Pressure to be invisible
“The world belongs not to those who fit in but to those who stand out,” Anonymous.
The trouble with standing out is – standing out. Standing out isn’t always easy, isn’t always accepted, and isn’t always encouraged.
Peer pressure is the pressure to conform in order to gain acceptance. Conformity means you don’t stand out. Worse yet, peer groups reject those who stand out.
Yesterday I had a conversation with a young man who is freakishly analytical. He’s so analytical it’s difficult to enjoy a casual conversation with him. Casual isn’t his forte’.
His opportunity to change the world isn’t in his “normal” qualities. His opportunity is in what makes him unusual. And there’s the rub. Ask an average Joe on the street if they aspire to be unusual and the average answer will be no.
The qualities that make you abnormal are your opportunity for extraordinary impact.
Don’t fake it. Don’t pretend you aren’t “normal.” Don’t arrogantly reject peer groups simply for the sake of rejecting them.
Reject freakishness for freakishness’ sake. Reject damaging self-centered behaviors that tear down rather than add value. Embrace useful freakishness.
Don’t think your freakish-gift excuses you from developing character, people skills, and virtuous behaviors. Excusing personal development with, “That’s just how I am,” is lazy indulgence.
Embrace your personal, professional, or organizational freakishness. Stand out.
Fitting in is self-defeating. Fitting in creates mediocrity.
Much of the energy I see expended around me is expended on being average, on being sure everyone fits in. When you fit in you disappear.
Wednesday’s leadership focus: Embrace your uniqueness with gentle tenacity. Embrace your place. Smile while becoming visible.
Can you think of people who changed the world by standing out?
What makes you stand out?
You have summarized what I have been observing (and gone through) in a very eloquent manner. This is my first comment on ur blog. I am a silent reader of your posts and your way of expression has made me speak up. I agree with you “When you fit in you disappear” like billions of sand grains on a shore. But, when you stand out of crowd…you have to be ready for stones comming to you…
Its a thought provoking article.
Thumbs up !!
Thanks for your first comment. Eloquent.
Effective leaders stand out and they change the world. The best example comes to my mind is “Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. History is witness to their sufferings,sacrifices and services.Present is the reality of their stand out. It is not possible to think India without Mahatma Gandhi and South Africa with Nelson Mandela. They changed not only the world where we live but also the way we think. These leaders did not fit anywhere because they did what thought is right. Today, generally people do what others think is right. So, out thoughts make us whether we want to be stand out or fit in.
I think belief for common good makes me to stand out. It is a belief to help needy, underprivileged and boycotted segment that makes me to stand out. At the same time, it is a selfless satisfaction and happiness that nurtures and strengthens my belief and thoughts.
I agree that stand out is not easy. It is full of challenges, obstacles and criticism. People will try to block you all the way but when you succeed, the same people will appreciate your efforts. Change is good but needs courage to confront mass who oppose it.
Your comment both challenges and encourages me.
Love your illustrations of those who stood out. It’s interesting that both suffered, sacrificed, and served. Thats a challenge.
It’s surprising that those close to us may be the ones who become uncomfortable when we begin to stand out. Thats a challenge.
I’m encouraged that you are willing to stand out.
I’m thankful Ajay is a frequent contributor on LF. Read his bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/ajay-gupta
Hi Dan, well put and a well known issue.
In Holland we say don’t stick your head above the mowing field, or it will be cut off. Other cultures have different ways to say this, but with the same meaning. “High trees catch much wind” or my Spanish favourite: “if you move you won’t be in the picture”.
In my opinion it’s impossible to lead without sticking out and thus being visibel. And if you don’t like the heat………
You are so right. This topic isn’t innovative. However, I it was on my mind last night so I went with my gut hoping to be an encouragement. The only new thing, to me at least, is the “invisible” statement.
In the U.S. we say similar things. Honestly, huddling down in the status quo is safe and secure.
I agree completely…ALL LEADERS eventually STAND OUT, STAND UP, STAND FOR. If you don’t you aren’t leading.
Thanks for your affirmation. It feels good.
You touch upon a topic that has been both a cornerstone, and a conflict, in my life since childhood. Growing up with an entrepreneurial Dad who was anything but invisible taught me the worse thing you can do is fit in and be one of the masses–a trait he imposed on me by his words and actions. Even so, I think that predisposition already was genetically imposed on me, if that’s possible; my environment just served to reinforce the idea that “we are different.” I feel it in the way I live my life; the way I choose friends; the career I chose; virtually every aspect of my life confirms it. It’s both liberating and confining – this reluctance to conform. On the whole, I’d rather be visible, though, than invisible. Thanks for your thought-provoking ideas.
