How Are You A Non-Conformist?

There are many ways that you can be different from the crowd, some obvious and so not so obvious. How are you a non-conformist?

Social pressure encourages people to fit in. To become one of the crowd. In our current capitalist society, to become just a cog in a larger societal machine.

While there is some value in that, as individuals we often struggle to be the unique beings we naturally are. There is no one in the world that is quite like me, from my DNA to my fingerprints to my upbringing to my personality.

And so we find ways to display that uniqueness. We are all, in one way or another, non-conformists.


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss a related question: ‘What makes you you?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What gives a person value?’


Some people shake off the yoke of conformity as rebellious teenagers. That might take the form of defying our parents, or dressing or behaving in ways that are not expected of us.

For others, being a non-conformist comes later in life. You might get a tattoo that has some sort of significance to you. Perhaps you decorate your work space in ways that are different from your co-workers. Clothing or jewelry can be used to set you apart from your peers.

Those choices are fine if you want to convey to everyone else that you have a streak of individuality. However, some might choose to be less obvious. They might seem just like everyone else from the outside, but they have a vibrant inner life, through what they read, or write. Or just think about.

Do you know the way in which you stand out from a crowd? Have you consciously chosen it, or does your lack of conformity come naturally? How are you a non-conformist?

Related questions: Individual or society? How much power does an individual have? How are you special?

What Do You Wish You Were Doing?

If money, time, expertise, or other limiting factors were not an issue, what would you choose to do? In other words, if you could do exactly what you wish to do, what would it be?

Too often, we get hung up on reasons we cannot do something. It takes too long to learn how to do it. It doesn’t pay enough to support me full time (or is too expensive for a hobby). I’m not good enough, or there are too many people who are better than I am.

As a thought experiment, what would you do if none of that mattered?


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the related question: ‘How do you define success?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘Is happiness the most important purpose in life?’


Obviously, some of these things do matter. If, for example, your dream is to play basketball in the NBA and you are 5’5″ and 50 years old, your dreams simply aren’t realistic.

Some hurdles are insurmountable. But most aren’t, and it is important to know the difference.

A big part of that is narrowing down what you really want to be doing. If you dream of being a rock star and playing in sold out arenas, is your dream to play music, to entertain people, or to be famous? The answer could change what the obstacles are to achieving your dream, and could point you in the direction to start.

But the very first step is to dream. In your dream, with no one or no thing standing in your way, how do you see yourself? What do you wish you were doing?

Related questions: What makes you the happiest? What do you want? To what should we aspire? What do you do with a day off work?

What Makes Change Possible?

Some times it seems as though things will never change. When you feel that way, how can you get unstuck and make change happen?

There are several reasons why you might feel that change is difficult, if not impossible.

For one example, you might feel like you have no good options. Rather than opting to make a bad choice, you may prefer to keep the status quo.

Alternately, you might feel like the situation is too big or too complex for any change you might make to have any significant impact. There are plenty of other alternatives as well.

Whatever the reason, is you feel you cannot or will not make a change, what can you do? Change, of course, is inevitable. But how can you make sure that the change that happens is most beneficial to you?

How can you change your circumstances, or at least your attitude? In your experience in your own life, what makes change possible?

Related questions: Change of status quo? How can you change your attitude? Can people change? How have you changed? How have we changed?

How Much Does Your Past Determine Your Future?

It is tempting to think that your future is laid out in front of you. Anything is possible, given the proper choice in the current moment.

However, that is not true. In reality, choices made in your past determine which choices are available to you in the present.

For example, the decision you made in third grade to play trumpet in band class means that today you won’t be auditioning for a drummer in a rock-n-roll band. Or, perhaps, your choice to major in English literature means you probably won’t be getting a job at NASA as an engineer.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘What book has had the biggest impact on you?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘How do you show thanks?’


Of course, there are exceptions to this. All the time, people end up in careers that have little or nothing to do with their college major. Throughout your life, you can choose to take up a new hobby. You might go back to school to learn something new.

However, it is true that at a young age, it is easier to learn new skills. Appropriately exposed, young children find it much easier to learn multiple languages than as an adult. If you learn to ski at a young age, your muscle memory is more ingrained than later in life.

Can you think of moments in your life where you choose a particular path that helped determine how things played out for you? Are there times in your past life that a different choice would have opened up — or closed — other options for the current you?

Similarly, there are some choices that you might make right now, in the present, that will determine what possibilities exist for future you. How might you make decisions now to best benefit your future self?

The actions you have taken throughout your life might have consequences for you now. How much does your past determine your future?

Related questions: What is time? How have you changed? What’s the most useful thing you’ve ever learned? What do you wish you had learned as a child? Will the future be better than the present?

What Can You Control?

Sometimes we feel the need to be in control of a situation. Often, we are confident in our own abilities, and doubtful in others’.  But how much control do we actually have?

We have the most control over ourselves. I can decide what time I go to bed, what food I eat, where I live, and the people I choose to surround myself with.

Controlling others is more difficult, but it can still be done. Through persuasiveness, persistence, or even intimidation, we can exert some level of control over our family, friends, neighbors, or community.

There are people who need to feel that they are in control, of themselves or situations around them. It can produce feelings of anxiety or discomfort when people feel they, or things around them, are out of control.

For example, this is one of the primary reasons that people love automobiles. You can leave whenever you want, and go wherever you want. You have the ultimate choice of your entire environment: the music on the radio, the temperature, windows up or down, how fast you go. Even people who don’t like to drive enjoy the flexibility driving affords them.

But how much control do we really have? To return to the car analogy, drivers are at the mercy of a number of factors beyond their control, like traffic congestion, poor road conditions, pedestrians, tolls, and more. Other drivers on the road might cause an accident or a traffic jam, on in general drive unsafely.

Moreover, the flexibility gained by driving creates restrictions in other regards. Cars can be very expensive, with gas, insurance, repairs, parking, tolls, and taxes, in addition to the large cost of the vehicle itself. The loss of financial flexibility when owning a car is considerable. Most people are willing to accept that trade-off, but it is there regardless.

In general, we are often at the mercy of other people, or even of unpredictable events or situations.

Do you feel the need to be in control? What can you control?

Related questions: How much of our thoughts are our own? Where does authority come from? How has luck shaped your life? Free-will or predestination?