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Don’t Let Social Norms Hold You Back
“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” -John F. Kennedy
Social Norms, Moral Judgments, and Irrational Parenting
From Chinese foot binding to today’s extreme constraints on children’s freedom.
We are all conformists, whether we admit it or not. It’s part of our human nature. We couldn’t form and live in human societies if we weren’t conformists. To a considerable degree, conformity is a good thing.
Social psychologists commonly describe two primary reasons for conformity. One reason has to do with information and pragmatics. If other people cross Bridge A and avoid Bridge B, they may know something about the bridges that we don’t know. To be safe, we had better stick with Bridge A too. A great advantage of living in society is we don’t have to learn everything by trial and error. We don’t have to try crossing Bridge B and have it collapse on us in order to learn to avoid it. We just look and see that other people avoid B and that those on A are surviving, so we take A too. This kind of social influence is referred to by social psychologists as informational influence.
The other general reason for conformity is to promote group cohesion and be accepted by others in the group. We depend for our survival and wellbeing on membership in social groups, whether they be bands, tribes, nations, friendship groups, or work groups. Social groups can exist only if some degree of behavioral coordination exists among the group members. Conformity allows a group to act as a coordinated unit rather than a set of separate individuals. We tend to adopt the ideas, myths, and habits of our group because doing so generates a sense of closeness to others, promotes our acceptance by them, and enables the group to function as a unit. We all cross Bridge A because we are the Bridge A people, and proud of it! If you cross Bridge B you may look like you don’t want to be one of us, or you may look strange and therefore possibly dangerous to us. Social influence that works through each person’s desire to be part of a group or be approved of by the group is called normative influence.
Why you should ask dumb questions — “The stigma against dumb questions stifles creativity. When we don’t ask dumb questions, when we stick with what’s known, we retain the status quo. Look at any monstrous company or bloated bureaucracy collapsing under its own weight and you’ll find a historical lack of someone raising their hand and asking a dumb question.”
Why the Best Leaders Have Conviction — Humans crave safety and certainty. Uncertainty breeds fear, and it the job of an effective leader to make sure their team feels secure and confident. These are the nine traits that leaders with great conviction have.
Life Is Math — Not Magic — Success is not magical or random. Like in math, there are patterns in life. Here’s how you can recognize and use these patterns to find success.
I also encourage you to assert yourself confidently, without worry. What you speak over your life will become your reality… Don’t be swayed easily. Strive to see your plans through to completion. Pursue your passions and never give in for lack of effort and attitude. The more that we conform, the less we resemble who we truly are. We are meant to live boldly. In all these things we are more than conquerors! We are leaders who should never surrender to a life that isn’t our own.
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