Doing Abnormal Things
I just took a phone call.
I really had no idea why I contacted the person in the first place, why we scheduled a call or what I was going to say when the time came and I heard…
“Hello, Jeremiah — How can I help you?”
Yet, after hanging up…I was filled with such excitement for life, determination to continue to pursue my goals and new knowledge of a space that I previously knew little to nothing about.
All of that because I did something that I thought was strange and abnormal.
No one ever taught me to pursue abnormal things. It seems strange to advocate the pursuit of something deviating from the commonly accepted norm. After seeing the defintion of the word, it becomes even more clear as to why the “pursuit of the abnormal” is not a common occurrence.
Typically in a way that is undesirable or worrying…
When I chose to come to California to go to school, it was considered a worrying and undesirable decision by many of those who knew me.
When I chose to stay at UCLA after being (mis)classified as a non-resident, those who knew that I chose to stay deemed it a worrying and undesirable decision.
When I decided not to go to law school but instead to start saying “I have no idea what I want to do with my life and I have zero plans for after graduation,” everyone thought that that was a terribly worrying and undesirable decision.
When I sent a cold email, scheduled a call and picked up my phone this afternoon to answer the incoming call from this stranger…I thought the whole situation was worrying (I had no idea what the outcome would be) and the worrying was undesirable (as was the potential for embarrassing myself on the phone).
Yet without each of these abnormal decisions (and many, many others) that made no sense to most of the people in my life, I would not be who I am today.
And I am so very grateful to be who I am today.
Some of the best things in my life have come from abnormal behaviors.
The person that I am today is mostly due to the abnormal things I have done in my life. Sure, there are so many factors that have contributed to the person that I am today, but few of them compare to the formative results of adopting abnormal behaviors and executing on abnormal things.
Today’s phone call was a marvelous reminder of the value of looking for and going through with those abnormal things.
Some of the most abnormal experiences brought the most abnormal people into my life. People who challenge me. There have been dozens of times where I found myself standing in a room with people I knew nothing about and a theme I was not qualified to speak about at length (health care, exponential technology, city planning, venture capital, social entrepreneurship).
Yet, because I stepped into the room, in spite of the worry and undesirable discomfort, and engaged with the abnormal situation, I reaped a wonderful reward.
Without the wide range of abnormal places I have found myself over the last year, I would not have the cross-section of mentors and friends that so formatively influence my life.
You can do it too! No, seriously.
The amazing thing about pursuing abnormal behavior as a way to grow is that anyone can do it!
If you are reading this now and you feel stagnant in your life or that you are not achieving the confidence you need to move to the next level, abnormal behavior is just riiiiight around the corner from you! The more stagnant you feel the closer abnormal behavior is!
Think about that. The more stuck you feel in your own life the more easy it is to identify abnormal activities or experiences for growth.
Little steps I took.
Abnormality in my life started with sitting still and “wasting time” by clearing my mind to think while 100 other things “needed” my attention. For many people, intentionally sitting still and being alone for a few moments in order to think is very abnormal.
Another initial abnormal behavior I chose to explore and adopt was to take my headphones out (every once in a while — I’m not perfectly immune from the desire for some silence/alone time) and to speak to the world around me whether it be the people in the elevator, the people making my coffee, or the people I passed in the hallways.
Think of something that makes you undesirably uncomfortable from worry no matter how simple it seems (like taking your headphones out and saying hello) and do it.
Then do it again.
Pursuing abnormal behavior will never be easy (So don’t wait for it to “get easier”). That is the whole point of pursuing it, it is hard and that is good for you! Until you dive in nothing will change and until you adopt an attitude of persistence no momentum will be created.
Making abnormality a habit…
Its impossible. You can’t make it a habit.
The paradox of “adopting the habit” of seeking out abnormal experiences…is that in order for something to be abnormal it cannot be comfortable, familiar or habitual (in the sense that is is “regular”).
The only habit you can commit to is one of growth — understanding that growth most often comes through discomfort.
This is the true difficulty in doing abnormal things. They never, ever come easily.
They are difficult by definition. They are awkward or strange by defintion. They are hard to find, define and grasp by defintion.
This is not to say that you can’t make what ONCE was an abnormal behavior into a habit. For instance, writing and publishing was extremely abnormal for me to do 6-months ago. It was worrying, undesirable and just awful. But now that I have made a habit of writing and publishing, it is no longer an abnormal behavior. It still reaps amazing rewards but it is not as difficult for me to do anymore.
Learning new tricks with each abnormal experience.
Every time you do something abnormal it is a learning experience.
There are tools that you can accumulate and bring with you through each experience, but they do not negate the strange nature of each abnormal thing you do.
Abnormal things may always be uncomfortable, but the degree of discomfort is related to your preparedness based on past experience and what you have learned along the way.
For instance, I picked up the phone today entirely unsure what I was going to say (or what they were going to say, for that matter). I had no idea who the person really was other than a cursory scan of their LinkedIn. I had no idea how the 21-minutes would play out BUT…
I had faith that doing this abnormal thing with all of its discomfort and worry would bring great reward because of past experience with abnormal behavior.
Faith and experience.
Faith got me TO the door but what was going to bring me THROUGH the door?
As our conversation began, my mind was racing as to how to properly navigate the conversation without embarrassing myself (since I did not feel very prepared).
But before I knew it…old lessons I have learned through other straining (abnormal) experiences in the last year started kicking in and contributing their two-cents.
The flow of the call:
He remains casual and high-spirited in the beginning of the call with no mention of professional topics…so I remain casual and high-spirited not derailing the path he chose to set us on.
He speaks very clearly and articulately so I adopt my more articulate manner of speaking.
He obviously exhibits amazing interpersonal skills and works in a space that regularly involves face-to-face interactions with C-Level individuals so I let those two factors (along with my interest in relationships) to shape my first question. Additionally, from past abnormal experiences, I knew that it is best to make my questions unique and not generic internet (Quora) questions so adapting on the fly in the phone call seemed natural.
Without having to tell myself to keep it short, I automatically crafted an explanation and a clear question in a short time span so as not to lose his interest. How? From countless past abnormal experiences where I DIDN’T know how to limit the length of my question.
Finally, and this one impressed even me, my internal clock has become rather attune to certain circumstances, like phone calls, and without checking the time I began to thank him for his time and comment on how short the 21-minutes had seemed (the phone call was at 20-minutes when I said that).
All of these skills/tools/habits/traits that carried me through the phone call and made the entire experience so amazing were slowly acquired through adopting abnormal behavior and working out what I did wrong and what I could improve in any given circumstance.
The easiest way to grow is to be different.
Do you have a desire to grow? Then do something different. Pursue abnormal things.
Do you have dreams that stay in your bed and never show up in your day-to-day life? Then begin to be different than who you were yesterday and pursue abnormal behavior.
Do you feel a lack of confidence in who you are? Then show the world and yourself how confident you truly are by building and discovering that confidence through doing abnormal things.
Do you have a hard time expressing your unique value? Start doing abnormal things and you will understand the many ways you are uniquely valuable.
Being different changes your life.
Being the same perpetuates stagnation and that feeling of meaninglessness.
Find your voice, find your value, find your confidence and build toward your goals.