Be the Weirdo: Why Fulfilling Values Require Us To Behave Differently
Feeling my hand brush against another human, I was immediately snapped back to reality. I opened my eyes to find that I had swiped my hand into a man next to me as I swung my arms out to fall into a forward fold stretch.
I was in Oslo, Norway and had arrived at this bus stop 10 minutes early, eager to venture across the city to see their famous marble opera house and Viking ship museum. Each day I enjoy some morning mobility, but in the disruption of travel I had yet to find the opportunity to move. Though I was on a busy street, full of morning commuter traffic, the bus stop was deserted. I set down my little day bag and dove into a movement flow. For some reason, I grew really absorbed into this flow - feeling the light rain on my face and just rejoicing in the movement. I closed my eyes and became completely engrossed. I probably would have continued right up until I heard the bus arrive, but I never got the chance.
My collision with the Oslo man pulled me back to the world. When I opened my eyes, I saw that my previously empty bus stop now housed at least 10 people. Everyone sat on the covered benches or stood under their umbrellas. All eyes, especially those of my awkward new acquaintance, were on the weirdo stretching in the rain.
I apologized to the man next me best I could across the language barrier, stepped a little wider, and continued, now much more subdued and aware of the crowd around me. Fortunately, the bus came less than a minute later.
Over the past few months of solo travel I had grown a bit of immunity to these awkward social encounters. In fact, just the night before I had arrived in Oslo desperately wanting to move after an all-day train and bus trip from Sweden. I found my hostel and saw an artificial turf field directly across the street. Perfect. It was pouring rain. Even better.
I quickly put on workout clothes and raced across the street. Thirty minutes later I came back panting, dripping, and carrying my shoes and t-shirt. Everyone in the lobby and shared kitchen had a nice long look at the barefoot, half-naked weirdo sloshing past.
I could continue telling such stories, like when I realized that I could bearhug my travel bag to add weight to some squats in the airport or use my day bag for Turkish get ups in a public park. However, my point is not to be public spectacle (although I seem to do so quite often while traveling). My point is that, if we are to live by our values, we will often to be in direct opposition to the norm. To define your own values and act accordingly, you must step outside the Standard Model.
What is the Standard Model?
As Shane and I honed our shared vision for IHD, we began to refer to the (more or less) normal path through Western life as the Standard Model. Our mission is help you to define your own healthy and productive value structure and live according to it. As we began to promote this mission, we understood that it came in direct contrast from everything that Western culture teaches you to value.
If you have read our free ebook or any past articles, you might have seen mention of the Standard Model. We have defined it elsewhere, but I want to give a comprehensive view of the idea here. The Standard Model is society’s norms as we know them. It is the promise of happiness and fulfillment if you just follow the expected and “normal” path through Western life. It is the classic story of get good grades, earn a degree, find a spouse, buy a house, have kids, teach them to value all of these same ideals, prolong your desire for adventure and travel until you’re 65, finally have a little fun in your older years, and then die.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with valuing any aspect of the Standard Model. Homes and children are wonderful and can be some the most meaningful decisions that you make in your life. The problems with the Standard Model are the value system that it tends to imbue and the seeming in-acceptance for those who look outside it.
We all have a value structure. For most, it probably lies beneath conscious awareness. Our value structures are like the operating system of your computer. It is the underlying code that receives all inputs and generates all outputs. Whether you have thought about it or not, you have a value structure. Regardless of what we believe that we value, our actions betray our try values. Most people will claim to value vague things like health, family, and their relationships. Yet, a closer look at their choices and actions reveals a freezer full of pre-packaged meals and their habit to pull out their phone will sitting across from their spouse at a romantic restaurant. What do they truly value?
The Standard Model teaches unproductive and destructive values such as comfort, convenience, money, status, and being right. If we are to live the most fulfilling life possible, we must have a hand in writing our own code. We must define our own values and act according to them.
We have each written a lot on the first aspect of our mission: defining values. We’ve discussed tools to overcome our tendency toward “wrong” thinking and even being completely full of shit. We have outlined the principles of healthy nutrition and how to overcome mindless consumption. We examined how much of our personalities come from unconscious patterns. We have even laid out some ground rules for healthy debate and conversation. All of these are principles are based on healthy values far outside the Standard Model.
With all of our discussion on how to define positive values, we have yet to fully discuss the second aspect of our mission: act accordingly - how to remain committed to your personal path when the cultural and social influences around you seek to pull you from it.
