I’m weird. I have been since I can remember. I’ve always stood out of the crowd, walked the opposite way, and did my own thing. Back in first grade, the teachers were worried that I was mentally handicapped because I refused to answer any questions. During a meeting with my mother, I was finally asked why I didn’t participate in class. My response, “She’s the teacher, shouldn’t she know the answer?” Then and there I was placed in to the ‘Mentally Gifted (goofy?)’ class. But even that program was another example of a lock-step program that placed everyone in the same track.
I want to bring up a subject that many people already know. Talent doesn’t think alike. Artists, musicians, and other creatives aren’t meant to think in the box, that’s why they can do things others can’t. Normally, people tend to discount the relationship between creativity and programming. Yes, you can learn syntax and constructs and write a program the same way an artist learns brush strokes and shading to make a painting. This is fine when you have someone telling you exactly what they new and how it needs to work. But rarely is this the case. If you are going to come up with a unique system, you need to think out of the box.
But unfortunately, our education system, and social system in general, acts as a machine to pump out cookie cutter thinkers, people that meld well with corporate environments. The good news is, people are starting to realize this. Salman Kahn, creator of the Kahn Academy, is a huge advocate of creating self driven, curious, out of box thinkers.
Back when I was running through the typical MBA recruiting event circuit, I couldn’t believe how everyone looked and acted exactly the same. The same suit, the same resume, the same cards, the same wants. The second event I went to, I had a pink mohawk wig on. The people couldn’t believe I would come in with it, I was asked by one recruiter “Why would you come in like that.” In my usual quip, I told him, “Because you’re going to remember me.”
I supposed the point I want to get across is, do what works, and get the job done, don’t worry so much about fitting in.
Postscript: While writing this post, I came across a talk given by Eric Ryan, of Method. He discusses the challenges of keeping themselves weird, while growing an international company. With that, I’m going to go ahead and quote Eric with a quote he took from Andy Spaide.
“The bigger you get, the smaller you need to act”