A few months back, our family went hiking near a lake in Arizona. It was quite a lovely hike, if I do say so. I got to try out my Christmas present: a backpack in which to carry my little girl. I felt like Kronk from Emperor’s New Groove when he’s carrying Yzma through the wilderness. But that’s not the point of this story.
My brother-in-law brought his dog along: a young but already sizable Boxer. He put these hiking shoes (lets call them booties, because it’s a fun word and probably the more accurate one) on his dog to protect its feet on the ruff trail. Without fail, everyone we passed on the hike had a comment to make about those booties. And we passed a lot of people. Everyone noticed.
We saw a few other dogs on the trail and none of them had hiking booties. I wouldn’t be surprised if the poor pup was a little self-conscious by the end of it, I know I’d be (yet another reason I don’t wear booties).
Here’s the thing: people can’t help but notice when something is not normal. Those dog-booties were definitely not normal, and so people pointed them out.
I’ve noticed the same thing with my daughter. She has exceptionally curly hair and it’s often the first thing people mention when they see her, even if they know her well. Why? Hair that curly isn’t normal—most people don’t have it.
Things that are not normal get noticed
Those who subscribe to my email list know I often encourage them to “never be normal.” I do this for many reasons. Partly because normal is boring but also because when you aren’t normal, you stand out as a creative.
Problem is, not everyone wants to stand out, not everyone wants the attention. And, I’ll admit, not all attention is good. People are prone to laugh at and ridicule the irregular. Perhaps you have been subject to this, I know I have and it ain’t exactly fun.
But here’s the thing: unless you are willing to depart from the world of normal, you will never be exceptional. You will forever be run-of-the mill.
When it comes to opposites, “creativity” has a few, likely because the word itself has more than one meaning. One obvious (and more literal) opposite to “creative” is “destructive.” Though destruction is very different from creation, I still think the strongest opponent to “creative” is “normative.”
Creativity and normalcy never go hand-in-hand. They are like two school kids that fight every time they’re near each other. They are oil and water: they simply don’t mix.
Is normal bad? Not necessarily. In truth, it can be very healthy. But if all you have (and all you are) is normal, you will never stand out from the crowd, you will never know the thrill of creativity, you will remain unmistakably like everyone else.
If, instead, you are creative, you will stand out. Might someone laugh at you? I (along with Men’s Warehouse) guarantee it. But I highly doubt there is a single successful creative on this planet who didn’t endure a few laughs at their expense. Turns out, it’s easier to point and laugh than it is to be the different, to stand apart.
I heard an interesting tale about the history of the pineapple. It used to be the most coveted fruit in the whole world. It was so rare, only the wealthiest could obtain it. Why, it was so prized, people would host exclusive parties where all they did was stand around and admire a pineapple, without even eating it! But today, well, you can hardly find a plain ol' fruit salad without some pineapple tossed in for good measure. You can hardly throw a pineapple these days without hitting a pineapple (don't do that though, they're pointy and could hurt someone's coconut).
What is extraordinary eventually becomes normal.
That which we now consider safe and expected was once strange and unusual. It helps to keep this in mind: while your daring departures from normal may be mocked today, they could very well become the norm tomorrow.
So go ahead, wear your funny booties with pride and do your hair the way you like, I’ll be cheering you on. And don’t ever be normal.
Hey Creatives, do you find being different difficult or easy? Let us know in the comments below.