Often in statistics, positive outliers are cast out from the data set or explained away as “unnatural phenomena.” In life, positive outliers are people who aren’t afraid to rise above the average. But unlike statistics, these positive outliers are here to stay.
It started with the socks.
When I first entered the workforce, the company I worked for enforced a strict business casual dress code. Everyone looked the same. Slacks and polos. Polos and slacks. Nothing original. Too much pleat. Not enough flair.
So I put my foot down and pulled up on my crazy patterned stocks.
I injected a bit of my personality into the dry/beige/boring corporate culture. And people noticed.
Did I earn a promotion? Did I advance my career? Heck no.
But I sent a signal – ordinary is no longer the norm. I will rise above the cult of average.
Millennials and Conformity
Although millennials are not typically associated with conformity, there still exists the human tendency to conform in large group settings.
Whether it’s at work, out with friends, or spending time with family, hesitation to stand out holds us back from being our true selves.
Simply put, blending in feels safer. The same applies to our dreams.
Settling down to a cushy 9-to-5 cubicle job sounds a lot better than facing unemployment to chase a dream of running a start-up, hiking across Europe, or moving to Nashville. Especially when everyone else is doing it.
Don’t. Be the outlier.
Benefits of Standing Out
Sure, it may feel lonely up here above the crowd, but there are a few perks to the job.
You send a signal
I’ve learned something important in my 5 years of blogging. Signal is more important than noise.
There are a ton of bloggers on the internet. Many have amassed a large following simply by yelling the loudest. That’s cool, but it’s not my style.
I send out a signal. A beacon for my audience to hone in on. Penguins use a similar tactic. Instead of calling out in a louder voice, penguins will use different frequencies to send out a particular signal to their mates.
Having a unique signal will become more valuable than you think. Wearing crazy socks is just one of the frequencies I operate on. What are yours?
You don’t have to wait to be picked
Do you remember in elementary school how terrifying it was to be called on when you didn’t know the answer? Head down, avoiding eye contact with the teacher, you could feel her gaze burning a hole through the top of your head.
But when you are the positive outlier, you get to be the kid who always raises their hand, even if you don’t know the answer.
The fear of anticipation is non-existent when you are the one calling the shots.
You emerge as a leader
Naturally, one who stands above the crowd is looked at as the one who will raise the average.
This may intimidate some folks. It does for me at times, until I receive an email like this: “May you keep getting inspired with the life that you have so you can keep inspiring others whenever we, at times, question our identities and purpose of living.”
Being a leader may seem intimidating, but we are all born to lead in some way. Because to lead is to love.
If you have the capacity to love, then you have the capability to lead.
Challenges of Standing Out
So not everything is fun and dandy as the positive outlier. You will face difficulties.
You become a target
People don’t like change. When you present a kink in the status quo, people will go after you. They might even attempt to cast you out (like a statistician does).
They will take drastic measures to keep things normal.
Like gravity, they will try to pull you back down to their level. Defy physics. Or invent a jet pack. Either way, rise above them.
You assume more responsibilities
I should say, you assume more important responsibilities. Meaning you will neglect some of the less important.
For example, I sacrificed personal fitness to grow this blog and a podcast last year. I wouldn’t recommend this advice. But with a newborn baby in one hand, and a dream on the other, I couldn’t justify fitting in workout time
But with a newborn baby in one hand, and a dream on the other, I couldn’t justify fitting in workout time throughout the week.
As you become a positive outlier, some facets of your life will grow while others weaken. We are human after all. We’re limited in both time and energy.
You are expected to do more
Whereas hiding in the crowd may have protected you from extra work, standing out means bearing the majority of it.
In any team setting, if you are the positive outlier, you will be expected to do or be more. If you can’t handle this pressure, don’t be an outlier.
But you can handle it. Bring on the challenge.
I’d like to thank Greg, Marti, and Devin of INTL for inspiring this post.