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?

One thought on “How Different is Different Enough?”

  1. > 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?

    Most people are content with being part of someone else’s plan – they work for big companies where they are seen as a ‘resource’, where the management views them as a number and little else – and do little more than punch a clock in order to put food on the table. That’s all well and good (we need some of that), but it’s still a recipe for discontent.

    The entrepreneurial spirit – the drive to do your own thing and succeed or fail – is perhaps stronger in the United States than in any other country. And yet, the percentage of entrepreneurs is much smaller than those who go with the safer route. The fact that you took that step in the first place is pretty unique, even though it may not seem a bit stale at times nearly 10 years in.

    We do make an impact, though. A lot of people depend on what we do, which is why they let us know (loudly!) when we’re not doing it well enough. Facilitating the open and free expression of ideas by regular people – when traditionally only the upper strata have that opportunity – is noble, I think. I know it’s easy to lose sight of the impact that we have on that when we’re dealing with the daily drudge-work of our field, but sometimes you really need to step back and realize how many lives we (indirectly) touch and influence every single day, without even noticing.

    Anyhow… I hope you’re not getting too burnt out. It happens to me sometimes, and when it does I’ve mostly learned to cope with it by pursuing other outlets for a while until I get past it.

    – Jeff

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