We’re all weird

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We’re All Weird by Seth Godin

Inspired by Alain de Button’s tweet, below is a collection of highlights of the word weird from Seth Godin’s 2011 book, We’re All Weird.

Weird by choice, on the other hand, flies in the face of the culture of mass and the checklist of normal.

The epic battle of our generation is between the status quo of mass and the never-ceasing tide of weird.

It’s human nature to be weird, but also human to be lonely. This conflict between fitting in and standing out is at the core of who we are.

The way of the world is now more information, more choice, more freedom, and more interaction. And yes, more weird.

The weird are weird because they’ve foregone the comfort and efficiency of mass and instead they’re forming smaller groups, groups where their weirdness is actually expected.

The next breakthroughs in our productivity and growth aren’t going to be about fueling mass. They’re going to be relentlessly focused on amplifying the weird.

Pre-historic cultures, not nearly as productive as ours, show little evidence of the weirdness our culture has recently developed.

When you don’t feel alone, it’s easier to be weird, which sort of flies in the face of our expectation that the weird individual is also a loner.

We don’t care so much about everyone; we care about us—where us is our people, our tribe, our interest group, our weirdness—not the anonymous masses.

The weird are now more important than the many, because the weird are the many.

There’s a long tail of channels, and at least one matches every person’s precise definition of weirdness (if there’s no match, go ahead and start another channel).

My proposed solution is simple: don’t waste a lot of time and money pushing kids in directions they don’t want to go. Instead, find out what weirdness they excel at and encourage them to do that. Then get out of the way.

It’s human nature to be weird, but also human to be lonely. This conflict between fitting in and standing out is at the core of who we are.

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An irrational reward system

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Greed taints everything. It is a bug in laissez-faire economics.

The insatiable desire to have more compels humans to cheat.

Civilization intends to be wild on its fairest terms. But too many people up top are biologically prone to control natural selection. Those hit hardest become the angriest of mobs.

Economics is human, purely biological; a Darwinian struggle to come out on top in a state of unfettered capitalism.

Coercion is natural, freedom is artificial.

Once the dopamine surge subsides, it triggers the cycle to gamble all over again. In the hunt for feel-good chemicals, we lose all sense of rationality.

The body is a selector

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gif by Wells Baum

Sometimes we walk ourselves into our best thoughts. Small steps often lead to big revelations.

Other times, we dig into our imagination never knowing what we might find.

Where is the reality in simulation anyway? It is the brain that adds color to the skies, odor to the trees, and taste to the cookie.

The unanswerable drives humans to chase anticipation into what they believe most. In a silent jungle, the body’s machinery can turn the law of nature into a waterfall of sound.

Even the heart jangles if we listen close enough. Objects are eternal both inside and out, waiting to be discovered with the liberty of perception.

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gif via Erick Oh

When ugly is beautiful

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In a selfie-obsessed world, it pays to be ugly. Fashion houses across the world make eye-cringing designs on purpose. The crazier, the better.

Says Prada’s head fashion designer Miuccia Prada“The investigation of ugliness is, to me, more interesting than the bourgeois idea of beauty. And why? Because ugly is human. It touches the bad and the dirty side of people.”

Why do people love using Snapchat over other social media services? Because it celebrates authenticity. When people try to be real, they can be flawed, which is relatable.

Beautiful gets boring. Ugly is pervasive and unforgettable. It stands out with a clear message.

Balenciaga nailed ugly when it designed clothes inspired by the Bernie Sanders logo.

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Photo: Catwalking/Getty Images
Gucci’s Dapper Dan jacket is an attempt to throw back to an era of displeasing design.

 

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Photo via NYTimes

People preferred Madona when she displayed her natural gap tooth. Ugly is about breaking the rules and doing things a little different. Models never smile on the runway because they want to be unshakeable.

But people view the world as it relates to them. Letting go of perfection and designing for ugly creates a sense of communion with the viewer.

Normal is boring

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Paddington Bear
– The Purple Cow
– An Albino Giraffe

Standing out is what it means to be remembered. To be remembered is to be unique.

