Why Fit In When You Can Stand Out

There is little chance of finding protracted joy in running with the herd


When was the last time that you felt that you were in a rut? Society has all the perils and a few of the merits of being civilised. The most unappreciated of these perils is the self-limiting boundaries it places on our actions, words and even our thoughts. We all have a personal narrative through which we live and see the world. Not everyone gets a great plot to sketch their storyline on. But fitting in the mould was the least of nature's intents for us. We need twists and turns. We need to progress, meander and regress to discover the true meaning of life. The prescribed middle of the road is a path to decay and drudgery. We need inflection points to negotiate the humdrum of time.

Life was never meant to be followed on a linear path. Predictability and unambiguity is sterile. Look around you and within you, and you will find that the world is in a rut. Does each day look like any other? Do weeks dissolve into whole months and months into years as numbers? Has your life really been interesting? Is your life interesting? Chances are that you are in a rut. This can be debilitating for anyone. We were not meant to be ponds. We were always meant to be rivers. How long should you wait to do something? How does one negotiate with this monotony? What should you do to break the orbit? How do you climb out of this abyss and pull yourself towards light?

Following your peers is not going to help. There is little chance of finding protracted joy in running with the herd. It is unlikely to gain you traction or happiness in the long run. The rut is inside you, not outside. The solution therefore is unlikely to be found in the world outside. The answer lies within. And perhaps, counter-intuitively, what’s weighing you down is the same thing you once elected to embrace.

I find great insight into being in a rut with what Italo Calvino said: "Everything we choose and value in life for its lightness soon reveals …its unbearable weight.” Your own self-limiting decisions are weighing you down. What’s holding you back are the self-imposed shackles, because the answers will not be found outside of you. Therefore, the strength will need to come from within. It takes courage and grit to pull oneself out of a rut. One simple way is to break conventional wisdom. Take a sabbatical. Travel around the world for a year. Go see new places, things and people and come back with a new set of eyes and perspective. Go back to your childhood. Somewhere lost in the dust of nostalgia lies the answer on what will give you joy. Another option may be to trust your instinct. In any case, you need to do away with the paralysis of too much analysis.

Ignore popular opinion, since the majority is usually wrong. The herd does not know why it runs or where it is headed. You need to break the mould and challenge the status quo. You need to go against the grain of logic and ignore social censure. Don’t seek public or personal applause. Swim against the current. Break away and stand out. You were never meant to fit in. You were meant to stand out. You are in a rut. And it is a lot deeper than being in a grave. Life begins outside and not inside your comfort zone. Reclaim your life.

Neeraj Batra is the co-founder and chairman of OnCourse Vantage and tweets at @batra_neeraj