Thanks for sharing a bit of your own story. I get a sense that being invisible has its allure. I think I share a bit of the conflict that you feel.
Dan yet again another great post. Leaders that stand out in my mind include Abe Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt and of course my all time favorite Gandhi. There are plenty of others each with their uniqueness but I find myself coming back to these three. As far as standing out, I believe all leaders by definition are pretty visible. The real question is how are we visible? Is it through fear and intimidation, is through arrogance or is because the people we serve hold us up! There is an allure as you say to being invisible, to being that anonymous donor, that unspoken voice, the inaudible whisper and yes the hidden soul. I have always believed that folks may forget what you did, or what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel! The best way of being visible and at the same time invisible is not seeing yourself as others see you and hopefully that vision will always be greater than we could have ever created ourselves. Let the community be the judge of your individuality and be the one to raise the bar to keep us growing and yes being more conspicous and most of all available to serve. Thanks, Al
Thanks for your comment. I’ve read a little on Lincoln and find him both fascinating and tragic.
Could you elaborate on: “The best way of being visible and at the same time invisible is not seeing yourself as others see you and hopefully that vision will always be greater than we could have ever created ourselves.”
I’m thankful Dr. Diaz is a frequent contributor on LF. Read his bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/al-diaz
Hi Dan, what I was trying to say was that our vision of ourselves not infrequently is not as we think (invisible to us) but rather how the people we serve feel about us and hopefully that perception (visible to them) holds us in higher esteem than we could have imagined ourselves. Simply stated our actions can create a lot of ripples affecting people in ways we don’t always see or understand (invisible to us.) We like to think it is always for the better but yes sometimes we can stand out again unknowingly for the bad as well. Which is why you have heard me say that there is no such thing as “bad” feedback. I hope I have added some clarity to your question. Nemaste, Al
Wonderful. Thanks for your insights.
Seems to be a theme lately. Thanks.
Powerful two lines..thanks
In Japan, every young child is taught “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” Our cultural strength is that we have so many not afraid to stick out. But not enough – the other side of our culture, driving us to put on the gray flannel suit and fit in, always pressures us.
We do live in an interesting culture. Perhaps on the macro level we encourage and embrace stand outs. However, on the micro level we discourage it.
Best to you
Read Marks bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/mark-friedman
The question about people who changed the world by standing out seems so deceptively easy until you start thinking about it! Concurrently, I am writing a blog post about a point in history I would like to have been a part of or been witness to. Not as easy as it sounds!
There is a (white) family here in Tallahassee (George and Clifton Lewis) who, in the mid 50’s, opened their home to black people; George (a prominent banker) made loans to black homeowners and those who were jailed. Believe me when I say that there are times even in 2010 when this town struggles with civic equality (it is exponentially better, of course); for a family like this to take such a step in the 50’s really boggles my mind and makes me humbly respectful. They changed the world and stood out by opening their doors, literally and figuratively.
What makes me stand out? I hope one piece of what makes me stand out is my facility with language, and the way I use it to help other people’s written products be better and more effective, while retaining the character of the authors.
As usual you leave us a great story. Your interjection of standing up against prejudice is powerfully appropriate.
Standing out isn’t as easy as it sounds. Ka Ching! So true. I would add that some days it’s easier than others.
Keep standing out.
I’m thankful Paula shares her insights with the LF community. Read her bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/paula-kiger
Genius goes along with craziness in creative business. Having strong roots in design, my business knows it very well. People who stand out, who don’t act in ordinary ways, I am surrounded by them everyday. I believe it’s a strong trait, the identity of what we do and something I happily embrace.
Thanks for your comment. When I wrote this piece I thought about Shamans who are frequently the weirdest of them all.
Enjoy the rest of your week,
It makes me think about all the teams that I work with where the culture is about niceness and mediocrity, those that stick out from that are often punished by the group despite the usefulness and desirability of their behaviours.
I think that some people are so uncertain of their unique value that they are not confident to stand up and be assuredly who they are. Great leaders make it possible for others to be unique by valueing that in the face of groups who find it discomforting. Good feedback identifying the value of unique insight and individual approach in invaluable.
