Why the Weird Ones Will Change the World

Road trippin' through Arizona with my Swiss friends.

Road trippin’ through Arizona with my weird Swiss friends.

When I was in high school, I was told that I was “weird.” Whatever that means. I wasn’t one of the popular kids. But I didn’t really want to be one of the popular kids. I noticed that it’s a superficial social label. The popular kids were athletic, attractive, and too cool for the weirdos. I only played one out of the five available sports, I wasn’t exactly the most attractive dude, and I loved to read about all kinds of things, including physics, astronomy, and alternative energy instead of following the current trends of Western pop culture. According to The Oatmeal, if your exterior is beautiful, you don’t really have to work on your interior, because people will flock to you just because you look beautiful on the outside. That’s how one-night-stands happen. The weird ones, however, focus much of their energy on building their personality, character, world view, and intellect instead of learning how to put on makeup like Michelle Phan or visiting the gym eight days a week.

I’m currently reading Dan Brown’s new novel, Inferno, where he wrote this masterpiece of a statement:

There’s nothing more creative or destructive than a brilliant mind with a purpose.

Like Hitler for destruction, or Mark Zuckerberg for creativity. A brilliant mind is usually found in the head of a weird person. A normal person goes through life wanting to avoid as much bad stuff as possible. Just get to work on time, do your job, and don’t start a war. Peace and love, yo. Honestly, if people don’t want you dead, then you’re doing something wrong. Either that, or you aren’t doing anything at all. A weird person actively pursues trouble. That’s what makes them weird.

     “Hey, what if I created a website where you can rate the hotness of Harvard females?”

     “Mark, what the hell, man.”

We all want to be leaders of some sort. CEOs, presidents, metaphorical as well as literal kings and queens, youth pastors, social reformers, and so on. But hey, if you don’t stick out of the crowd, how will you lead the crowd? If you aren’t looking to fight the opposition, whatever it might be, then you might as well bask in the voidable glory of impartiality. The creative, strange, out-of-the-box characters are the ones who are capable of flipping the world on its head because they’re weird enough to want to do that. People who say, “There’s nothing wrong with this world, so why change it?” are also the ones who watch bowling on television.

Usually when I talk to people about revolutionizing the education system or the global economy or the media, then almost all of them usually ask me this simple question:


And I usually give them this simple response:

     “Why not?”

 Yeah, why not? Well, mainly because the world needs to change if we want to avoid a worldwide socio-economic apocalypse, but also because if the weird ones don’t do it, there are two options: either nobody will, or the normal people will attempt to… and fail miserably. Regulated bureaucracy and by-the-book protocol are the death of innovative creativity. If you want to learn how to reinvent the global economy, don’t go to an economics professor or attend a G8 Summit. Instead, go to an accountant who works for the Mafia. They’ll tell you exactly how to do it. Many world changers live on the fringes of society, not in the politically-correct center of it. You heard me, Mr. President.

37 thoughts on “Why the Weird Ones Will Change the World

  1. Commenting on posts is one of my favorite activities. Yep. I’m right up there on the weirdness scale.

    Embrace your inner weirdness and remember: When you’re in your 60’s and you look back on those people who were “cool” (like the football star and the prom queen), you’re the one who had the interesting life. They became the used car salesman and receptionist with 5 ordinary kids who were lucky to graduate high school.

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  3. This is a great one! :-) And really true, when I look back to my own schooltime… I was also one of the weird ones (My teacher often called me a “Spezi” :-D ). This post is really encouraging to go for your dreams. Thanks!

  4. Love, love, love this! (Yes, three times.)

    It’s so refreshing to hear intelligent people agreeing with me! With all the naysayers out there, things can really get depressing if you aren’t careful with your thoughts. I’ve learned this recently. Thanks for reminding me that being different is okay, and that oftentimes the different people come out better on the other side than the “normal” ones. (;

  5. Octavia Butler said it first, and said it better:

    “Prodigy is, at its essence, adaptability and persistent, positive obsession. Without persistence, what remains is an enthusiasm of the moment. Without adaptability, what remains may be channeled into destructive fanaticism. Without positive obsession, there is nothing at all.” – Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower

  6. found this post through GOOD. i like how it is encouraging people to embrace their weirdness to help change the world but what i’m not a fan of is the whole “revenge of the nerds” theme. if your particular brand of weirdness is really what makes you an efficient leader, then go lead with your weirdness and do good things – but don’t go around trying to prove that your weirdness is a good thing because you used to be the unpopular kid

  7. Why shame Michelle Phan in an article on beeing yourself and the advantages of bein different? She learned how to apply make-up and now she’s earning money with and as far as I know, she is the CEO of her own company. That’s pretty rad and awesome, don’t you think? Or does different only mean one thing? (geeky, nerdy, reading books, etc) Some people may find they can express themselves through make up and clothes, and while this may not be the thing for, it does not mean, you can shame someone for their life choices, just because you consider them unworthy. Does not make you any better than the “normal” people you describe in your article.

  8. I was popular, I was a cheerleader and although I was easily friends with the “weird” people, I wasn’t considered one. I am pretty but I’m still interested in things. I am not a secretary, I’m returning esl teacher that has seen seven countries in the last two years. I’m back and although I may end up a secretary for now, it’s cause the economy is shit. Just be careful not to generalize. Not everyone weird is awesome.

  9. Come on man! Not everyone popular or athletic is looking towards a shallow adult life. I was a cheerleader and popular. Yes I thought it was shit a lot of times and completely lame, but I liked sports and I liked cheerleading. I also loved to read and make volcanoes. I’m also not a secretary, but I might end up a secretary for awhile, mainly because the economy isn’t made for our generation and I have bills to pay. It’s okay to want to spend a little bit of your life wanting to be ordinary and living with routine. It doesn’t make you any less of a person.

    Overall I get your point, but ease up on us a little!

  10. I’m 100% sure that you can be weird and change the world without judging others for their lifestyle. Find the right opposition, but pick your battles. If I’m looking to reform the education system or alleviate poverty, hating on an individual for excessively going to the gym or putting on make up is just pointless.

  11. I enjoyed reading the comments as much as I enjoyed reading the blog entry. There are a few exceptional people who were both popular and didn’t make life miserable for those of us who were weird in high school Unfortunately, I didn’t meet any until I was in my 30’s. It’s rare to find a good-looking, popular person from high school who can accept (and be acceptable in) both worlds.

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  14. Jan, You’re the Man! I have missed your post and am glad to see you and your weird self are back. :) Weirdos are like the ugly ducklins…look at them now! You continue to keep our minds turning and I love every moment. By the way, you are one beautiful weirdo! :)

  15. Jan, Great post as usual! High School weirdos are like the ugly ducklins of the world…look at them now. I have missed your post and I am glad to see you are still at it. Hope the book is coming along.

    Just so you know, you are one beautiful weirdo! :) You are constantly keeping our minds turning and I love it!

  16. I think the essence of your argument is sound and, though I tend to agree with you on the whole, I do have a caveat. Or two. First, I agree with another commenter who said that there has to be a reason for the change you’re advocating. There should also be certain end goals you have in mind when you call for something as multifaceted as education reform (again, I totally agree it needs to happen, I just wish you had elaborated). Second, I would caution against falling prey to the same need to categorize/label as those who ostracized you in high school. The sweeping generalizations you make about both “weird” and “normal” people fail to encompass people’s individual humanity and also create certain standards to which people in either category must conform in order to fit your ideas of who’s who. A more inclusive strategy may be one that doesn’t continue the practice of ostracizing the “normal” people and instead invites them to the conversation. Empowering people to recognize and honor their own inner weirdness could actually help change the world.

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