Embracing the Unconventional

A recent viral video captured the attention of nearly 2.4 million viewers, myself included, with its bold, provocative message – there is more than one way in this world to become an educated man.  Using this platform, the artist in the video passionately promoted a lesson with much larger implications.  Refuse to accept the conventional approach to life as the only approach. 

Convention demands following certain rules and precepts, trying to fit in rather than stand out.  But much of our Western value system is predicated on the spirit of the individual, autonomy, and in fact, standing out from the crowd.  How does one best merge these seemingly contradictory notions to achieve success?  Do we stay in line or forge our own path?

Clearly certain situations demand you “play by the rules” but other times you can, and should, choose to challenge the norm.  Job searching is a perfect example of this dichotomy as it’s a balance between projecting professionalism and leaving an impression.  Where some have certainly faltered in their audacious attempts to be noticed, (CareerBuilder even cites one applicant’s desperate attempt to make an impression by claiming to speak a non-existent language) others have successfully harnessed a more creative approach.      

A favorite, somewhat extravagant example of the guerilla job search is that of New York investment banker, Joshua Persky.  After exhausting the traditional methods of emailing his resume, networking like mad, and talking with recruiters, he threw caution to the wind and quite literally put himself out there.  Wearing his best suit and armed with his resumes, Persky hit up Park Avenue with a giant sandwich board around his neck reading “Experienced MIT Grad for Hire.” His extremely unorthodox approach created media frenzy and ultimately landed him a job with a New York accounting firm.

Am I advising you don a sandwich board as a solution to your latest problem?  No.  Just like the man in the video isn’t suggesting that no one should pursue a college education.  The point is that no matter the situation, allow yourself and your mind the freedom to exercise creativity and individuality.  Seize that pivotal moment when you see what everyone else is doing and recognize that you can do it better.
The man in the video concludes his argument by listing well-known names like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Walt Disney, all successful men whom never finished their formal education.  Just like Joshua Persky, they pushed beyond the current social paradigms that lead us to believe that there is only one way to find success.  They embraced the unconventional route. 

People like this remind us that there are different paths to success and that you ultimately have the freedom to choose your own route.  Nineteenth century economist and philosopher John Stuart Mill states it best: “The only freedom deserving the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way…Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.”