I found myself inspired to write this article after spending a couple of days with an old friend. He's one of those buddies you don't see for months or even years on end, but somehow always can pick up where you left off.
We worked together years ago teaching kids to surf, and we've both been on pretty interesting journeys since. But we've always kept in touch, and whenever we've been in the same country at the same time, we've managed to hang out and catch up with each other's adventures.
My last trip was a quick one. One phone call and I had a place to stay, plus 24 hours to hang out, eat pizza, drink some wine and find out what he's been up to.
What I love about hanging out with Mark is that he always reminds me of the importance of nonconformity. Why? Because the guy is seriously running his own race.
Let me paint you a picture: He's a couple of years older than me. The majority of his friends are married with kids, mortgages and a regular paycheck. They drive pretty decent cars, go on nice holidays and do a whole heap of stuff that society considers to be good, and more importantly, normal.
But Mark is the dude renting the kooky-looking basement with surfboards everywhere. He doesn't have a "normal" job. His career has taken him all over the globe. He has some epic adventures and jobs that would look fancy on a resume, and a few sucky ones that he just did to pay the bills. Right now he doesn't have a car, a regular pay check or a retirement plan. He's simplified his life and stripped it pretty much bare so that he can study something he's super passionate about.
His life, to so many people, doesn't fit in the box. You can imagine the conversations he has with some friends, who feel like they really want to help him get a regular job, or settle down.
And here's the important point: I'm not saying that it's cooler to be a nonconformist, or that his friends with fancy cars and beautiful houses aren't happy. They are. But that's just not where he's at right now.
It seems like there are unwritten guidelines for what your life is supposed to look like. The milestones that we're all supposed to be aiming for.
But in my experience, and definitely in Mark's life those milestones are bullish*t. They don't work for everyone. They don't mean the same to all of us.
For some people they create comfort, consistency and security. For others they just feel like pressure to be something you're not or settle for a life you don't really want to live.
And so, it's times like this, hanging with a fellow nonconformist, laughing about the adventures we've been on (and yikes, we've both had some crazy ones), that make me realize just how important it is to blaze your own trail.
This is your life — are you being who you want to be? Are you chasing something you care about and something that's important to you?
Go try stuff. Take the trip. Start the business. Go on that adventure. Do something new. Write your own damn rules.
Let me be clear: this definitely isn't the safest route, and it sure as hell isn't guaranteed to be easy. But you've got to carve out a life that means something to you.
I know for me, it's tough sometimes not to feel like the odd one out, the misfit, the one who doesn't quite fit in. It takes courage to walk the road less traveled. But I wouldn't have it any other way.