I sometimes think back to a moment in my early life that has likely had a dramatic impact on the person I have become today. I think it was probably the first day of 7th grade. I attended Lakenheath American Middle School (LAMS, for short) in England as an Air Force brat and on that first day of school I was greeted by an acquaintance who said something to the effect of, “You haven’t changed at all. You look exactly the same.”
At that moment I didn’t know how to take that or what it should mean to me. I wasn’t sure then why I cared so much about what that one person said, or even why it mattered that I hadn’t changed at all over the course of the summer break. I did decide, however, that I didn’t want to ever hear that again.
I don’t know if I have some sort of ‘desire to be unique’ gene in me that was triggered by that moment, or if my current desire to be unique in the world is a reaction to that moment. I do know that said desire to be unique has influenced many of my choices so far. In middle school I began listening to music that was different from what most of my peers listened to. That choice largely pushed me into specific social groups and behaviors that continued through much of High School, and probably resonates in my life still today. When picking a college, I was probably drawn into Harvey Mudd College by the literature describing the uniqueness of the college and its curriculum. While in college, my desire to not just follow the traditional road to working for somebody else may have pushed me into wanting to start a company and that decision has pretty much molded my life ever since then.
As of late, though, I’ve been starting to wonder if right now I’m really pursuing a path through life that’s much different at all. How is being an entrepreneur and making money in America really ‘different’ in any significant way? What sort of real impact am I having on the world around me? Am I really making the world a better place?
I guess it probably has to come down to the sum of your individual actions, how you live your life, and how you interact with the people around you. And really, even trying to be ‘different’ implies that there’s some sort of way that everyone else is behaving when the reality is just a lot of different people each making their own sets of choices. Sometimes a choice you make may match up with someone else and sometimes a choice may not match up with anyone you know. You can try to intentionally not match up with as many other people as possible but then ultimately are you really living the life you truly want to be living? Or are you just riding through reacting to the world around you?