A Word to the Weird

By Robert Goldman

February 14, 2019 6 min read

Let's face it — in the long, twisted road to nowhere that you call your career, you've tried to be many things. You've tried to be professional. You've tried to be motivated. You've even tried to be productive.

Hasn't worked.

Maybe it's time to be something you really can be. You can be weird.

Which brings us to "Are You Weird Enough? Three Ways to Stand Out," a recent David Kahn post on Lifehack.

In Kahn's world, being weird is "synonymous with being an innovator, a thought leader, an entrepreneur." This is true. When your manager sees you crouching under your desk, clutching your blankie and singing the JoJo Siwa songbook, her first thought simply has to be, "Now there's a thought leader."

Of course, not all weirdness is the same. "Being weird is not about bucking the norm simply for the sake of being different or seeking attention," Kahn writes. "Anyone can wear unusual clothes or ironically play the kazoo."

I agree with the clothes part, but the reason you wear chain mail to work is not to be unusual; it's to protect you from the gamma rays emanating from the soda machine. And if anyone thinks your kazoo playing is ironic, wait until the see you and Yo-Yo Ma on stage at Carnegie Hall, taking bows for a brilliant performance of Beethoven's B-Major Concerto for cello and kazoo.

Unfortunately, having weird thoughts is not sufficient. You have to "put action behind your thoughts." Our weirdness whisperer has three ideas on how to make it happen.

1. Acknowledge that you have issues.

Author Kahn describes a mentor who "started meetings with each person stating their 'issues.'"

This was a "lighthearted exercise intended to break down social barriers and generate social cohesion." I like this idea, but I'm afraid the examples of issues our author describes are not going to push the needle into the red zone on the weirdness scale. Starting the day singing a Neil Diamond song is sick, but not weird.

That's why I recommend you choose a more substantial issue to confess. Think how your co-workers will regard you when you interrupt the Monday staff meeting to announce that chipmunks are laying eggs in your brain.

That is what Kahn calls leveraging your weirdness, and while it may make you nervous to let outsiders peek inside your brain, "just keep reminding yourself that people who blend in do not stand out."

True, that!

They may get raises, promotions and perks, but are trivial financial benefits worth losing your reputation as a nut job?

Ask a chipmunk.

Strategy No. 2 is to "stop being boring."

Kahn suggests that you "watch less TV, or at least watch a greater variety of shows." This is a challenge. You've binged-watched "Dog the Bounty Hunter" so many times you're beginning to see the subtle subtext of individuality versus totalitarianism that runs through all 657 episodes. But career success is an important goal, so take a "Dog" break and start binging "Sex Box."

Gosh, you're more interesting already.

"Be the CWO (Chief Weird Officer)" is strategy No. 3.

In this position, your job is "fostering a work environment that negates the social stigmas that stifle offbeat creativity." You can see where this is headed — a series of all-company emails commanding "No shoes Monday," "No pants Tuesday," "Swedish only Wednesdays" and "Walk backwards Thursday," all culminating in an event that will definitely shatter all conventions, "Speedo Friday."

Those social stigmas will be out the door before you can say, "For mercy's sake, cover up."

Another way to bring out your weirdness, according to author Dorie Clark, is "narrowing focus on a topic." It doesn't really matter what topic you choose as your obsession, as long as it is the only thing you talk about, and you talk about it as much as possible.

Your weird credentials will definitely be established when you turn every meeting, memo and coffee room chat into a detailed discussion of Phytophthora root rot, one of the two serious diseases that plague avocado growers in Queensland, Australia.

You knew that, of course, but your co-workers, who are probably in the dark on the subject, are sure to appreciate an exposition of the advantages of using foliar sprays over metalaxyl granules to treat the condition.

This may not exactly be useful information in your line of work, but it will show your support for the avocado growers of Queensland and do wonders for your reputation as a weirdo.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at creators.com.

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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