Traditionalists versus Freethinkers: a place for everyone

Updated: Dec 11, 2019

‘’Free thinkers have no attachment to anything’’.

The statement, though said in a different context, got me thinking about why I do things every day that I find particularly hard. Why I am such a bad manager, for example; I dislike dogma, I dislike authority and regard it indifferently, I find tradition subversive, I am fiercely independent, so that being as it is made sense (to me) about my shoddy management skills! And so, I have come to the reasoned conclusion that I know that I am a bad manager and that trying to be good at something that I am not great at is the hardest part of my daily job! I am not very good at managing people on any sort of micro level, and sometimes on any sort of level at all! I have wondered if it is because knowledge, intuition and reason make it easier for me to reject the micro details while others thrive on the intricate execution of traditionally defined details? Of course, I can see the parts of what I have to do (and understand them); I can connect the parts, but I almost-always see the big picture first and how to put change into motion.

Planning to the nth degree, which is a hallmark of management and traditionalists does bothers me, though. More than anything I want to find the opportunities to engage in the disruptive spaces between things. What’s at the edge, at the adjacency; that disruptive space that is always three steps away? And so, over the years I figured that managing anybody on a micro level is way too stifling - and jolly hard to do! I know I will always be tardy manager. Similarly, I see this big-picture-me in many students. I see them spinning narratives; looking for the edge; finding the disruption, but just as I see these free thinkers, I also see the managers; those detailed orientated non-chaos thrivers whose self-discipline is as remarkable as it is valuable.

I don’t want to be evaluated on the traditional, core S curve values (I never have). I want to build a new S curve! But, how does anyone value a new-never-been-done-before S curve? How do you thrive in a culture of uncharted territory? You often don’t. You will be rewarded and you’re probably safer. You’ll ‘get better grades’ for it - but thrive - navigating and pushing the outer realms - sometimes not! Executing the details is often valued in society more than the person who puts their neck on the line: traditionalists are valued over freethinkers. And, so I am never ambivalent about my own short comings. Embedded in trying to bluff myself that I am not always three steps from the edge is a special sort of psychological self-sabotage that I don’t have the time for because it would be mean denying impulses, denying the pleasure of over achieving; of producing something disruptive for others to thrive.

In a society roided-out on bling, cash, ego, nakedness and status we seem to have lost our authenticity, our honesty to be ourselves; to truly know what it is which we find hard to do. We have lost integrity and what it means to be ourselves. Many people are caught up in following the crowd they have become lost in it. The stand-out successes we all admire are not in the crowd, they aren’t chasing cash, or being cool: it doesn’t mean they don’t love nice things or indulge in them; it simply means that they rather approach success from a reasoned mindset .

Of course, intelligence is logically distinct from motivation: an ability to figure out how best to get from A to B says nothing about what the B should be. Goals such as happiness, knowledge, love, beauty, and insight are in no way antithetical to reason. Indeed, reason can be a means to attaining the goals that are most valuable to avoid fatal attractions, silver-tongued seducers, or charismatic despots that offer a short-term rush but long-term misery.

Louis Pasteur said: “Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goals: my strength lies solely in my tenacity.” You cannot escape the fact that hard things need to be done. That reasoned decisions need to made. That you must put your neck on the line more often than you want to. You will not enjoy everything that you do. I certainly do not. I do not like managing people. I find it very hard to do. I know, by reason, that I dislike any sort of micro thinking; I, also, know that I am not an executor of things – there are other people who do that way better than I ever would – they manage my ideas – and they do it well! I am satisfied with that. There are always going to be certain aspects of daily routine that you wish you could do without. I want to be a maverick every second of the day; I want profound thoughts to cascade from my brain like fireworks. But, for this to happen; I must understand that I am very bad at regulating and managing people. Yet, I must do it anyway.

'Just Do It' is not an empty platitude, but rather a call to action away from excuses and a victim-mentality. There are many hacks that will allow me, you, us to do hard things. It is worth understanding the need for the things that challenge us and how to then control our attitude towards them. Life is never easy. Everyone must at some point tackle the things that they don’t want to do, to think, to form opinions on, to reject, to accept…

Some do it and succeed.

Others complain about it and reach nothing.

The choice is yours.


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