Is it normal for a business to buy lunch for its employees every day? Or for that matter have free doctors on site, offer dry cleaning, provide weeks of free meals and months of maternity leave when you have a baby? None of those things are very typical, but then again neither are the companies (like Google and Facebook) that provide those kind of benefits.
Not Interested In Average
Average results have never been very interesting to me. All too often “normal” really isn’t that great. It’s normal for organizations to be dysfunctional and for most meetings to be non-productive. It’s normal for people to be in debt up to their eyeballs and it’s sadly become normal for more than half of all marriages to end in divorce. Frankly, most of that ‘normal’ sounds terrible to me.
Exceptional Returns Require Exceptional Measures
If we are serious about beating the average, then we can’t expect to put in average efforts. Google does things differently than most other companies – but they’ve also grown faster and done more to revolutionize the world.
Henry Ford was the same way. He ignored the status quo. He designed a system for building cars that was completely counter to the conventional wisdom of the day. He also paid his employees more than double the going rate, which allowed him to suck up almost all of the high-quality talent and left his competitors high and dry.
Keep the status quo at your own peril
Ford’s empire took a hit when everyone else adopted his innovative ideas but then began adding their own unique things to differentiate themselves. General Motors started offering cars with different color options and model types, something Ford wasn’t willing to do. Ford didn’t continue innovating beyond his original concepts and fell behind the curve for decades.
Investors and MBAs
Successful investors are almost always unconventional. Warren Buffett made billions from purchasing sleepy companies no one else wanted. John Paulson made billions betting against the housing market when everyone else was buying into it.
A lot of the Ivy League MBAs work for companies that were started by entrepreneurs who dropped out of school or quit their “normal” jobs to do something incredible.
You Must Be Brave
Being different isn’t easy. When you buck the system it can drive other people crazy. People just don’t understand it when you operate unconventionally. Sometimes other people’s criticism can be a major drag, but most of the time they just care about you and are afraid of what might happen if you get off the beaten path.
In the midwest of the United States (the great “Rustbelt”) where I live, this is especially true. Silicon Valley has plenty examples of kids who have dropped out of school or done something different and succeeded, but where I live, telling people you’re not going to college is kind of like admitting to irresponsible laziness, and that you are content to scrape by for the rest of your life. Most of the population used to work in factories or for really big companies. There just aren’t a whole lot of examples of people who have gotten off the beaten path and been successful. The lack of positive examples makes it that much harder for people to understand a different path.
The unknown is scary, and forging into darkness takes bravery.
Change before you are forced to
Often times people only change when they have no other choice. The trick is to stay ahead of the destruction. The laws of physics say that everything is in a state of decay without intervention. If you aren’t actively innovating, the status quo will sink lower and lower. So much pain could be avoided if we were all more proactive about making sure we are improving, learning, and growing.
Read These Books
Defeating the status quo requires serious courage. You have to be willing to try, fail, and get back up over and over again if you are going to escape the fate of “normal”.
If you are serious about standing up and rejecting average I highly recommend you check out these two books.
Poke the Box by Seth Godin
It’s Not About the Tights by Chris Brogan