Inverting Norms
3 min read

Inverting Norms

Inverting Norms

Back in 2013, when I first started working remotely, it was not a popular idea at the time. Very few companies offered it. People thought it was weird. I've had to take pay cuts to work for remote-first companies. It was difficult to pitch my startup before the pandemic because this way of working was too niche and the market was too small.

Now, it's the new normal.

The reason why I'm writing this post is not to talk about remote work. I'm writing this post to outline how I've grown to accept my place in the world.

My gravitational pull

As I reflect on what gives me passion and energy, it's exploring areas & ideas that are not popular or mainstream. I like pushing back against established systems, especially if I believe the system isn't working.

For example:

  • As a high-schooler, I pushed back against the Maine Principle's Association because people couldn't record their kids playing sports during the end of year tournaments.
  • As a freshman in college, I got in trouble with school leadership for calling out how they created fake Facebook profiles to try to catch kids partying/posting photos about it (it was a religious/dry school).
  • As a senior in college, I waged a "war" against my college professor who was extorting students (the story ended up in the Chronicle of Higher Education)
  • For many years, I've been critical of corporate news

For many years, I've felt like I shouldn't be interested in obscure topics or areas of interest. I've felt bad for pushing back against these systems and hierarchies that I do not believe are working as intended.

I'd like to fit in with everyone else. It sounds nice! On the other hand, it feels soul-sucking and contrary to who I am and how I get my energy. I don't mind being misunderstood as long as I have a solid foundation of facts and evidence to stand on.

Push back, or build?

As I reflect on my "gravitational pull", I've realized that I must lean into it, not run away from it.

But at the same time, I'm realizing that the best way to fight these systems & hierarchies is by ignoring the existing system and building alternative systems that work and function much better than the current system.

For example, if there's a bully at school, what's the best way to get on their nerves? Do you give them the attention that they desire? That feeds the beast! What happens if you ignore them and act like they don't exist?

As I reflect on my personal experience, the biggest mistake I've made is misapplying my energy. I've given the bully too much attention. I've fed the beast.

As an alternative, build and let the market be the judge. If the system is as bad as you believe, then eventually people will side with you and opt-out of the existing system for a new one. Not only can you do good in the world, but you can have the last laugh.

Examples:

  • If the corporate media is really that bad and dishonest, build Substack
  • If remote work is really great, build a tool that makes this obvious to everyone in the world
  • If the financial system is messed up, build Bitcoin
  • If public schooling is failing to deliver, build a better version of homeschooling or unschooling.

In conclusion

Big opportunities do not exist in the mainstream. The market has already priced it in. There's limited opportunity here, especially as an entrepreneur.

Don't be afraid to explore ideas and areas that aren't popular.

And when you discover a secret about the world, try to build a new, better reality instead of spending your time railing against the existing structures.

Let the market is the judge.