I think that my particular brand of standing out is related to the creativity, passion and playfulness in the face of the sometimes grey and adult majority. The joy of being individual is that you are your own self-fulfilling prophecy. People seek you out for your uniqueness, as long as you can find a way to create value through your individualism and be confident in its value.
As Coco Chanel said “In order to be irreplaceable one must be different.”
You truly added value to this conversation. Thanks for adding the leadership dimension. Sadly, many leaders I know bolster mediocrity by their eagerness to maintain equilibrium. In those environments individuals have to give themselves permission to stand out.
Love your uniqueness! I want to be a CPO … Chief Play Officer. For the life of me I can’t understand why everyone has to be so dang serious all the time????
Thanks again for a helpful comment.
I often tell my manager that I want to change my job title to something more indicative of what I actually do – empress of all training or felt-tip pen fairy maybe?
I think that seriousness comes from the mis-belief that being playful is childish rather than childlike, I like to turn up to meetings eating lollipops and making left field suggestions, but then it has taken me a while to be confident enough to establish that as an MO that is valuable. But when others start to reflect it back to me and be more creative in their own responses I know my influence is being felt!
But the caveat to that is that you have break people in gently and have money in the bank impact wise.
Happy standing out everyone.
Empress does have a ring to it, doesn’t it? 🙂
Once again Dan your tight writing style captures the essence of an otherwise tritely handled subject. It’s not trite when you write.
With these two sentences, you capture the glory and the responsibility:
“The qualities that make you abnormal are your opportunity for extraordinary impact.”
“Don’t think your freakish-gift excuses you from developing character, people skills, and virtuous behaviors. Excusing personal development with, “That’s just how I am,” is lazy indulgence.”
And yes, the Beautiful Mind added one key point – “Be ready for the stones coming to you.”
I add, “It’s the stones coming at you that signal you are making a difference.”
You are an encourager…thanks for the good word.
“It’s not trite when you write.” Now thats a sentence.
Wow..I just love the your addition. The other side of the coin, if the water is always calm you ain’t standin’ out.
Your comment made me smile… I love the conversation..
Thanks and best,
I’m glad Kate keeps dropping into LF to share her insights. Read about her at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/kate-nasser
Thanks for the article. As the mother of a freakishly analytical child, I found it encouraging. While it’s easy to want him to just “be normal” and “fit in”, I know that’s not his path in life. It helps to be reminded of that sometimes, though.
I always tell my children that their greatest strengths will also be their greatest challenges in life. I hope they fulfill the promise held in that strength without allowing it to weigh them down.
Thanks so much for sharing your story. I appreciate your insights.
You aren’t the first to mention to me that a great gift can also become a burden.
Best to you and your analytical child,
“Embrace your uniqueness with gentle tenacity.”
Amen, brother. Well said.
A good word always feels good!
Tip For Visibility and ‘Seeing’ where we stand and what we stand for –
When we are ready to criticise someone or something ..
Michael White RIP+ (family therapist writer) influenced me to think/ask
‘How am I different to the thing/ person I object to?’
“What does this tell me about me and what I stand for that is different ?’
Our response materialises an affirmative view from a previous position of complaint / deficit perspective.
Michael White, from a Narrative Therapy perspective would say we move from a ‘thin description’ (little substance) to a ‘thick description’ (enriched and informative view)
For example: ‘I don’t like the way she spoke to me at work!’
Visibility encouragers –
What does this say about what matters to you as a person?
How are you different in the way you speak with others?
How does this experience challenge your values?
How do you prefer to see yourself as a communicator in the workplace?
How do others see you as a communicator in the workplace?
So now you know this about yourself (or have examined data about your values/ actions) what does this tell you about is important and ‘stand for’ in workplace communication?’
Visibility then materialises when we see where we stand.
Seeing where we stand enables us to stand out and stand up for something different.
Thank you Dan for this moment of reflective practice all made possible by your generous posting(s)
All I can say is WOW! Thanks for adding value to this great conversation. I’m going to use your suggestions.
Nice to read that! I was recently thinking that sometimes I’m a tough person to argue with because I’m always so critical. Not in a negative way but questioning everything. For me, just because something has been always done the same way doesn’t mean it is the best way or the only way. Now I found a “open window” on your coment. People doesn’t like to argue with me because I make them unconfortable. Unconfortable because most people doesn’t like to have their beliefs questioned about. Are afraid of changing. Not me. I stand out.