Have you ever noticed that most people follow the herd? They go along with the popular notion, the conventional wisdom, the prevalent opinions. It’s safe. It makes them popular, may help them with connections and relationships, and generally makes their lives easier.
But that doesn’t mean it’s right. In fact, it’s those who stray from the herd who invent the latest computer innovation, compose a breakthrough song, create a new marketing campaign, or get elected with a radically different idea.
One thing’s for sure: If you take your own path, whatever’s at the end of that road will be yours.
There’s a price to pay, of course. Those who think differently tend to be awkward when dealing with other people and situations. They get socially ostracized and don’t share in the fruits of taking the conventional way, the easy way, through life. They’re considered difficult, or odd, or whatever. Sometimes they’re lucky and find others like them, which makes all the difference in the world because we all love and need support. But for most, it’s difficult to find that support.
Ever see the movie, Peggy Sue Got Married? I don’t know if he intended it or not, but director Francis Ford Coppola has several characters in the film who go their own way. My favorite is Richard, the science nerd. This poor guy is shunned or picked on by most of the in crowd in high school. He consoles himself with his experiments and the knowledge that he is right. And sure enough, at the high school reunion some 25 years later, he’s a mega-business giant, kind of a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, now worth a fortune. He carries a chip on his shoulder by this point, but we know how that got there.
Do I identify with Richard or with outsiders in general? You bet. And I bet many of you do, too. Those of us who didn’t quite fit in during our adolescence did much better as adults. Maybe that’s because we gained the benefit of being “apart” from the herd. We had a chance to observe others, to view life differently, to choose our own paths.
When I choose the heroes for the books I write, I find that I always settle on outsiders — characters who, because of circumstance or belief, see things differently than those who are content to believe in and follow the status quo. They take on the establishment because their way of looking at the world reveals different truths. The establishment fights back, but in the end, the heroes are right. Then everyone else, all the go-along types and hangers-on, throw their arms around them and tell them how great they are. But we know the truth.
Life can be like that. It’s important that you keep the strength of your convictions and follow your own expectations. In the end, you are your own guiding star.
Here’s the link to the heroes I created: http://www.charlottewestbrook.com/.