Do people label you as a heretic, a troublemaker, a rebel, or a misfit? If so, you might be an outlier. Contrary to what people say, that can be a good thing.
The word “outlier” comes from the world of science and math. These fields focus on the study of random samples. Any sample values which are an abnormal distance from other values are called outliers. Think of them as values that, forgive the funky use of English, “lie out” there.
People who “lie out” there are called outliers. Any list of outliers contains names of people who have changed the world. Names like Galileo, Einstein, Martin Luther King Jr., Buckmeister Fuller, and Ghandi get the list started. These people were way out there. They ignored the status quo. They dared to be different. They did their own thing their own way and changed the world.
Take Galileo as an example. He embraced the findings of Copernicus and started teaching that the earth revolved around the sun. He met stern opposition from the Catholic Church. The Roman Inquisition in 1615 investigated the matter and declared the view heretical. The investigation declared him to be guilty of heresy. He was forced to recant and put under house arrest for the remainder of his life. And yet, during his house arrest he continued to write and publish.
If you need a contemporary example of an outlier, Steve Jobs will do. He and his buddy Steve Wozniak decided to build computers in a garage. These computers were different than the ones constructed by IBM. They were different because Jobs dared to think different. The prevailing climate invited people to scoff at the idea of a home computer. But Jobs forged ahead. He even sold his beloved Volkswagen van to get started on the road to becoming an outlier and forming Apple Inc.
In the early days his company birthed a slogan: “Think Different.” This was Apple’s response to the IBM slogan which was “Think.” It should be no surprise that this slogan came from the company started by outlier Steve Jobs. Do you see the outlier genius in this slogan? In 1997 the slogan turned into a major marketing campaign. If you have any inkling of embarking on the outlier road you need to spend 59 seconds and watch the commercial.
Are you thinking, “I’m no genius. I’ll never be an outlier that changes my world?” There’s good news. According to Malcolm Gladwell who wrote “Outliers” there’s hope for us. It’s his contention that being a history-changing outlier rests not on intellect. There are several factors, but one of the most important ones is the ability to embrace opportunities.
Think of these outliers and the opportunity they embraced. Ghandi saw the British rule of India as an opportunity. Steve Jobs saw the business dominance of the computer market by IBM and saw an opportunity. Amelia Earhart saw the lack of female pilots as an opportunity.
Are you feeling the outlier vibe? Outliers, by definition, are different. If scientists and mathematicians took a random sample of people in your state, you would be “out there.” You don’t care what others think. You won’t settle for the status quo. Passion to make a difference in your world drives you forward. Fear of being shoved to the periphery doesn’t bother you. Indeed, it’s where you are comfortable. You already live on the fringe. The world needs you to find your outlier voice. The world needs you to step up. The world needs you to push us forward.
What opportunity for change do you see in your world? Look for a change that, if made, would make the world a better place. This line from the 1997 Apple marketing campaign nails it,
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Personal experience reveals that the journey on the Outlier Road is lonely. What if we gathered articles from outliers and put them into a magazine? You could share your story about being an outlier. And we could share ideas that, if implemented, could change our world.
I’m just crazy enough to believe we can make the world a better place.
This is the complete text to the Apple marketing 1997 campaign.
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ― Rob Siltanen