Where there’s a weirdo, there’s a way: why weird wins over vanilla every time

Michael Lazerow wants you to be weird. Because weird is good. He’s in the right place: he’s at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, in a vortex chock full of smart chocolate chip weirdos rolled up in a big all of marketer and VC goo. But even burnt — and we are all pretty burnt after three days of non-stop SxSW activities — it’s still tasty.

Michael gets messages late at night from Gary Vanderchuk telling him that he loves him. He offered to pay Michael’s two sons $200 bucks apiece to become Jets fans. (they declined. They came back hard at Gary, asking for $5,000 to switch. Gary came back with a $1,700 offer. See Vimeo for the full story.) He thinks differently. He’s living the life he wants to live. It’s working out just fine. 

(You can read Micheal’s entire post on the topic here: http://www.lazerow.com/2011/09/gary-v-offers-5000-to-cole-myles-to-like-jets.html )

Or take James Atucher (see his Twitter for samples of his tweets: crazy stuff  pops out there at 3 am. https://twitter.com/jaltucher ). He went on television to suggest that everyone should quit their jobs immediately. Since all companies are firing every employee, anyway, just go ahead a quit preemptively …because you should know that employed people are “like the living dead.”

Or consider Cyndy Gallup. Michael says that Cyndy is one of the most successful and happiest people he knows. She’s head of an ad agency. She’s known for her fabulously decorated home in Manhattan. She’s half Chinese, half British and spent some time in the socially oppressive  Brunei. She has a Chanel machine gun art on the wall, a Gucci chainsaw, and erotic Jade sculptures on the coffee table. She got a Ted talk without telling them her topic. She discussed her sexual experiences with men in their early twenties. She observed that young men are so immersed in hard-core porn that they believe that sex, as it is depicted in the fictional world of porn, is reality. This leads to some bizarre and hilarious ideas of how men think they are expected to behave in bed. She launched Make Love, Not Porn, and encourages healthy discussions around the topic of sex. See her Ted Talk on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FV8n_E_6Tpc  (Or check her twitter site https://twitter.com/makelovenotporn )

Michael posted a piece with LinkedIn on why weirdos are better than normal people that got more than 700 comments. Some said that embracing their weirdness was the turning point in their lives, where they really began to live in an authentic way. (Full article is here: http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130324141810-1714080-why-weirdos-outperform-normals )

His point is this: everyone is born different. We grow up with some powerful motivators to tuck our heads down, get in line, and fit in. Next thing you know you are a lawyer or an accountant – and then it just gets worse, going forward. Forget passion (unless of course you have a burning desire to operate as a CPA or patent attorney).

During the 1950s,  psychologist Solomon Asch performed a conformity experiment and found that most people were willing to deny the evidence of their own eyes and conform to the incorrect responses of planted subjects who gave the wrong answer deliberately. And you know, intuitively, that you’ve done this yourself, so don’t lie: under the right circumstances, most of us will avoid the confrontation of going against the crowd. (See Wiki on the experiments here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asch_conformity_experiments )

There’s survival at stake on this conformity thing. Growing up, most of us get a LOT of practice at following orders. Stepping out of line is risky. And yet it might be the most important thing you do.

In the Milgram experiment, another classic early psychology research test that is now considered by most to be unethical, subjects were coerced verbally by an authority figure to shock a person, while screams went on the adjacent room. (See wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment ). Turns out that most of us are conditioned to obey.

None of us can sit in judgment on the casual cruelty that goes on all around us – in institutions, in corporations, in any power dynamic where authority is surrendered to another person who tells you what to do. Ethics start with institutional structures, because once the average person is dropped into a structured system, they all pretty much behave the same, whether for good or ill.

So, how could we build in nonconformity into the process of education? Currently, the entire system is set up to drill students on required material for standardized testing and teacher salaries and school system allotments are based upon the results of those tests.

Check out Alfie Kohn: how do grades reduce quality? Grades reduce an interest in learning; they encourage you to pick easy tasks, easy classes, instead of taking on challenges where failure is possible, and they encourage lazy thought. The end product, for society, is an army of average Joes, doing the same thing day after day, performing  Homer Simpson quality work, and drifting from one low expectation to another until they drop into the grave. (See Kohn’s article: http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/tcag.htm )

Look at how conformity has affected music, something we used to think was a place where you might expect to encounter creativity. Now, a huge contingent of listeners are hearing the same top 40 songs on Spotify.

So, how did all this boring stuff happen? The sad answer: chasing the brass ring.

Americans have become excellent at being average. How do we get out of this situation? Try getting in touch with your inner weirdness.  Find out what makes you NOT a commodity, what makes you special and unique, give that weirdness a big hug, and don’t be afraid to stick out. Because being weird is better. And being weird is easier. Because you get to be yourself. At last.

