Recently, my wife asked me to replace the track on the closet doors in the kids’ rooms. You know, the piece of metal that allows the doors to slide open and closed. That piece of metal that will bend and not work if you look at it too hard.
Like any attentive husband I told her I would get right on that…eventually. A few days later, my wife asked me again. The door in my daughter’s room was barely hanging on. I walked into my daughter’s room and decided to take the closet doors down. I asked myself Why do we need these doors? The kids’ rooms aren’t that big. The doors take up a lot of space when they’re open. Which is all the time.
Then, it hit me.
We don’t need to replace the doors. We have the closet doors because “that’s how it is.” The builder didn’t ask if I wanted these doors. It wasn’t an option we decided on. They don’t serve any real purpose. Who says you have to have closet doors, right? We could have curtains or something else if all the doors do is hide the stuff in the closet.
We end up with many things in life because of tradition or simply because we never ask, “is this really necessary?”
We go to college because that’s what we are supposed to do. We graduate, many times, with loads of debt. We then pay off this debt by getting a job that may or may not be related to our degree.
Many people hate their job and want to do something more creative. Why is that? At some point, someone told you to be realistic. It may have been a guidance counselor or even a parent. They meant the best but really missed the mark.
Start Asking Why
It’s time for each of us to find our own way. Tired of useless meetings at work? Perhaps it is time to stop going or to ask your boss to just have one meeting every other week. Maybe a status email could be sent out instead of a meeting. Don’t hesitate to tell your boss about other important items to get done.
Take control of how you work. One great way to do this is to stop responding to emails immediately. Email has the word mail in it, treat it that way. In most cases a 24 hour turnaround on most emails is acceptable. The ones from your boss and higher-ups are different.
Guys, are you tired of wearing a jacket and tie to job interviews? Stop. These are relics from the past. Presenting yourself and your ideas confidently is more impressive than your ability to tie a double-Windsor knot. I’m not saying wear flip-flops and your favorite Motley Crue t-shirt to an interview with an office job where Button-downs and Jackets are the norm. Use your head, but be yourself.
Now, here’s the catch.
There’s always some kind of catch, right? You might not get the next job you interview for. But it won’t be because you didn’t wear a tie. It’ll be because you didn’t fit. When you decide to break the rules, real or imagined, you have to accept the consequences. Trying to fit in is a great way to embrace the status quo.
I bet there is something you are supposed to do that you’re not doing. Maybe you feel it doesn’t provide real value to your mission.
I’ve stopped wearing ties to interviews and opt out of as many meetings as possible. Those were real examples. I speak truthfully about the topics I know about. I don’t sugarcoat the truth when it comes to what I know. I’ve been called passionate. But I’ve also been called intense. I’m absolutely fine with that. There is power in owning who you are, knowing how you work and what value you bring to an organization.
With the power also comes responsibility (obligatory comic/movie reference). Breaking some of the rules and challenging the status quo should be for the greater good. Better for the world, your organization and the people you are fighting for. You have to be looking at the big picture, not simply how the rule breaking affects you. That’s the difference between a visionary and a criminal. There is so much we can gain by crushing the status quo.
If you want a great place to start, Simon Sinek wrote a phenomenal book called, “Start with Why.” I’ve read it and it’s thought-provoking, but if you want to watch a great summary of the book check out Simon’s TEDtalk.
What closet doors did you take down today? Tell me in the comments. (or don’t you rebel, you!)