How to challenge the status quo

How to challenge the status quo

TIL that Gen Z and millennials are into polyamory – it was 2017’s fourth most searched relationship term. Kids these days. Maybe it’s “just a phase.” Maybe it’s the flicker of cultural change, driven by a generation’s willingness to push back on  longstanding institutions and question social norms.

I like to move it, move it

There’s this lovely couple who recently moved into our building in Dumbo. (No, this post’s not going in that direction!) They’ve got three young kids (five to eight) and every time we see them, they’re radiant and energetic. They always make us smile. Last weekend, we saw them loading up a moving truck. “Wait, you guys just got here,” I confusedly asked. The dad answered nonchalantly, “Oh yeah, we move every year.”
“Yes, last year we lived in Copenhagen, and now we’re off to Tulum.” Even though we’d committed to our own family adventure with a pending move to Los Angeles, we just couldn’t grasp that a family that looked this chill could live such a non-conforming life.

Both Lisa and I could not stop thinking about this family. Are your kids ok with this? What about school? Work? Money? Visas? Their stuff? Friends? Family?But beyond the logistics, we just wanted to give them the biggest fist bump of all time, for just living their truth, and seeming totally cool with it all.

What’s your default setting?

Serial entrepreneur (and longtime RadReader Auren Hoffman) talks about the importance of regularly questioning default options.

Auren elaborated on the Rad Awakenings podcast:

“The things you do because either everyone around you does them or because you’ve always been doing them in the past. And they’re generally the right thing to do, but one should occasionally question them. [They include] going to college, getting married, your job, having a kid, your religion, core philosophies, and political beliefs.”

Why is it so hard to question these default options? Well for starters, they’re “generally the right thing to do.” And since they’re defaults, challenging them requires intention and contemplation (not to mention effort and energy). The busy-ness of life can render us lazy, or even worse, make us forget to ask these important questions. Finally, as social animals we’re wired to seek acceptance from our tribe – rejection can feel paralyzing.

I’m all about the tribe

Here’s a quick sidebar from when I left the corporate world three years ago. The text message below would send me into a tizzy and a world of self-doubt.

It was so harmless. Innocuous. The capitalization would f*ck with me. I got at least thirty of these, each one turning my stomach inside out. It turns out that our tribal affiliations extend deeply into the descriptions and categorizations of our careers. It’s no coincidence that we say “I’m a lawyer. An investor. A doctor” and not “I work in law.”

What can be done?

How can one take small steps challenge social norms? How can you stop caring what other people think? First, it’s important to honor that this has been a human struggle. I’m always blown away when I read the, written nearly 2,500 years ago, pointing to the timelessness of these feelings:

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.

Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.

Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.

Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner.

What’s your success statement

Another approach I’ve tried is to define success on your own terms. In the privacy of your own thoughts, how do you define success? Is it freedom? Family? Assets? Legacy? Impact? Putting them on a piece of paper can really defuse the negative thought spirals that can be triggered by comparison. And finally, I love this little aphorism from the author Ben Casnocha, the “Tribe of One”:

Forge a life so idiosyncratic that it’d be silly to compare yourself head-on to someone else. Take the path less traveled. Adopt a unique life philosophy. Do something crazy.

Usually, I try to conclude these postscripts with a punchy ending sprinkled with a tug at your heartstrings. But as I was writing this, I came across this tweet:

A reminder that there is no certainty – some can move every year with ease and others will find it difficult. Just like some can love many, and others with just one 🙊.

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