Why The Most Important Lesson I Can Teach My Son Is To Be A Non-Conformist

Flickr / Ali Edwards
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The following was syndicated from Err Like A Parent for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at [email protected].

If I had to say what would be the most important thing I wish my son to learn in his life it would be the following.

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The majority of people he will meet in his life will tell him:

  • How he should do this, or
  • Why he should or shouldn’t do that, or
  • What a real life is, or
  • Why his ideas suck, or
  • Why the things he imagines are impossible, or
  • Why he will never be able to do the things that he want to do, or
  • That life is just the way it is, or
  • That he should stop dreaming, or
  • That he is weird.

He will hear those things 100 percent.

The problem is that because we want to fit in we let all sorts of other people’s comments or opinions and plans dictate what our life should look like.

We live in a society that promotes sameness and discourages or mocks uniqueness. People seek company of likeminded people because they want to feel comfortable. They want their choices, decisions and lifestyle validated by others. They want to know that they’re doing the right thing. They want to feel like they are smart and have cracked the code to life.

Fitting in and inertia are at the heart of what most people do in their lives and what they expect that others in their surroundings will also do.

Rebellions are momentary and they merely scratch the surface. They almost never produce any significant results because the majority is almost always able to convince the wannabe outliers and misfits that they are wrong about how the world operates and that’s why their attempts at being unique or having a different kind of life are doomed to fail. The majority is never a weirdo, those who want to break out of the pack always are.

The majority always assumes that they must be doing the right thing because the social proof works in their favor and against the weirdos and misfits.

True revolutions are rare because we are afraid of asking fundamental questions.

We tend to take most of what our parents and grandparents did (and still do) at face value and don’t question it. We treat the definitions and interpretations that have been passed on to us by our parents and grandparents as something that is fixed. That’s called inertia and we act this way almost all the time because it is the easiest path for us.

The majority is never a weirdo, those who want to break out of the pack always are.

And, what’s even more of an obstacle to our asking such questions, to us the fundamental questions mean:

“Something about our current worldview might be wrong. And as a result of this finding we might come to the conclusion that the people whom we normally called weirdos aren’t at all weirdos. And since we are used to dividing people into ‘normal’ (those who share our worldview and life philosophy) and ‘weirdos’ (those who are silly enough not to share our worldview and life philosophy) someone has to be ‘normal’ and someone has to be ‘cuckoo’. If they’re not ‘cuckoo’ does it mean we were (or worse, still are)?”

Asking fundamental questions means:

  • Leaving our comfort zones and giving up the feeling of security,
  • A change (often a huge one) might be needed and we all fear change because it means we lose the (illusionary) feeling of total control over our lives and agree to enter the new (potentially hostile) territory; that’s what our ancestors must have felt too when they decided that they’ll leave their cages (and I bet they procrastinated).

That’s why the fundamental questions are always being asked by those who:

  • Are not afraid that others will laugh at them or that they might, oh sorry, will be labeled cuckoos, weirdos, crazy, etc.
  • Accept the simple fact they might have been wrong in the past and are willing to change their minds and won’t feel like they’ve just betrayed their past selves by so doing,
  • Understand that the fact that they invested a lot of time, money and energy in something does not, in and of itself, mean that now they absolutely must stick to it,
  • Are comfortable with being uncomfortable,
  • Embrace change.

Thus, my probably most important message to him would be:

“Don’t be afraid to ask fundamental questions.”

To read more from Lukasz Laniecki, check out his blog errlikeaparent.com, where shares his personal viewpoint on a healthy parent-child relationship.

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