It’s happened more times than I can count. I’m on the aux, absolutely killing it per usual. I like to mix early 2000s pop and rap with a little classic and punk rock. It’s a time-tested, winning formula. But then… Rockstar by Nickelback comes on. I’m pumped. This is one of my favorite songs!
But inevitably, people start complaining. Nickelback? Gross. Next, please!
It’s an all too familiar scene and one that eerily mirrors the problem with society today.
We’re all too comfortable being conformists.
Have you ever took the time to truly listen to a Nickelback song with non-prejudiced ears? It’s great stuff, really!
But no, folks blindly hate Nickelback because they want to be like everyone else.
But that’s not the main point here, some people may genuinely dislike Nickelback for legitimate reasons, and that’s fine. I firmly believe that we’re all entitled to our own opinions.
The point is that too often in today’s society people blindly follow the crowd.
In history how often has it worked out well to follow the crowd? Let’s take a look.
Not much longer than 150 years ago WE OWNED OTHER PEOPLE. Yes, sounds a little more recent when put into this context. It was completely normal to own, buy, and sell slaves up until 1865 when finally, some realized, maybe it’s a little immoral/unethical to own another human being as property.
Need a more recent example?
How about the worst recession since the great depression? The 2008 Financial Crisis was spurred by those in the mortgage origination and securitization process turning a blind eye to the obvious risks of selling homes to buyers with poor credit scores as well as packaging these mortgages into securities which were passed off as stable investments, eventually leading to the U.S. economy’s demise. (Yes I watched The Big Short, yes it may have taught me more than my Finance degree.)
Most of the greatest crimes against humanity in history came at the hands of a leader who was able to leverage conformity around a specific cause.
May of 1940, the first Jews arrive in Nazi concentration camps. By May of 1945 when the Allies accepted Germany’s unconditional surrender, over 6 million Jews had been murdered. Around two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe. This happened at the hands of Adolf Hitler in a democratic country where he was ELECTED. By conjuring up fear and anger, Hitler was able to come to power and propagate the German people into conforming to his wills and demands.
But enough of these depressing history lessons. There are plenty of non-conformists who paved and are paving new roads for humanity.
Martin Luther, an ordained Roman Catholic Priest, started the Lutheran Church in 1517 as a result of his conviction that salvation and eternal life are not earned by good deeds but are received only as the free gift of God’s grace through belief in Jesus Christ. This formation went on to be the catalyst for the start of the Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist churches, among others.
The Beatles encouraged us to open up our minds and think beyond the traditional views of society with their music. They taught young people to start asking questions and to stand up for themselves.
Steve Jobs famously built Apple from his garage with Steve Wozniak after dropping out of college. When he showed people the Apple Computer which was nothing more than a circuit board with a chip on it, a TV set, a cassette tape deck, and a keyboard they thought he was crazy. He built Apple up to what it is today living his mantra, “Think Different.”
In the present day, Elon Musk continues the innovator’s journey. He boldly and unapologetically ventures into the unknown pushing the boundary of what is possible letting his ideas spur from his originality.
Heck, if our very own Founding Fathers wouldn’t have adopted a non-conformist attitude we may very well still be under British rule!
The one thing all these individuals have in common is the never-ceasing drive to be different and to push themselves to contribute something meaningful to the world.
What I want to highlight here is that we can’t be led by emotions like fear and anger. These are emotions that were relevant to our survival in more trying times of human history when life or death scenarios occurred every day, but now that we live in a mostly stable environment we can’t use these emotions in the same way.
I often talk about the “Lizard Brain” or the Amygdala which is largely responsible for emotional response. It can make us do things we know are harmful such as promote negativity and wish for or actively pursue the demise of others around us.
So why is it so easy to get pulled into negativity and why is it so rare for individuals in today’s age to maintain a positive outlook?
It has to do with the fact that being positive, upbeat, and encouraging puts you in the minority! It’s so easy to be negative in today’s world whether it be about big or small things. To conform is to complain, to be unsatisfied. To resist conformity is to do what makes you happy regardless of other’s opinions, to maintain a positive outlook and attitude knowing that it will attract positivity back to you.
It also has a lot to do with the fact that we are always connected, making resisting conformity even harder! If you’re like most people you are on your phone periodically throughout the entire day, in addition to this you probably use a computer personally and/or professionally, and you watch tv at the beginning and/or end of the day. Recent studies have shown that Americans watch on average 4 hours of tv a day!
A.N. Turner said it best in Breaking the Feedback Loop: “New digital media collapses space and time allowing us to ward off insecurities by remaining in a constant state of communication.”
What makes our digital devices so addictive? It comes back to our emotions again and our Lizard Brain! TV shows and especially the news make us feel that we’re missing out if we don’t keep up, or they keep us engaged by conjuring up anger or anxiety (through telling us what’s wrong with the world and ourselves or telling us what we’re missing subtly or directly.)
If all we ever do is listen to what other voices and the outside world are telling us, we will never be able to explore and find ourselves, and therefore will never unleash our power to be creative and to innovate!
Social media sites on our phone, like Facebook, are designed to keep you online for as long as possible and use your emotions like anger and fear to make you stay on longer.
You know the feeling of seeing someone’s post on social media that just angers you. It makes you read more and stay on longer as a result, even though this seems paradoxical! It all comes back to basic human emotions.
This is a big part of why Facebook loves politically charged content.
At the core of all this is the very nature of how advertising online works through these platforms.
Social media, news, and similar outlets make you feel insecure by conjuring up emotions like jealousy and fear (FOMO) and then try to sell you a fix to that insecurity in the form of an ad. Feeling like you don’t get to travel as much as your friend? Buy this trip to Mexico! Feeling like you’re not as attractive as your cousin? Buy this new clothing item!
Now more than ever we are always connected unless we decidedly make it a point not to be.
Now more than ever it’s so important that we take breaks from our digital media.
In an effort to limit and control my own personal consumption, I try to make it a point to abstain from all forms of social media every Sunday.
Ultimately what we must do to combat our hindrances is be vulnerable. Come in contact with your true feelings and desires, be genuine, be open. It feels good to be vulnerable, to stop feeling insecure because nothing that anyone could say or do to you would have an effect on you, you’re comfortable with yourself and transparent.
Bob Marley said “Being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pressure.”
Dare I say it, sometimes we just need to be… bored! Be bored and come in contact with your inner thoughts. Boredom does not have to be eradicated at the hand of constant technological stimulation.
I ask of you simply this- spend a little more time alone with your own thoughts, take some time away from screens, and seriously listen to some Nickelback without any predisposition, then if you still hate it, fine at least you tried.
I’ll leave you with two quotes that highlight how each individual’s journey is unique:
One I believe I heard from Tim Ferriss or on the Tim Ferriss Show but I am not positive of its attribution, anyway, it goes-
“Find your world-class life, for every person it’s different.”
The second is quoted in the book I am reading, Quiet the Power of Introverts
“I prefer to think that the planet needs athletes, philosophers, sex symbols, painters, scientists; it needs the warmhearted, the hardhearted, the coldhearted, and the weakhearted. It needs those who can devote their lives to studying how many droplets of water are secreted by the salivary glands of dogs under which circumstances, and it needs those who can capture the passing impression of cherry blossoms in a fourteen-syllable poem or devote twenty-five pages to the dissection of a small boy’s feelings as he lies in bed in the dark waiting for his mother to kiss him goodnight…” -Allen Shawn