The popular advice is to be unique and stand out. But, the truth is, it’s okay to follow the crowd in the beginning. In fact, it’s necessary. You can’t be unique if you don’t learn the rudiments and master your craft. And you can’t do that outside the crowd.
How To Follow The Crowd Without Losing Yourself:
Instead of trying so hard to be different, rather;
At first, do what everyone else is doing.
This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s true. The best way to learn is by watching and learning from others. I’ve often talked about the power of association in this blog – from peer pressure to social media.
We are social creatures and often copy our identities and what we do from our environment. Not even the very words we use are invented by us. So, why do you think you can stand out and be your authentic self without having to copy from others?
Rather than trying too hard to be special, develop your self-awareness, and be clear on what you want to become or incorporate into your life. Then find the people who are already doing what you want to do, stick close to them, and study them.
Pay attention to what they’re doing, why they are doing it, and how they’re doing it. And, perhaps, you will discover why they’re successful.
Don’t give up too soon.
It takes time and effort to become anything – be it a scholar, dancer, engineer, artist, you name it. So, don’t give up too soon. Stick to it when it is easy and when it is hard. Forget about enjoying what you do at first. In fact, as a beginner, you may find yourself often frustrated – unable to go past a certain threshold. But, don’t give up.
This is because, even if you quit and start something you think you are passionate about, with time things will get tough and you will have to decide if you’re gonna stick around or quit again.
And, keep in mind that whenever you quit, you end up never reaching mastery – hence, never becoming unique. In a twisted way, by trying so hard to find something you are unique at, you end up just being like all the other people who keep hoping to be unique by doing something entirely different. Most times, they never find it.
Most people who are unique are unique because they just kept practising until they got so good they could break the rules and differentiate themselves. Think about it. The unique footballer still plays the same football kids in your street play. Same with your favourite musician (same music, heck you can even sing). And, it is the same with Apple (they make phones like everyone else). The difference is how much better they do what they do. And that brings us to the next point.
Be bold enough to leave the crowd.
In 2002, Apple was already a popular company with several successful products. They had and wanted to launch a tablet computer to compete in the growing tablet computer market (just like Microsoft and HP were). However, Steve Jobs refused to follow the crowd this time around. He knew that people only saw the tablet computer as a slower version of a desktop computer. So, he waited 8 more years until Apple could reduce the size of the tablet to fit in a pocket.
In 2010, they released the iPad, positioning it as a mobile phone with a larger screen, battery, and overall capacity. This move changed the way the world saw tablet computers, and the iPad in particular to date.
The point is, once you’ve mastered your craft, don’t be afraid to leave the crowd and do your own thing. This is where real creativity and authenticity come in. This is where and when you become a trailblazer and can put your unique stamp on the world.
Why Following The Crowd Is Good:
When you get on a bus, you don’t fear you are going to the wrong destination because all the buses follow the same route at first. No. You stick to the bus until it gets to an intersection where every bus begins to head towards its unique destination. So also, in life, you will have to follow the same path with a lot of people until you get to that point.
The illustration I just gave is popularly known as The Helsinki Bus Station Theory. It is a metaphor usually used to describe the creative process. It suggests that all creative people start on the same path but eventually diverge and find their unique voice.
I’m sure you’ve also heard about the 10,000-hour rule – which suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert in any field – or even the 10% rule – which suggests that you should spend 10% of your time learning from others and 90% of your time creating your work. All of these theories suggest one thing: Success or “standing out” takes time and practice, and that is why you should follow the crowd.
(That time will be spent with the crowd, and the practice will be based on what that crowd is doing.)
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Conclusion: It’s okay to follow the crowd. Just don’t forget when to leave
Most times, following the crowd is the right thing to do. The crowd knows how to read and write. The crowd doesn’t murder. Neither does the crowd sit at home all day doing nothing. Most young people and adults are either studying hard for their future or working hard to make a living. There is nothing wrong with that.
However, it is still advisable to seek uniqueness when you have learned the ropes. If you have learned to read and write, then read better books and develop the habit of writing your ideas. This is something the crowd isn’t doing very well that you can use to add a unique spin to your identity and life.
Everyone is working hard to make money. Perhaps you can work harder and smarter to add a unique twist to your financial situation. The same goes for your health and family, and your whole life in fact.
Don’t just stop where the crowd carries you. Intentionally pick your destination even if it might mean occasionally going against that crowd.
A Self-Help Writer And Editor Who Keeps It Simple (Yet Elegant)