‘There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have been reading some of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays over the past few days and there are some great lessons to be learned. This quote is from his most famous work titled Self-Reliance. One lesson to be learned from this essay is that imitation and conformity will both lead you to being like everyone else. If you strive to be mediocre, by all means imitate others and conform. However, if you want to become more individualistic, maybe you should consider making choices for yourself and not following the crowd. Our society is working against our individualism and trying to form our ideas and how we act. Most people deep down do not want to be told what to do. We want to be ourselves. We want to tap into our creative intelligence. We want to play by our rules.
Places to apply this:
1. In Business – When I grew up, everyone told me to go to school and get a job. This is the common advice given to children and young adults. But is this always the right advice? I beleive school is necessary for children to provide structure and a good base of knowledge. But as young adults, many people do not even consider working for themselves or possibly starting their own business. One reason for this is that most people will try and talk you out of it because of the risk factor. However, many of these people will do this because they are in a comfortable position and want you to be like them. They chose to find a safe job, and after making that decision, they have rationalized that their career choice should be yours too. I’m not saying working for someone else is a bad thing. I just think everyone should think for themselves and explore other options before conforming to the traditional ‘job’.
2. Social Gatherings – There will always be peer pressure when you are out in public or with your friends. We can take this advice and learn to make decisions that benefit us, instead of doing what everyone else is doing. I understand peer pressure is very powerful, but there comes a time to be yourself. Making smarter decisions and living by your own principles will gain you more respect in the end.
3. In Life – There are many social norms in our society. People expect you to have certain values, beleifs, attitudes, and behaviors. The moment you don’t, you will most likely be judged. If anything, I ask that you at least question some social norms. You should be able to do the things you enjoy without people telling you what is right and wrong. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘To be great is to be misunderstood’.
Work on thinking in terms of what you believe. Try and become more creative and interesting. Don’t always follow the crowd because they lead right to mediocrity.