I am not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. I recognize time as a human construct and I would like to believe that I can make decisions to improve or change my life in July or October as well as January. That being said, I did decide on a personal mantra this year and came to that realization on January 1. My mantra this year is “dare to be different”.
Taking the plunge
Two things that happened on January 1 led me to this mantra. On this day in my town, the local pool holds a “Polar Bear Swim” to raise money for charity. For a nominal fee, you can plunge down the outdoor slide into the unheated outdoor pool. The outside temperature this year was in the high thirties and I willingly paid my money to participate for the first time. The water pushing you down the slide is cold enough but plunging into the pool at the bottom is a complete shock. I tried it twice to make sure I got the full experience before retreating to the indoor kiddy pool to thaw out. As I emerged from the water, I thought to myself, “if I can do this, I can do anything this year.”
A new hat
As different as it was to ring in the New Year with a dip in a cold pool with a few new best friends, I decided to up the ante. I recently purchased a bicycle helmet cover from an eleven year-old friend of mine who invented and sells this product. Think of a giant, stretchy Koosh ball. I decided to wear it as a swim cap since I was already far outside my comfort zone. I was amazed at all of the positive comments that I received from young and old alike. Needless to say, I was the only one sporting this new fashion trend but people genuinely connected with it, I think because it was so different.
I have come to realize that many times in life we do things a certain way because others do it and have done it that way for a long time. I have caught myself several times questioning why I follow certain routines and have started to question them and challenge myself to try something different. For example, why do we all enter an elevator and then turn to face the door? I know that there are structural reasons such as an easy exit, but what would happen if you faced the back instead of the front? Would it feel uncomfortable to actually face strangers? Sure, the first few times. Would it give you an opportunity to ask a stranger how their day is going? Absolutely. Would it give you an opportunity to make a new friend? It depends on how many floors you travel together. It can feel intimidating to not travel with the crowd but it can also be potentially very rewarding.
Dare to be different. This is especially important for young people that face constant peer pressure but it is also important for everyone who wants to be genuine and true to themselves. It’s all right to step out of the crowd every once in awhile. Have you tried anything out of the ordinary this week? Tell me about it.
Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.