So, how can we, as individuals, deal with the pressure and the challenges? Michael gave us a  bullet list on what being a weirdo could look like (in bullet points):

  • Social influence: weirdos are comfortable sticking out in a crowd. They are comfortable about who they are.
  • Influence: weirdos are willing to question common beliefs publicity with conviction.
  • Authority: weirdos listen to their gut and are follow their nose, motivated by their own desires and unafraid to pursue their dreams.
  • And do it now. There’s never been a better time to stand up for your own weird self.

So, to get back to James Atucher: is it time to quit your job? What would be an authentic life – for you?


More images from 2014 South by Southwest Interactive


2014 SxSW Interactive Presentations on Soundcloud 


Find out more about the South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin Texas


Welcome to your new job: powerful individuals, disposable companies, disrupt traditional economic predictors

James McQuivey (VP, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research):
Welcome to the new disruption.

“Things started to speed up at the end…” — Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Analyst, futurist, and author of Digital Disruption, James McQuivey, gave an example of how product cycles are speeding up: Apple took two years to sell the first two million I-Pads, while Microsoft took about two weeks to sell the first two millions androids. Okay, not quite “Apples” and oranges but one gets his point.

Change is accelerating at what might not seem to be people-friendly speed. But guess what? We humans seem to be adapting to the increasing whirl of the planet nicely. McQuivey wondered aloud about what might happens in a world where, after people internalize disruption,  will then proceed to generate perpetual disruption. What then?

The digital disruption has placed us all in continual disruption. Change has become the only constant, where our lives become data that is mined by ever-changing, disposable companies. We may be on the verge of witnessing the death of the corporations, as they lose control of data and of the products that they create.

Share and share alike may become the next system of barter and economics, as litigation over possession and copyright of intellectual property becomes impossible to control. According to McGuivey, regulation by rule of law will become obsolete because things are changing too rapidly for regulation to keep up. Regulatory systems must crumble—because innovation and change will continue to happen faster and faster.

So, how can workers manage careers when the career path can careen through an array of pop-up companies? McQuivey suggested a new value system that focuses on individuals, leaving organizations out of the picture entirely. Talented contributors could have real-time stock exchanges of their worth as individuals, rated and valued as companies are today. In contrast to the idea of developing inside of large corporation, McQuivey said that It’s unethical and short-sighted to lock up a resource—a talented individual— into one company that restricts the talent from sharing their abilities for the greater good.

[and here’s a great example of this concept in action, the about page of Chaotic Moon, where the company puts the headshots and names of their talent up front as “the smart, most creative people”: http://www.chaoticmoon.com/about/ ]

Since SxSW 2013, McQuivey has presented more on digital disruption at Touchcast. You can view the webinar from that event here: http://www.touchcast.com/disruptthis/ces_2014_roundup

Book: Digital Disruption, by James McQuivey. Kindle on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Digital-Disruption-Unleashing-Next-Innovation-ebook/dp/B009L7QD1S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390354063&sr=8-1&keywords=Digital+Disruption%2C+by+James+McQuivey

More images from 2013 South by Southwest Interactive


2013 SxSW Interactive Presentations on Soundcloud 


Find out more about the South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin Texas


Change is as good as a holiday

South by Southwest Interactive (SxSW) 2013, a five-day free flight of imagination and creativity, just ended in downtown Austin, Texas. Each year, creative minds gather to share dreams and nightmares about technological changes, inventions, and twists in the road that takes the rest of us to the future.

Who was the most interesting guy at Southby Interactive this year? Whose prophesy, whose new hardware gadget, 3D print imager (lasers!!), or change-the-world idea will be the one left standing when 2014 rolls around?

Will it turn out to be this guy that said the most important thing at SxSW Interactive in 2013? He’s Nobel Fellow and UT Austin professor Dr. Steve Weinberg, who discussed new physics discoveries that are turning the world on end over end, and his urging that we concentrate on funding and building a mammoth particle accelerator.

Or will it be this guy? This is Takahito Iguchi, the CEO of Telepathy, whose interactive glasses from Japan might beat out Google Glass for style and features.

And how much longer do we have to wait to climb into our own spaceships???

The answer might be: not long at all, if we are willing to work our way across the universe, according to Richard Garriott, who is busy building rocket ships with his friends.

Get ready for some interviews and articles about the Smarties who came, who spoke, and who beguiled our fancy this year at SxSW Interactive.

Your faithful reporter, and fellow enthusiastic Tech Kool-aid drinker,
Clair LaVaye

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