Never has the conformist or the lemming lived on to make a name for themselves.

Normal is too forgettable. Life is cooler at the edges.

When you know you’re different, you’re condemned to accept it.

The internet saves your individuality. It celebrates weird and flattens the middle of the bell curve of normalcy.

 

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From Seth Godin’s book, We Are All Weird

 

Now you have no choice but to show people who you really are and what you believe in.

Your tribe awaits and it wants you to break the status quo.

Pursuing boredom for boredom’s sake

If you can’t stand boredom for boredom’s sake, take on a mundane task to put your mind in a wandering state.

Doing the dishes, organizing your vinyl collection, mowing the lawn, and taking a shower are all triggers that help release you from the grip of now.

Your brain needs time to chew over all that it absorbs, which it can only do by looking backward and rummaging though experiences, memes, and fleeting thoughts to bring them back alive. 

Pursing tedium rewires the unconscious mind and strengthens mental processing. It is no surprise that eureka moments occur when you suspend the sober thinking robot and let your mind play instead. 

Genius strikes when you quell the monkey mind, roaming into a chore with the means to chase something. 

A brain without a body

Artificial intelligence is like a brain without a body. Instead of billions of neurons, computers contain bits and bytes of varying voltage levels so it can do stuff like provide directions or beat humans at chess.

Deep Blue beat Kasparov not by matching his insight and intuition but by overwhelming him with blind calculation. Thanks to years of exponential gains in processing speed, combined with steady improvements in the efficiency of search algorithms, the computer was able to comb through enough possible moves in a short enough time to outduel the champion.

Machines have faster processors. Even the most effective Ritalin in the world would leave a person at a loss. Yet, AI is a factory of nothingness without human programming. It is ‘competent without comprehension,’ although the human mind often falls guilty to automatic pilot.

The future superhuman will no doubt combine the two to make a cyborg.  We’re a brain chip away from the computer-powered brain, scampering closer to a new culture of memes galore.

 

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Fear is never as bad as it seems

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Most fears are irrational.

When we let what we’re scared of drive our decision-making, we seek safety which mostly means inaction. Like algae, we prefer to stay local, isolated from the from the sun that feeds us with its light.

So how can we get where we want to go when a constant state of dread lies in our way?

When stuck in doubt, heed the words of Stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger: “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” The amygdala exaggerates our anxieties.

If we’re courageous enough, we’ll say yes and do it anyway.

Fear is both natural and artificial; if used wisely, it can be the impetus for action.

Ludic loop

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via Reddit
In his blog post on breaking phone addictionErik Barker uses a quote from NYU marketing and psychology professor Adam Antler to explain why we keep checking our phones again and again. The process is called a “ludic loop.”

The “ludic loop” is this idea that when you’re engaged in an addictive experience, like playing slot machines, you get into this lulled state of tranquility where you just keep doing the thing over and over again. It just becomes the comfortable state for you. You don’t stop until you’re shaken out of that state by something.

So how we do we keep ourselves from going down the Facebook and Instagram rabbit hole? We employ a “stopping rule.”

t’s a rule that says at this point it’s time for me to stop. It breaks the reverie and makes you think of something else; it gets you outside of the space you’ve been in. The best thing to do is to use a declarative statement like, “I don’t watch more than two episodes of a show in a row, that’s just not who I am.”

As Barker points, you can also remove the dopamine hitting apps from your phone and replace them with something useful like the Kindle app to encourage more reading. And in the worst case scenario, you can throw your phone into the ocean, or just leave it in an inconvenient place to prevent the urge to take another futile gamble.

Taking an inner evaluation

 

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Photo by Wells Baum

 

We communicate through smartphones incessantly because we can’t stand the thought of talking to ourselves. We reserve all our inner chatter for an outer narrative.  Technology critic Sven Birkerts wrote in his 1994 book The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age:

Everything in contemporary society discourages interiority. More and more of our exchanges take place via circuits, and in their very nature those interactions are such as to keep us hovering in the virtual now, a place away from ourselves.

