Have you ever looked around and wondered, in amazement, why everyone seems to be living the same life? Tragically, many people are content to become cogs in larger machines or groups of people. They become mere microcosms of the dominant attitudes and trends around them that they never stop to scrutinize or question. There are two kinds of people, however, who do not mindlessly submit to this corporeal of sameness. The first kind of person rebels against it, but in relatively benign and meaningless ways. They might dress flamboyantly or oppose trends for the sake of opposing them, but in substance there is very little to separate them from the common man. In reality they are entirely dependent on other people. Others shape their attitudes, but in reverse.
The second, much smaller group responds differently. They look around in horror, slam their fist on the desk and decide that they are not going to go through life as another schlep nobody. They are going to stand out from the crowd in a meaningful way.
How do they do it? They stand out by taking a completely first-handed posture in the world. They accept responsibility for forming the beliefs at the core of their being and become an uncompromisable expression of their vision. Standing out is, in the words of fictional hero Howard Roark, “living as though you were the first man born.” It is achieving a radical independence of mind.
In the eye-opening book “Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics – The Virtuous Egoist”, philosophy professor Tara Smith offers some insight:
“An independent person seeks neither his direction, his conclusions, nor his satisfaction from the views of others. He does not act for the sake of others in any way. Others are not his compass. Reality is.”
This kind of attitude naturally leads to standing out from the crowd, for the simple reason that so few live this way. So engrained is the herd mentality, so pervasive is the sameness that the man who charts his own course is a violent jolt out of the norm. That being said, here are some practical ways to employ this attitude in the service of your efforts to stand out.
Make your views known instead of accepting the status quo.
When it is appropriate, feel free to dissent from the prevailing viewpoint in a debate or argument. If the popular opinion around the office is that universal healthcare is the greatest thing since the New Deal, speak up in protest. If you know government healthcare leads to rationing and violates the rights of doctors, saying so will make you stand out immediately. If you give an impassioned plea for the glory of the free market, you will distance yourself from those who consider this cruel and heartless.
This does not mean that you should go looking for excuses to make a scene. It means that if you genuinely dissent from some popular viewpoint, you should feel no shame in saying so.
Live by your stated convictions and beliefs.
We live in a very hypocritical society. On the one hand, Hollywood glorifies the hero who holds true to his convictions against all odds. On the other, we hear from our leaders and cultural spokesmen that we live in a “complex world” where principled action is “simplistic.” However, this is not true. The masses of people who think that are confining their vision to the immediate moment. They are ignoring the broader consequences of their actions; in fact, they pretend that no such consequences exist. The standout man is the one who realizes that this is not true. He is the man who knows that caving in to an irrational spouse’s or employer’s demands only fuels them and encourages them to grow. He is the man who realizes that living by a code of principles is the only honorable and practical way to live. Staying true to principles like honesty, integrity, and independence in the face of societal or institutional pressure will set you apart from the crowd in a huge way.
Center your life on a purpose that fulfills you.
Another tenet of the follow-the-crowd orthodoxy is the general lack of purpose or direction in people’s lives. The unwashed masses delight in pointlessly drifting from one unfulfilling day to the next until their lives have, as E.L. Kersten writes, “Faded into the obscurity and irrelevance they have earned.” For this reason, the man or woman who lives each day in purposeful pursuit of a vision or dream will always stand out from the crowd. He is a walking, talking statement that the only meaning of life is the meaning you choose to give it. This is a sharp contrast to the general crowd, who is more than happy to let someone who seems astute enough render an opinion or direction for them. It is a bold departure from the hopeless “oh well, whaddaya gonna do?” logic that keeps most of humanity running in place.
When you get right down to it, standing out from the crowd is really a matter of following your own vision. Do that and you will be standing out in more ways than you ever dreamed possible.