“Black sheep” is how I describe my position in my family. I’m the only one who’s been divorced, doesn’t have kids, am the only entrepreneur, and has walked a pilgrimage.
I feel like the black sheep in essentially all of my interactions in life. Compared to most people I interact with, I think differently, see the world differently, and express myself differently. When I was active in Toastmasters, it was common for me to be a judge in the various speech contests that were held; my vote tended to run opposite the majority of the votes on who spoke the best. Oh well.
It’s something I’ve generally come to accept, though it leaves me scratching my head sometimes as to how my differences get in the way of connecting with others. It’s a reality that leaves me feeling like a loner, separate, and a bit of an outcast.
On the other hand, having a different point of view allows me to see things most can’t. Being different also tends to let me think outside the box for effective solutions — be the issue a sewing project, an EMS call, or how to approach a coaching client. Having a different perspective also lets me have compassion for someone because I can get out of my way.
But I Know I’m Not Alone
Do you ever feel like a black sheep? Do you accept it or try to change yourself to fit in? How do you feel about being different?
Recently, the concept of being an “outlier” was introduced to me. An outlier is a data sample, for example, that doesn’t fall into the norm with the bulk of the other data points. Outliers aren’t part of the nice, neat, data curve. The people collecting the data points tend to throw out the outliers because it messes up the curve and their study, and figure the result is a mistake. No! Outliers are often valid data points, they just don’t fit into the study. “Outliers are disruptors”, one of my coaches told me. Researchers don’t like outliers, he said, and generally exclude us from their studies.
That concept perked me up! Suddenly, for me, being separate, a loner, or a bit of an outcast didn’t feel so bad. My fear and discomfort about not fitting in started to melt away. I realized that in a world where the masses are the focus most of the time that outliers can actually hold a special position. Maybe not in studies, but in life.
Being an outlier and a disruptor in life can be a useful position to hold. By being different, you can challenge people’s thinking in how they approach scenarios and life. Outliers can be trendsetters, and advance society, technology, science, and the arts.
The world needs outliers! There’s no need to be afraid of being an outlier, nor is there a rational basis to fear what outliers bring to your life. In fact, embracing the outliers in life can be extremely valuable.
With this new look at the role of outliers, how do you feel about being an outlier? Less afraid? More useful?