt that you don’t really fit in anywhere. You walk into a lecture theatre, look around, and think… well I don’t know where to sit because I don’t have any friends here. Or you walk into a new society you’ve joined and struggle to make conversation. It feels too forced.
Or maybe you do fit somewhere. You do many things with your friends. You go out with them. You laugh with them. But perhaps deep down, there is that nagging unease that actually, you’re giving up a lot to be ‘like the cool kids’.
3 years of living in a country where I don’t look the same, sound the same, or think the same has taught me some lessons.
Firstly, accept the fact that you never will fit in.
You are unique. You are one of a kind. You are you. There’s no hiding the fact that you are different… so why do you want to be the same? Embrace ‘you’, and recognise that no one else can be as special as you are. Today, write a love letter to yourself with the following title: What is worth celebrating about myself? What are the qualities you admire about yourself? How do you exhibit those qualities? Here’s an example:
Dear John, I love you because you are so deeply compassionate. Even though you were busy, you still freely gave your time to mentor others…
Secondly, stop comparing.
Start living your life, your way. Today, it is so much easier to compare our lives with the creatively curated lives people have on social media. It is so easy to start comparing your life with the fancy internship your friend has got in London. After 12 years of comparisons in school, where I was given my class ranking, my school ranking, the highest and median marks; is this: When you compare, the only loser is you. When you start defining your success based on what others do, you start making yourself miserable. I love this quote from Lily Tomlin, which says,
‘The trouble with the rat race is, even if you win, you are still a rat.’
So if you want to stop comparing, start by defining success. What does success look like for you? Daniel Wong (2012) recommends this method in his book ‘The Happy Student’. Since using this method, it has allowed me to focus on the process, rather than the result. Notice that this is focused on what you do, rather than what you get. This means that success can be achieve everyday if you live according to your definition of success. For me,
Success is connecting humbly, loving gently, and daring greatly.
This means that even if I didn’t get an offer from my job application, I dared to try. And that is success to me.
Lastly, just do your own thing.
I have a friend who’s a businessman. He gave up university to develop his businesses. Whenever I ask him what he’s doing, he simply says, ‘I just do my own thing.’
Over my 3 years here, I’ve learnt the importance of simply doing my own thing. Not doing the things that society thinks is worthy, such as getting a job and getting lots of money. Nor doing the things that would make my parents happy, such as getting a girlfriend.
I’ve just done the things that I’ve needed to do. So often, we do what is easy, rather than what is necessary. We do what is easy, rather than what is necessary.
What is necessary for you to do? What gives you that deep sense of excitement whenever you do it? How can I explain it to you? Let me try.
I have always loved public speaking. This year, I started being serious about becoming professional at public speaking. I hired a speech coach. 1 month later, I was paid to give a speech at a conference. Before reaching the conference, I walked with a spring in my step. I grinned to myself: I never thought I could earn money doing something I love!
Maybe you don’t know what ‘your thing’ is. But you can find out! You find things out by doing, and then getting it wrong. Finding ‘your thing’ is an iterative process.
You don’t get it right by sitting and scrolling through your social media feeds, and slacking in your sofa. You get it by going with your gut, sticking with it when it get tough, and pushing through what stops you.
Try reading ‘What Color is Your Parachute’ (Richard Bolles) to find out more about yourself. Go with a vague (it doesn’t need to be certain!) feel of what you love. Keep trying it. Fail. Readjust. Try again.
Trust me, this is not easy. To finally get paid for my first speech had required 8 years of practice. It’s not fun to be laughed at when you stand up to speak. It’s not fun to have people picking on your E-NUN-CI-A-TION as you speak. It’s not fun to have people think you are a little crazy.
“Here’s to the crazy ones.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things. They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Rob Stilanen, for Apple’s 1997 ‘Think Different’ Campaign
Reading this can make you inspired. But if you are not willing to take the steps to find yourself in this journey, to be wholeheartedly ‘you’, and to embrace yourself…we will just be another square peg in a square hole. Another product rolled off the university factory line.
Is that who you need to be?