This reminds me of homelessness. LET ME TELL YOU WHY:
During my 5 months living on the road, I met a good many people. Some praised what I was doing; more regarded me as irresponsible and hedonistic. I regarded myself as a traveler (as I have in every other country in which I’ve traveled); most avoided my path, considering me homeless. Despite what anyone else thought, I still felt a distinct difference between myself and those on welfare. I would “never” classify myself that way.
Then I met a woman named Seal (yes, Seal). Halfway across the country I met this woman who A.) spoke to me like a human and B.) happened to be from a place near my hometown.
She recounted a truth about a person without residence – her sister, to be precise. Seal had tried countless times to put her sister up in a flat, to buy her clothes, to fill her fridge, cover some utility bills. And every single time, her sister would leave and disappear, unannounced, preferring the space and camaraderie that she found amongst other homeless people.
It took a while to wrap my head around it. Why would anyone want to be homeless? Why wouldn’t anyone want a leg up to get out of poverty? Why wouldn’t a person want to escape the cycle of facing the outdoor elements, going without showers and running water and facing the scrutiny and dirty looks of all onlookers?
Then, it hit. The answer was simple. She didn’t want it. She didn’t want the middle class rat race. She didn’t want the 45 hour weeks with only 10 cent annual raises and a professional plateau as far as the eye could see. She didn’t want the stress of materialism, the house mortgages, the 6-month catch up to pay off vacations or the competitive status-signaling of Gucci perfumes and G-Shock watches.
Seal’s sister simply wanted a community of like minded peers.
And I finally figured out my own shortcoming: in my confusion over her denial of creature comforts, I was pushing my own life expectations on her. JUST THE SAME as everyone on the road was doing to me (HOW are you doing this?… What’s your work, exactly?… In my day, we worked harder than that…You’re young and you can do that… You’re homeless and you think it looks cool, but I just feel sorry for you… You must be a drug addict… You’re so selfish).
A litany of excuses that sounded like unrealized dreams and unfounded accusations.
The point is, every group is a sort of cult. And that’s not a bad thing. For the most part, you can choose the cult of which you wish to be a part – if you have the gumption for it, at least.
I love this post from Adam Grant (thanks, dude!) because it’s invariably true. We cannot underestimate the degree to which our chosen “cultures” (work, religion, lifestyle, belief system, hobby, whatever) will influence us. In fact, we can anticipate it.
It’s also important to realize and remember that we aren’t necessarily here to reinvent the wheel (thank you, Naval Ravikant) and that “aspiring to change the culture of a group” is totally psycho and ineffective.
The best we can do – and I hope you do! – is CHOOSE your cult that embodies the VALUES that you hold dear. I repeat: align yourself with your values. Choose them well. (If you’re having trouble, Stephen Covey wrote a great chapter on this.)
Because life is too short to just go along with the masses. Defining your values gives you agency.
Sure, surrounding yourself with people of similar values might leave you devoid of much-needed pluralism (of course, similar values does not equate to similar opinions; you can still have diversity amongst a group of similarly valued companions); but, as I said, every path you choose has its own “cult”. It’s just a matter of deciding on the values through which you want to live (love) your life.