Some people just naturally make their own path in life. They don’t fit neatly into the lines drawn for them, and they leave the beaten path frequently. I was definitely one of those people – and I learned some hard lessons about that life.
One of the mistakes I made, and that I’ve seen others make again and again, is believing that deviating strongly from the average means that you get to care less about selling yourself, impressing others, or “playing the game.” The total opposite is true.
Now, if you’re a true misanthrope and your idea of “leaving the beaten path” is to go off the grid and live in a cabin in the woods – more power to you, and there are days where I’ll be a little jealous. This advice doesn’t apply to you. Live your best life, and let no one stop you.
But a lot of people want to shirk society’s conventions and still be successful within that society. In other words, they want to march to the beat of their own drum, but still get all the money, fame, respect, power, or other rewards (whatever they may be) from being a successful member of the main band.
You can do it! Not only can you, but it’s awesome when you pull it off. But the mistake is thinking that you can do all that while paying zero attention to “what anybody thinks.”
If you’re doing a weird thing, you have to sell that weird thing. Intensely, and every day of your life, if you want to succeed. You have to live and breathe it, and you have to shout it from the rooftops. People who stay in society’s easy, normal paths can do so with little friction – they can keep their heads down, punch in and punch out, and no one will question them. Those lines lead to specific places with relative certainty, and if that’s where you want to go, you can just sort of strap in and go along for the ride.
But if you step off that path, life is no longer automatic. You’ve taken manual control, and that means a lot more effort. Part of that effort, if you still want the rewards from success that your society can offer, is convincing other people to believe in you.
Once you recognize that you can’t just toil in obscurity if you want to turn your weird life into a successful weird life, there’s a second mistake that you’re likely to make. I did.
That mistake is thinking that “selling your weird” means that you have to sell it to everyone, including haters and detractors. Totally false!
The second you step off the normal paths, people will start attacking you. Not many at first, but the number will grow as you get weirder, more successful, or both. Some will be random people you don’t know, but some might be old friends, family, people close to you.
You don’t need to convince them. You shouldn’t try. For every detractor, there are literally 50 million people that don’t know you at all yet. Those are the people you sell to.
A good sales professional knows that in the time it takes you to try to argue a hard “no” into a weak “maybe,” you could have just found 20 more people who give you an enthusiastic “yes!” Good sales isn’t about convincing people who are already super negative – it’s about finding people who are positive. So as you’re out there living your amazing, weird, successful life out loud, marching to the beat of your own glorious drum, don’t spend a second on the haters. But spend a lot of time on the neutral folks, and show them how amazing your drum really is.