The Science of Weird

The science of weird

Michael Lazerow has spent a lot of time thinking about weird. He wrote a post on LinkedIn which spoke about the idea that a lot of his friends who have been successful are very, very weird.

He believes that instead of trying to help kids fit in, we should teach them that weird is good and normal is boring. The response to his post was interesting. Although a lot of people attacked him, some people thought it was good.

Are we born weird? Apparently, yes.

So what happens? We are born weird but then become normal.

Why do we conform to the normal? Solomon Asch performed a conformity experiment, in which people succumb to peer pressure despite what their own eyes told them. Normative influence. The pressure to fit in which we get from day one, which is exactly what Michael did for his job.

Unfortunately we all drink the conformity cocktail. It consists of social influence, otherwise known as peer pressure. Then there is informational influence. “The others must have more information than I do, so I must be wrong.” The third is authority obedience. Stanley Milgram’s experiment tested people’s willingness to follow orders. “Teachers” were asked to administer severe shock when people got the answer wrong. 65% percent of the people completed the study, effectively “killing” the “subjects”.

The conformity cocktail is served by the normalisation complex. The largest industrial complex we have.

Mr. Lazerow finds that grades and incentives actually crush learning, and that "we are awesome at being average, but we are awful at being awesome."

The only answer is to recognise the conformity cocktail and refuse to drink it. Weirdos are good. Being weird has advantages. “Weirdos are self motivated.”

According to Lazerow, this is not the time we should be fitting in. It’s also a time when it is easier than ever to be weird. Social Media actually helps us feel comfortable with sticking out, helps us learn that we are all weird but we are not alone.

The message to take away from this? "Tell your kids happiness is at the intersection of what you are interested in, what you are good at, and what your life vision is."