29 thoughts on “Outlier”

  1. I’m fully convinced that my being an “outlier” is a big secret to my success. Having my own vision (and not being afraid to embrace it), fueled by my ADD, has been a powerful combination to my success as a writer and publisher.

    • Well, it’s not a secret anymore! LOL!

      You did embrace your outlier-ness much sooner than I did. Well, I embraced it, but have been confused and at times hurt by the “fall out” of being an outlier. Being an outlier is one of my strengths.

  2. Kit,
    I like the comments about outliers challenging people’s thinking about all kinds of things. I believe it is often the outliers, with their unique perspective and their “thinking out of the box” that bring solutions to challenges in a new way. Too many folks are blind sheep that follow the flock. The outliers use their perspectives to draw others into new ways of thinking and operating, bringing talents and resources into a new direction, often bringing success. The outliers are very valuable and shouldn’t be discredited, or data discarded. Outliers should make data collectors take pause, investigate and consider. Outliers are an opportunity to learn and grow.

    • Krista, I agree that outliers shouldn’t be discounted. I do understand why some researchers discard those data points. I love the researchers who dig into the outliers for a different study. That works make for some great research!

  3. After reading your article about outliers, I wanted to share my experience.

    I was considered the black sheep of my family for many years and I got tired of that, so when I went back to some family function, I think when I was about thirty five or so (I believe it was a wedding and everybody was there), I announced at least a number of times over the weekend and I was not the black sheep of the family, I was the gold sheep of the family. It really shifted people’s perception. I said “Look, you call me the black sheep of the family because I’ve been different, I’ve been done same different things, I left, et cetera, but I’m having a great life and I am the gold sheep of the family”. The whole family’s perception of me shifted after that weekend. I am still considered the gold sheep of the family.

    That really worked for me. I don’t know where it came from. It came because I’m basically pretty creative.

    I don’t know if you you were there Boulder then, but I created the Boulder New Renaissance Festival back in the early nineties. It was a futuristic Renaissance Festival. We put that on three years. It was a pretty amazing event. I’ve done fun stuff like that throughout my life.

    • Eric, that’s a great story! I’m so glad you shared it. Taking action like that gives you strength and power. I suspect your family responded to your power as much as your message. What a great lesson to share!

      I was in Boulder in the early 90s but sadly don’t remember the Boulder New Renaissance Festival. I would have *loved* it! Yes, you are an outlier with all that creativity and energy.

      I trust you continue to act on your creativity and make the world a better place for it.

  4. What a marvelous take on this! I’ve long been aware that it’s the Outliers who make innovation possible. They are the ones who say, “What if?” and then find out. Further, all great progress has been made by Outliers. Case in point: Well behaved women rarely make history. Yay!

      • Well, yes, I’ve always been the square peg even as a child. I embrace it and I’ve noticed that I’m a popular dinner guest for some people because of it. LOL! Free food, why not? However, not all jobs have gone smoothly because if it. One old boss told me in my “review” that I was aggressive. I said I disagree, I’ve never showed my teeth and bitten anyone in my life. I suggested that she meant assertive. The boss threw her pencil at me. Yikes! Hee, hee, hee!

  5. Oingo Boingo is outsider who went on to write an endless number of movie scores. We outsiders are all around, oftentimes in the shadows.

    • Garrison, there does seem to be a correlation between outward/upward IQ and being an outlier. I suspect there’s a correlation with ADD as well.

      I trust you’ll keep following your wandering pathway, too. 🙂

  6. I guess I figured out I was an Outlier when I was in high school, around 1961. Accepting that I was ‘different’ made life easier. When I was in graduate school (MSc in Mathematical Logic), as a teaching assistant, I was referred to an undergrad class in Calculus as our ‘resident heretic’ because of the way I see things. Fine by me.

    I found you by Randy’s reference in yesterday’s Randy’s Random to your article “Outlier”. Wonderful piece.

    I have been in IT since 1970. Teaching in-house classes since late 1970, even though I’d never written a program when I started – no computer science in school – I’m too old. And, as a result, no one taught me what I could NOT do. So, I just do whatever needs to be done.

    • Congrats on accepting you were an outlier at such an early age, Bob. I’m guessing that your success at computer programming is due in part to your being an outlier.

      Glad you like the piece.

  7. I’m not sure if I’m an outlier. Either I am an outlier but passing as mundane or a mundane who breaks out. I know that I have days when I feel random and come up with statements that are perfectly true and totally strange to everyone else.

    The correlation between high IQ and outliers may be true in my case. I scored a 1590 out of 1600 on the SAT in 1977 and was a member of MENSA until I realized most of the members I met were boring. I also scored a 40 out of 40 on the Law School Admissions Test in 1990, but that test played right into my reading and comprehension strength (400 wpm and 95%).

    I also understand how things work much faster than others. 30 days after arriving at the 1000th Satellite Operations Group, I briefed the Director of Operations of the new Space Command with more knowledge of how our satellite system worked than anyone but a few experienced contractors.

    Perhaps I am an outlier because I can do things most folks can’t do (not so much after 23 years of chronic illness).

    At one point I was told I was arrogant – so I taught myself to hide it. A psychologist at the Air Force Academy administered the 16PF test and told me I scored in the high range for Dominance and related it to my enjoyment of winning at debate (he made the gesture of crushing something with your thumb on the arm of his chair to get me to accept the idea)..

    Oddly, I did get some flak from other children but since I’ve always been bigger than my peers and was willing to fight (literally), the sneers and arrows never bothered me.

  8. Kit, thanks for your wonderful & supportive sharing.

    Since Randy first started writing about you occasionally in This Is True, i’ve always wanted to know you better. Now i do. Welcome to the non-exclusive Outlier Club that never meets, has no agenda, and where membership is based in the simple act of recognition that comes with the phrase: ‘U2?’

    An add-on insight of mine might intrigue you, based on Jung’s framework: The outlier is the shadow of the pilot, so on a rare occasion can switch places if that core position is suddenly vacant. For a short while the outlier takes over the cockpit, but always lets go of the power position once the emergency is passed, order restored, and a new pilot emerges from the ranks. Then comes the return to the margins and freeform flight.

    • Hey, Marion! What a great greeting — “U2?” — among outliers!

      Doug mentioned in his comment that outliers are all around and often in the shadows. Jung takes it a step further and specifies where the shadow is. That reminds me of Peter Pan’s shadow — we want our shadows so we can be complete. Hhmmm.

      I’ve never thought of myself in the way Jung describes. But, maybe that’s because I didn’t know of his concept. I am that person who doesn’t get into lockstep with others. For example, when Frye boos were the rage I cringed when I realized I wanted some. I’m that lone bird in the picture of this article: alone and going the other direction. 🙂 I’ll keep thinking about myself with Jung’s framework in mind to see if it feels like a good fit. Oh, I hope my outlier self doesn’t reject the concept just to be different. 😀

  9. Fellow outliers unite! This is such a great article, Kit. My ability to see the world, and think different has definitely made me feel like a black sheep of my family and many of the situations I’ve been in socially. Turns out being an outlier is probably what propelled me into the work I do now and the success I have. Thank you!

    • I suspect you’re right that “being different” has been a key element in your success and life — may be the foundation of it, even. Does it feel better to think of yourself as a “black sheep” or an “outlier”?

      I like “outlier” for myself better. That fits my outlier-ness. 😀

    • Thanks for the referral, Mark. I read Gladwell’s book years ago. Interestingly, it didn’t give me an insight into myself the same way. I guess it’s part of an evolution. It’s a great book that I recommend to everyone.


Leave a Comment