3 Cheers for the Black Sheep
"You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it."
- Robin Williams
Several years ago, while teaching The Writer's Workshop on a cruise ship, our group experienced an important moment that highlighted a universal theme. A brave woman shared that the subject of her book was a departure from the more traditional life she grew up in. The thought of publishing her work for the world to see ignited the pain she felt as an outsider in her family—the unconventional one in a world of convention. Her honesty and vulnerability touched us all and gave me a chance to talk about what I see as the benefit of being the Black Sheep.
In all my years of speaking and teaching, I've found that those who are most successful at living true and meaningful lives generally come from backgrounds where they don't fit in. There's a good chance you know what I mean. You may have felt like an outsider in your family, a flower in a garden of vegetables at work, or the one person who seemed to be dropped into the middle of school by alien beings. If you did (or do), you're in good company. Most of us who are doing our best to live conscious and authentic lives feel that way.
At one point during the workshop, I invited a surprise guest, Wayne Dyer, to join us to talk about his writing process. No sooner was he seated in the chair, than he began to talk about his key to success: his desire to buck the system and follow a path traveled by few. He was adamant that had he operated within an established norm, he would not have written more than 35 books—books that are published in more than 45 countries today!
Later in the week I invited Julie Barr, a talented comedian performing on the cruise, to talk about her creative process. Talk about out-of-the-box. Her success as a performer and comic artist was evident in her willingness to offer a straight, no-holds-barred conversation about what it takes to write and perform stand-up comedy. Boy, did we laugh!
The courage, commitment, and personal strength required to navigate the rough patches that inevitably come with feeling like an outsider are important qualities to develop. These qualities make you stronger, more convicted, and better able to withstand the pressure when society tries to pull you back into compliance from your position of originality.
I like to think of the black sheep experience as a polishing school—a training program that allows great thinkers and doers to develop what it takes to shine as they break new ground or conduct some kind of change-agent activity in the world.
The very act of living an authentic life requires you to risk being unusual, different, or strange. It's the opposite of trying to fit in. Whether you dress or live in a unique way, bend the rules with your own creative slant on life, or follow a curvaceous path that meanders around social norms, the reward lies in knowing that you're living a real and honest life. Is there anything better?
If you feel like a black sheep, welcome to the club. Take this week's challenge and get a little more comfortable in that beautiful skin of yours.
Take Action Challenge
Look for one way, each day this week, to practice finding inner peace in the outer lane of life. Dress a little different, use words that are more reflective of your true nature, or offer an opinion that tilts the boat a bit. Be willing to be you. It's the best (and only) way to cruise through life.
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