Is Nonconformity a Viable Path?


“It gives me great pleasure indeed to see the stubbornness of an incorrigible nonconformist warmly received.”
–Albert Einstein


Ah, the nonconformists – those who steer from the well-beaten path. Visions of Noam Chomsky and Woody Alan dance through my head. But conformity of thought seems to rule the day for most, and it goes without saying that there are businesses and government agencies out there that seriously depend on that dynamic for survival. The picture that seems to be painted by these ineffable individuals and agencies is a kind of follow the herd mentality, and unfortunately, it seems to work very well. For many, nonconformity is a flag word, and for others a way of life. Where do we go?

Here are a few opinions you might want to consider.

  • Emerson reminds us: “Whoso would be a man must also be a non-conformist.”
  • Tolkien states that not all those who actually wander are lost.
  • Voltaire warns of the stone throwing at those showing a new road.
  • Mark Twain said that if you find yourself on the side of the majority, it just might be time to pause and reflect.
  • Bertrand Russell states that it’s healthy to put a question mark after things you have long taken for granted.
  • Nietzsche felt that the surest way to corrupt a youth is to “instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”
  • Here’s a great Chinese Proverb: One dog barks at something, and a hundred bark at the bark. (Damn, I love that one)
  • Carl Rogers states the following: If we value independence, if we are disturbed by the growing conformity of knowledge, of values, of attitudes, which our present system induces, then we may wish to set up conditions of learning which make for uniqueness, for self-direction, and for self-initiated learning.”
  • Here’s a final thought from George Bernard Shaw that I feel kind of nails it. “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

These statements seem to represent some well thought out ideas from people who have spent most of their life not only thinking, but critically thinking. I’d find it illogical to just toss these thoughts to the wayside.


It would be irreverent not to include one of Steve Jobs most famous captions:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do it.”


Bottom line:

The quest for nonconformity as a manifesto for engaging a 21st Century work environment has never been more dead-on in my opinion, and it’s great to be in what I would consider “good company” on that premise.

Take a stand and embrace the rewards of nonconformity – Think Differently.


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  1. John Finnigan
    6 years ago

    When someone mentions non-conformity to me, it always holds my interest. One of my favorite quotes:

    “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, made to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing…” Jack Kerouac.

    Jake Kot is on a journey that sparks the imagination…

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