Hey you. Yes, you. This is a post about why you must become the real you. The you that you’re supposed to be. Because you’re not normal. You’re weird. And that’s okay. You should embrace your inner weirdo. You should dare to be the real you. Let’s go.
One day in 2003, a friend and I met in a Stockholm coffee shop to discuss business ideas. It was one of those serious conversations about our futures and, more specifically, about starting our own business. Before arriving, I had been shopping for one of those tape recorders that journalists use (to do research for a book I was writing).
I spontaneously turned it on in the middle of our conversation just to try it out. The following is an excerpt from our conversation about starting our own business.
Me: “Cool. Here we go. You love dogs. I love dogs. Right? French bulldogs, especially. What if we start a company that designs premium clothing for French bulldogs? We can call it something like Frenchiewear. That would be so cool.”
Friend: “What? I’ve never heard of anyone who pays premium dollar just to clothe their dog. Also, the name sounds like clothes for French people. It’s just weird.”
Me: “Okay. Well, what about pencils? Everyone uses them, but most are shitty. Either you steal them from class or get them for free from somewhere. But imagine a store that specialises in pencils. Antique pencils, high-tech modern pencils, artistic pencils — whatever your needs, you can find the perfect pencil just for you. Like a Nike store, but for pencils.”
Friend: “Seriously, dude, are you for real? An entire store just for pencils? You’d go bankrupt on day one. They don’t exist, because only a weirdo would give a shit about their pencil. Give me something good.”
Me: “Okay, okay. Look, we travel a lot together, right? And sometimes we end up in an airport that we really love, without understanding why.”
Friend: “Yes. Like last month, when we were in Budapest! Damn, I love that airport.”
Me: “Exactly! I think the secret lies in the carpeting.”
Friend: “The carpeting?”
Me: “Yeah, I think the carpeting in airport terminals is the critical factor that makes an airport nice or crappy. I’ve been fascinated by airport carpeting for a while, to be honest. I’m thinking we could create a website that reviews carpets in airport terminals. We could make serious cash from advertising on that site.”
Friend: “Carpets in airports? Who gives a fuck about carpets in airports?! I thought we were having a serious conversation about a money-making business, man.”
Me: “What if we create a TV show where we travel the world and document elevators in buildings?”
Me: “Or an online community for people who believe they’re vampires.”
Me: “Okay, last suggestion — an international event for rubber-duck racing.”
Friend: “You’re fucking insane.”
Now, my question to you is this — do you think I’m insane? Do you think my ideas were stupid? Chances are that you probably do. And if you do, you’re actually the one who’s insane. Let me explain.
First of all, I have a confession to make: the entire conversation above is completely made up. I just did it to heist your attention. But there’s a critical element of truth in it: all the ideas that the imaginary version of me came up with are 100% real.
Yes, there is a store that solely sells clothing for French bulldogs. Yes, elevators are all the rage. Yes, pencils are the shit. Yes, there is a website dedicated to reviewing airport carpets. There’s even a 14,000-fans-strong Facebook page dedicated to the carpet at Portland International Airport. Rubber duck racing, you say? Well, that’s real too.
In other words, there is a large number of people who passionately care about the weird stuff above. How is this possible? And why is this even important? Because of these three reasons.
The Three Reasons
1. People are naturally weird
I’m weird. You’re weird. Maybe you don’t buy clothes for your French bulldog. Maybe you don’t indulge in the athleticism of rubber ducks, or maybe you don’t care about pencils, but you’re weird in one way or another — either through a hobby, an interest, a fascination, you know, something.
For example, I love jet airliners. In fact, I love them so much I purchased flight-simulation software, a flight stick, throttle, the whole shebang. In my spare time, I spend hours in front of my homemade flight simulator. I calculate routes with maps that are synched with real-world airline traffic and I fly. From Stockholm to Reykjavik. From Berlin to New York. I might even be able to land a real Airbus 320 by now (well, I know how to get the autopilot ready for landing, so if the autopilot is broken we’re fucked). I’m not making this up, I love doing this. It’s one of my many weird fascinations.
And guess what? There are hundreds of online communities for people like me. We fly planes together, discuss their aerodynamics, even design our own planes, sell them on online stores specialising in flight-simulator airplanes. You get the idea. There’s a sprawling and bustling online world that awaits and welcomes all hobbyist computer pilots who are out there in the world.
So, what’s your weirdo fascination? You have one, too, I know it! If you’re afraid to admit it, or think people will ridicule you, here’s a piece of inspiration: I had a colleague who had a passion for laminating stuff and therefore actually had a laminating machine at home. Yes, a machine that laminates paper and makes it plastic-y. Again, not making this up. This colleague loved laminating stuff, among many other interests, of course, and I think it’s freaking awesome.
2. People seek other people who share their interests and values
For as long as us humans have existed, this behaviour has been deeply rooted in our DNA. But until now, the seeking part has been really difficult. Weirdos have been suffering in silence for millennia, afraid of being cast out from their social tribes if they deviate too much from what’s considered normal. Reason 3 solves this problem.
3. Technology — or more specifically, the internet
This is the most critical and exciting reason. This is what connects reasons 1 and 2 and renders all of the crazy weirdness I told you about before possible. You can connect with anyone on the entire planet. So, if you have a weird idea, a weird fascination, a weird whatever, chances are there will be thousands of other people around the planet who are weird in exactly the same way as you. And for the first time in history, you can actually seek and find them. You are no longer alone, and never will be, if you choose not to be.
In other words, being weird is not weird any more. Technology and the internet killed normal. We can see it in every facet of our world today, and it’s not only visible on the surface, such as in the examples in the beginning of this story. In fact, the uprising of weirdness and niche interests is completely transforming how our entire economy works (Chris Anderson saw this happening already in 2004).
That’s how much of an impact and power the weirdo in you has. And whether you decide to turn it into a business, start a community, or just find like-minded people to share it with is entirely up to you. None is better than the other, as long as you don’t keep it a secret. Because if you do, you’ll never forgive yourself the day you realise what you’ve been missing out on.
So, step up and dare to be the real and weird version of you. Because you were born this way and you should celebrate it. And there are billions of us who want to celebrate it with you.
See you around, weirdo ❤
I’m a former musician and scientist in chemistry. Today I’m an investor and global speaker on how technology affects industries, societies and human behavior. I’m on Facebook & Twitter.
Disclosure: I work for none of the companies mentioned in the article, nor do I receive any monetary gains from said companies in any way.