On top of this, we hire and create our own bots to inflate our ego. The President is perhaps the most guilty of this.

Social media is a chaotic popularity contest where we forfeit authenticity and opt instead for the curated life. We keep our ailments offline, with exception to Google where we always admit our fears. Anyone who shares anything is considered an extrovert by default.

Anyone who shares anything online is viewed as an extrovert by default. In fact, inwardness is the impetus for even more sharing. We replace loneliness with tweets and Instagrams to get others to confirm that we exist.

The second we put the phone away boredom and loneliness strike us hard. The best we can do is embrace these moments to remind what was, a knowledge of self.

 

Perception as a flexible gate

Count the number of passes between those in white shirts.

If you saw 15 passes, congrats. But did you notice a gorilla? Half of the people miss it, which also suggests that they’re narrow-minded.

Our vision is tied to our creativity, particularly our ability to combine images. Says scientist Anna Antinori who conducted a recent perceptual processing test called ‘binocular rivalry‘ at the University of Melbourne:

“Open people appear to have a more flexible gate and let through more information than the average person.”

Close-minded people literally see and experience the world differently. The good news that the personalities are elastic. All it takes is one eye-opening experience or book to boost your curiosity.

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Mental retirement 


Wouldn’t it be great to retire by thirty or forty years old? What sounds good in theory though has negative consequences for the brain. 

Indeed, a lot of work is repetitive and unnecessarily political, as we jump through hoops to make it up the ladder. And while our work may not be the most stimulating thing to do, it keeps our brain active. 

Studies show a correlation between retirement and memory loss.

The researchers find a straight-line relationship between the percentage of people in a country who are working at age 60 to 64 and their performance on memory tests. The longer people in a country keep working, the better, as a group, they do on the tests when they are in their early 60s.

We need challenges. We need some type of mind games to keep our brains fresh as we age. If we can’t recall how to act like inquisitive children who willfully fail, we need something more than physical exercise to hold up neurological plasticity. 

While work can be depressing, it’s keeps the brain cells running. Excess relaxation is what dulls the mind. Use it or lose it. 

We try too hard

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We try too hard.

We try too hard to find the perfect formula behind productivity. What if the brain prefers to multitask, toggling between focus and unfocus?

What if there’s simply no hack but putting in the 10,000 hours?

It’s rare to succeed at both a labor of love and fame. But therein lies another problem with obsessive output: Why do we attach our identities to output and latch onto it as a barometer of our personal growth?

Why do we attach our identities to output and latch onto it as a barometer of our personal growth? As Toni Morrison recently noted, “You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.”

What’s going to happen when robots replace the human workforce, at least those entry-level jobs? Surely, people will have more time on their hands to live some other purpose.

“The model for personal development is antithetical to the model for professional success.” — Milton Glaser

Work, play, and life are unevenly distributed, with most of the emphasis on doing work that matters. It all matters, but we suffer from too much closeupness to see through it.

Perhaps we should enjoy our portion of freedom without forcing it.

 

 

 

Great expectations

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When was the last time the ATM machine gave you incorrect change?

When was the last time a student schooled the teacher?

When was the last time you saw someone using a dumb phone?

For the most part, outliers are rare. The world’s largest samples fall into a center bell curve.

We believe in the consistencies that we see. But it all takes is one weird thing or strange occurrence to change our mind.

It appears that everyone uses Facebook and drinks Coke, until the normal distribution encounters a hiccup.

Pennebaker’s Writing Rules

From journalling to brainstorming to blogging, there’s nothing more magical than getting all notes, ideas, and emotional experiences down on paper. 

In the case of Pennebraker’s Writing Rules, it instructs us to write about our recent or past emotional experiences for twenty minutes a day, for three days straight. 


The practice intends to release us from the prison of negative thoughts. Instead of fighting bad memories, we come to accept them. 

Writing out our anxieties is a tool to cope with their pervasiveness. It opens up the pathway to better accept ourselves.

The image above appears in Susan David’s Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life