The words ‘eccentric’ and ‘millionaire’ seem to be almost inextricably linked in the popular psyche. I’m not sure where it all started – maybe it was with the reclusive Howard Hughes, or the money-conscious John Paul Getty I – but the tag has stuck. Anyone with a few quid in the bank and a liking for stripy trousers automatically inherits the label. And the implication is often less than flattering – that the person may be rich, but they’re not quite normal. Well of course they aren’t!
Here’s how Webster’s Dictionary defines the word eccentric:
“Deviating from an established or usual pattern or style.”
Of course millionaires deviate from an established or usual pattern or style! This is an essential pre-requisite to achieving anything worthwhile– not just making a lot of money. Why? Because to bring about extraordinary results requires extraordinary actions. What do you think happens if you conform to an established or usual pattern or style? That’s right – you get a normal or usual result. And a normal, more ordinary, result doesn’t lead to great achievement. If it did, we’d all be great achievers.
Do you have a tendency to conform and follow the crowd? If you do, you’re far from alone (there wouldn’t be a crowd otherwise!) and in all likelihood, it’s a hangover from your childhood.
Before we’re out of nappies, we’re already being indoctrinated to believe that there is a ‘right way’ to do everything. We are led to believe that among the many ‘wrong’ ways of doing something there is just one right way. Of course, when you’re a kid it makes a lot of sense. The world is a new and complicated place. The last thing you need is 12 different options for holding a spoon! And so we learn one way, and that’s the right way.
When we start school, the same process continues. One way to write, one way to read, one way to add up, one way to sit, one way to queue for lunch, one way to hold hands with your partner on the odd outing from school. One way for everything and one way for everyone. And so it goes on. Every schoolbook we ever read told us the right way to do things. Rarely were we given a choice or options. “This is how it’s done and this is how we’ll all do it, ”they seem to say.
Is it any wonder then, that by the time we approach adulthood this whole idea has become firmly embedded? There’s a right way to do things, and it’s the only acceptable way. To succeed, you have to do things that particular way. Take any other path and you’ll fail. The ultimate conclusion, of course, is that there’s one way to think.
This ‘one right way,’ middle-of-the-road approach keeps most people safe. They are safe from harm, reasonably competent in what they do, and importantly for the rest of us, comfortable to be around. We know what they’re going to do and when they’re going to do it. There are no surprises, nasty or otherwise.
However, as an approach geared to maximising individual potential it’s extremely flawed. While conventional wisdom, the ‘right’ approach is usually safe, it isn’t necessarily correct. Follow it and the result will inevitably be mediocre. Why? Because everyone else will be doing the same thing. Follow them and you’ll get the same result. Mediocre, middle of the road and very average.
Most successful people not only behave differently to the norm, they also think laterally, outside the box. And that is what separates them from the herd. So remember – whatever path you choose there is no one ‘right ’way – there are a number of ways that work. Your task is to find the one that suits you best, not the one someone else says you should take. To borrow a popular phrase, dare to be different.