We humans are conformist — we typically prefer folks who fall in the middle of distributions, and avoid those from the tails. Yes, we prefer the high tail of health, beauty, intelligence, etc. But for most other traits, we prefer the ordinary.
Ehh, I don't know about this. What's interesting is the interplay of variables. Let's say one's on the high tail of health, beauty, and intelligence. Then their unique and creative ideas aren't totally shot down. People are more willing to listen.
Then there's an individual's approach to their own weirdness (and while we're at it, let's admit, everyone's weird but a lot hide this side of themselves). There may be a bit of resistance because change is hard for people, but being direct and speaking your mind doesn't have to be rebellious. If you just do your thing anyway, you'll become successful naturally. And you're going to inspire others to do their thing as well, and reveal their own weirdness. Because look! You're not so afraid that you're willing to go 'undercover' as this article suggests.
Now if someone's awkward and has no confidence, you either have to build confidence and belief in your ideas or be covert. The former is the better choice because it enables you to find like-minded people, and suddenly you don't have to rebel anymore.
The world isn't as rigid as you think. There's always a way. Especially now (2017).
Nice blog post! I must say I have had strange ideas of my own in the past and almost got crucified for them. I am reminded by one of The 48 Laws of Power: "Think as you like but behave like others."
Thank you for this. Very inspirational.
"Dress British. Think Yiddish."
This reminded me of an exchange at work years ago. Our new anaplastologist, who had a background in the arts, affected an 'artistiic' mien and somehwat eccentric personal habits - at least, in a civil service context. A colleague commented to me, "X is trying to be weird, but you, Robert, you just ARE. It looks better on you."
Granted, she had had to get used to the contrast between my restrained, somewhat aloof exterior and my blatantly unusual interior life first, but once she had she found it quite enjoyable.
This essay is what's wrong with the internet.
Just to add, there's a cost to looking freaky and weird. It's the cost of serving as a witness, to be visible and to upset the status quo by standing visibly. So I think for those who need to hear that witness, there is an honor that comes with standing visibly and paying that cost.
One of my brothers, who for many years looked like a freak, paid many costs including not being able to shop without routinely getting hassled by security.
Also take the example of the Quakers who were active in the anti-slavery movement in the first half of the 1800s. They found that their "simple" style of dress allowed fugitive slaves to reach out for assistance with some assurance that at least they would not be turned over to the slave-catchers and other authorities. Most Quakers weren't active in the underground railroad, but it was known that they generally were more sympathetic, and no-one else was likely to stand out in such a way by what they wore.
It depends on "what time it is," socially, culturally, and politically. Someone with long hair sticks out, but is identifiable as standing for something, and can draw other non-conformists out of the woodwork including those who travel incognito. Also, for example, in the long decades since the 1960s and '70s, long-hairs tend to find a better rapport with other marginalized parts of the population, e.g., older, culturally savvy folks in the African American community, which allows for a better flow of ideas.
It doesn't work for everyone, and there's always a few hucksters, narcissists and other characters in the mix, but anyway I think we've learned a lot in the past 50-60 years about radical ideas and social change, and there's no simple formula to cover all of it -- e.g., look like a conformist and you can do more to make positive change around you.
Only problem I see with this advice is that by being in the closet with your rebellious ideas your are less likely to come into contact with those who share and support your ideas. Outward nonconformity is a way of signaling and finding sympathetic people. As an obvius example, imagine the creative kids at high school school took this advice and outwardly dressed as cheerleaders ans jocks. They would find it far harder to connect with like minded peers, even know who these peers are.
That said, I think it's good advice, as long as it's not taken too far.
I strongly dispute your claim that people prefer the high tail in intelligence. The entire Friendly AI movement boils down to imagining a thing whose only well-defined trait is that it's more intelligent than us, being terrified by the possibilities, and then desperately scrabbling for ways to thwart it pre-emptively.
Actually, I suspect that beauty and health are largely seen as the absence of abnormalities, and it's far from clear that humans generally prefer the high tail of intelligence in each other (plenty of fools have friends). I suspect we're even more conformist than you say.
"I’ve known some very successful people with quite weird ideas..." Such as?
I think your prior post Doubting My Far Mind, one I personally found quite valuable, makes a good companion piece to this one.
It was How to be Radical. Eliezer had one titled The Correct Contrarian Cluster.
I will only accept this advice when it comes packaged as part of a book titled "Letters to a Young Weirdo". I don't know who handled the "Art of Mentoring" series at Basic Books, but I suggest you contact them.