Be the Weirdo
While my stories of exercising and stretching in public offer a funny image, they communicate my personal values for health and movement. I do the vast majority of my training in private and in areas where movement is more socially acceptable. In other words, I go to the gym most of the time. I don’t seek out situations where my exercise will be a public spectacle. However, when I feel the need to move or train and no such setting is readily available, I do not allow the social pressure to limit my desires to move my body how I want to. These opportunities seemed to abound while traveling solo for a year. Eventually I began to take pleasure in occasionally standing out. I came to let it bolster my confidence and reaffirm that I was living according to my personal values. I learned to enjoy being a weirdo.
Being a weirdo doesn’t mean being purposefully contrarian, acting out in public, or seeking opportunities to offend others with your ideas of behavior. It means living according to your values and learning to enjoy and celebrate the times when this sets you apart from the crowd. Being a weirdo is the only way to truly follow your own path.
This is a great thing. I have learned to enjoy my personal identification as a weirdo. Shane is a weirdo too, its probably the strongest trait that brought us together. And I have news for you as well, you are a weirdo too. If you’ve found even a small amount of value in the principles that we promote with IHD, you are a weirdo.
The Larger Weirdo Perspective
Being a weirdo doesn’t just mean stretching in public or skipping dessert at your next potluck. It is an essential way of life. Too dramatic? Maybe so, but consider the alternative.
In the US, the “average” person is overweight to obese, pre-diabetic, depressed or anxious, working a job that they hate just for the money, and still living paycheck to paycheck. They spend far too much time on their phones, do little to contribute outside of themselves, and went into debt to drive a car that they cannot afford. Yet, they can rest assured that at least they’re normal. Being a Weirdo is to reject these norms.
Being a weirdo doesn’t mean any specific thing or require that you follow a specific set of values. With IHD, we promote many values and principles that we agree are healthy, productive, and fulfilling. However, we don’t expect you to follow our recipe to the letter. Shane and I don’t even share that many elements of our personal recipes. Our value structures overlap almost entirely, yet the methods that we choose to fulfill our values and our day-to-day behaviors are extremely different.
The greatest trait that we share though, is that we are both Weirdos. We don’t seek to be contrarian simply for sake of creating controversy. But, we both care far deeper for our values than about the times that they put us in opposition to the norm. For me, this meant leaving a lucrative path in engineering to travel and help others create fulfilling lives through my coaching and writing. For Shane, it means to remain within the public education system (at least for now) while finding ways to teach his student athletes beyond the details of their strength and conditioning programs. It also means raising his children according to his value structure and rejoicing in being the weirdo who rides a bicycle to work amid a sea of large Texas trucks. For us together, being a Weirdo means teaming up with IHD, promoting the uncommon (and weird) path of defining your own values and remaining strong in living by them.
It also means, that we get to break the news to you that you are a Weirdo too. You have come to IHD, either for the first time or weekly over the past year and half, because you aim to craft a life of your own choosing. You have productive values and recognize that many of the influences around you do not help you live by them.
The most important thing that can do to remain committed to your values is to embrace being a weirdo. This is a beautiful thing. Nearly every influential person in history was a weirdo. That’s exactly why we know their name. They dared to poke their head above the crowd, take a look around, and decide what direction they truly wanted to walk. They chose their own path, often with heavy opposition from those around them.
Mark Twain said it best: “Whenever I find myself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.”
Stop. Think about where you’re heading. Ask yourself how you found this direction and whether it was an intentional choice or simply the path of least resistance.
Consider your values, then act accordingly. Often times, this means that you’ll have to be the Weirdo.
Shane and I love what IHD has become. We feel proud of what the site currently has to offer. However, we are not satisfied to simply create courses and write articles and ebooks. Our true vision for IHD is a community that supports one another along our individually uncommon paths. We want to know you all better and create an IHD community that is far greater than anything we could do as individuals.
The first step toward this is to create a community Facebook page: IHD Weirdos. This is a place for all of us to come together. We will post links to our articles and to other resources that we find valuable. We hope that you all participate as much as possible. Ask a question, answer someone else’s question, post an interesting thought that you had or a great resources that you found, or simply introduce yourself.
Shane and I will be there often to engage too. We would love to see your question and comments roll in. Also, let us know if there are any topics that you would like us to explore in future articles or courses. Finally, if you wish, you can reach out to us personally by email. We would love to hear from you. We also plan to launch a coaching and mentorship program soon.
Email Shane: firstname.lastname@example.org
Email Justin: email@example.com
Can’t wait to hear from all of you Weirdos out there.