Here is a story that will tell you something about me.
I am in my first month at a new job. I am surrounded by a few colleagues who are the smartest people I ever worked with.
The conversation turns to people’s history. We come to realize that all of us have felt like a misfit at one point or another in our past.
“For me it was in elementary school, I always felt like the odd one out,” says one.
“I was the misfit in college, never seemed to find my group to belong to,” says another.
“In high school,” says a third. “I felt like an oddball. It took until I got to college to feel comfortable.”
They turn to me and ask, “Josh, when did you feel like a misfit?”
I stare back and them and say, “Right now, actually.”
“I don’t know if I belong here.”
They stop laughing and looking uncomfortable. The conversation continues.
I kept that job for 20 years.
What does this story tell you about me?
I am honest, even when it would be better not to be.
I try to look at things from a twisted and oddball perspective, like any comedian. Not always the best strategy at work. But it does result in some creative ideas.
I am far too attracted to the smartass remark to be fully successful.
When everyone is going left, I have an uncontrollable urge to go right, go back, or go up — anywhere but where everyone else is going.
I value integrity and honesty more than my career. I will not just “go along.” This is one way to succeed. It is not the easiest way.
And I really do feel like a misfit. Always.
I have found only one person who actually understands me. She even seems to appreciate me. I married her, because it seemed like a good thing to hold onto someone like that. (It was.)
I have found plenty of people who were impressed with me or admired me. That was nice. But as they get closer, people eventually figure out what a deeply weird way I have of thinking. As a result, they don’t become close friends, because they don’t really understand me. That’s okay.
I am proof that you can gain some success as a contrarian, smartass misfit with poor impulse control, provided you have a few other talents. It will not be comfortable. But you can, eventually, become comfortable with being uncomfortable, which is enough.
If you feel like a misfit, right now, I hope this will help. If you find someone who understands your uniqueness, hang on to them. They will be a little weird, too. Learn to appreciate that.
And find a way to connect with the other people in whatever ways you can. It may not be completely comfortable for them. It may not be completely comfortable for you. But don’t lose who you are just to fit in, even if who you are is a little weird.
You’ll find your way in the world, eventually.