When everyone around you is traveling by horse and carriage why not harness up a hippo and hit the streets? It’s weird to travel by hippo and carriage, really weird. But, it’s also awesome!!! You’re telling me if you had the chance to travel by hippo and carriage you wouldn’t take it? That’s nuts, of course you would…but most of us would wait for somebody else to do it first. We’d pay them to take a ride and talk about how cool it is that they have a hippo. But what about stepping out on your own and harnessing a hippo?
One of my wife’s childhood friends and her husband have done just that. They had this wildly hippo-like idea (or Purple Cow if you’re a Seth Godin fan). He’s an engineer by degree, she was a special ed teacher. They bought a boat, re-engineered its hull themselves and started what is now the #1 rated restaurant in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s Pizza Pi, a boat version of a food truck. They’ve been featured in news outlets nationally. Most recently in MTV News under “Weird News“. Fitting, and awesome! Congrats, not just on the success and notoriety of the business, but for being willing to step out and create your own way!
Contrarily, moving a lot as a kid, I made my main goal to find a way to fit in. Four junior highs in three years made that quite the challenge at which I failed miserably. I was an outsider and always have been. I think a bit differently, see the world a bit differently and am disenchanted with the status quo, but the idea of stepping out on my own and being weird is, at times, daunting. In fact, it can be so paralyzing that I settle into the very status quo by which I am so frustrated. I waver between being a passive observer and critic of the world around me and leaning in, engaging my community, betting on myself, speaking up and taking risks. It’s a constant battle. Sometimes the battle is to sit down and write on this blog and publish it. Other times it is entering a conversation and owning my own opinion. At other times it’s marketing my work, reaching consumers with my message and truly standing up and owning my approach.
So, I keep connected with others who have their own metaphorical hippos, like Pizza Pi. Another example: The team at Anastasis Academy is doing something amazing with education (disclaimer…my wife works here). They place value not on the status quo of measurable conformity, but on the unique creativity of the individual student and their potential to impact the world. What? Kids have more value than sitting in rows learning social norms and regurgitating information? What happens when you take a child, work closely to help them discover their bent, facilitate their curiosity, teach them how to learn not just how to recall facts? What happens then? Then, you find children who become teens who are weird. No, not socially awkward (though some can’t avoid that), but swimming up stream doing something with their minds and their interest that makes them kind of weird. Awesomely weird. Gasp!! Oh no, they may become discontent with suburban homogeneity. Think about this, as adults we want to be seen as unique, valuable and having an impact on the world. We laud others for creating their own way, starting something new and taking awesome risks, but we spend a lot of effort teaching kids to sit down, conform and maintain the status quo. And then we hope they’ll come into adulthood and have a unique, weird and awesome impact on the world. What Anastasis does as a school is what some have done as parents, they find a child’s uniqueness and open paths for them to discover their bent, to lean in and, at a young age, develop a sense of self, creativity, autonomy and direction unlike what is found in the typical American classroom. Anastasis facilitates the process of developing one’s identity, impact and ingenuity which may yield early onset hippo harnessing. Watch out world!
I understand that many people are simply satisfied with the status quo. That’s totally fine, but this isn’t for them. This is for you who looks around and wonders if there’s more. For you who read about Pizza Pi or Anastasis Academy and something inside of you fills with interest and energy. For those of you don’t just pat risk takers, creators, entrepreneurs and change makers on the head and say, “good for you, the world needs people like you”, but whose eyes brighten and dreams spark and think to themselves, “maybe the world needs what I have to offer.” For you, join me as I battle uphill against the status quo to harness up a hippo and find myself as I get just a little bit weird.
Books to Read:
We Are All Weird by Seth Godin
What to Do When it’s Your Turn (And it’s Always Your Turn) by Seth Godin
A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger
Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel