Recently I was working with one of my peculiar friends delivering training to some folks. We were driving back to the airport and just reviewing the session in our minds. These folks weren’t my clients and I was helping my friend/colleague. The conversation evolved to how people showed up over the 2 days we were there. Coaches, facilitators often assess this aspect of “showing up”. Its a combo of the person’s contributions, attitude, and overall presence in the room.

I said it seemed that a few folks weren’t too tolerant of some of the more “peculiar” folks in their ideas. Not that they were rude, just not asking for the opportunity to understand a point of view better. I thrive on gaining different points of view. As coach its my job to illicit broader perspective and in fact, seek it out. In doing that, I role model the value in making the effort of exploring different thinking.

Peculiar Takes on our Comfort Zone

We all have our “comfort zone” of topics. Mine may be a bit out there compared to some folks…and maybe even a far ways from some other folks. And that’s okay if your job is to be an instigator of new thinking. Yet many of us want others to think like us. You know, birds of a feather flock together. That’s not me. My favorite coffee mug has a picture of 4 raccoon and a pig all looking out at something. The pig has a “zoro” mask on and the caption is…”Just one of the guys!” That’s me…I identify with the pig.

Whenever, I’ve been with a group of people as a coach, manager, or facilitator; I always find that some folks have a “differentiated” point of view then the team around them. They are, well different. Without intention we can tend to put down their ideas or dismiss them early. They may not language around their thoughts the way we think they should. Heck, sometimes they just act weird and seem quite…peculiar.

But the questions I challenge myself and clients with is this.

  • Weird compared to what or whom?
  • What is our measuring stick on conforming?
  • Is it more about their style or their values?
  • Is it different thinking or different culture?
  • Do we keep the peculiar stomped down and isolated so we don’t have to acknowledge a different paradigm?
  • Or do we allow it into the room and entertain a completely different conversation?

Maybe a really weird solution or different way of thinking could evolve that might contain parts of the breakthrough needed.

When we don’t invite or allow the voice of  peculiarity into our private spaces, what are we protecting ourselves from in the moment? Is it from feeling or thinking something that scares us? Does it challenge our world order or just our ability to hold our values and consider other’s points of view? I think its the latter much of the time. We don’t like our values challenged, its bedrock to our identity and means we may just need to reconsider some things. It  can also reinforce your values.

Here’s a list of peculiar people in my life (in my opinion and I’ve left myself off the list because its really just a given.)

My Friends – (Have you met them?) They are different. They are peculiar in age, experience, thoughts, and career roles. Some roles and characteristics include the following. My friends are pastors, atheists, gay, straight, men, women, farmers, scientists, entrepreneurs, teachers, retirees, financial advisers, lawyers, social workers, democrats, republicans, conservatives, liberals, libertarians, Jewish, Muslim, Christians (of all ilk), and work in many different industries.

My Clients – Pretty much are a ditto of my friends. (I’m a lazy typer and you are a lazy reader, so reread the above list if you like.)

Peculiar is necessary for Relationships

Here’s a quick personal example of how my life has embraced the peculiar in situations.

My wife and I are peculiar in that we are in many ways extreme opposites who have stayed successfully married for almost 40 years. I’m not saying we haven’t argued or challenged each other, but we’ve not had once moment of … “God why did you curse me with this mate?” We’ve moved 13 times in 37 years and I’ve had 11 career moves as well.  We balance each other out and she gets to remind me several times a week that I’m “weird”. We look at the world differently in many ways and I’m convinced that has saved my bacon many times over. It would be no surprise if my last words from her were, “You’re weird Mark!”

What is not peculiar is how we agree on so much of what is in the category of VALUES. Values have been the organizing vision that we have shared and used to manage our peculiarity. Our children would tell you that we “appeared” inseparable when they tried to manipulate us. We had some things that we agreed on prior to when the moment arrived. Never argue or take each other’s power away in front of your kids or employees. It’s not good for you or them…simple, but very effective.

Later at a time when we had each other alone, I would let her know that I didn’t agree or she would coach me to tone it down a bit. That may seem peculiar, but its actually not to us. We also wanted to leave plenty of space for our kids to act out their own peculiarities…within reason. Respect is a value and need not be in conflict with formulating your own thoughts and ideas about your values compared to others. 

Peculiar is necessary for Breakthrough Thinking

Peculiar is a catalyst and not catastrophe. It isn’t always the peculiar idea that ends up being used in the end. It’s how the peculiar changes the normal conversations and opens up some new perspective that you should value. During coaching conversations I can bring up some peculiar ways of looking at things “on purpose” just to shift the conversation. The same old solutions with new paint won’t bring different results, just a different look.

At my church one Sunday the pastor said something profound and it rang like an alarm in my head. It goes something like the following…

“If you want what normal people have then do what normal people do. If you want something different then you have to be weird.”

This resonated with me for many reasons. First, because it matched my values and it challenged me to keep getting out of my comfort zone. If comfort zone was a person, it would be a friend that would never want to do anything, but sit on the couch, watch reruns of old shows, and eat the same snacks. Then do it again the next day.

Peculiar is the friend that wants to try something new and doesn’t care what other’s think of you. This friend is out for a new adventure and is willing to take some risk while doing it. A friend that you will make memories with and create experiences to last a life time. That’s what peculiar friends do.

Peculiar is necessary for our Survival

We live in a world of conformity. Its not necessarily a bad thing to conform and its necessary at times to do so. But look at how so many different self interested groups leave no space for differences to live together. Personally, I don’t want to be defined by my sexual preferences, skin color, or political biases. I would rather be known for my values. Call me naive and I will wear it proudly, we need to move past labels or we will continue to use our language to keep everyone in their place.

Our well established political parties refuse to collaborate and conform to one another around key values. We have too many opportunities to dig in and refuse to work together. It’s hard work to allow a peculiar idea into the narrative. This market place of ideas has no owner and is open to all. Yet we allow both sides to manipulate the market and limit the “produce of thoughts” being offered.

I would be remiss if I didn’t offer some of my peculiar examples of what I think are not so peculiar to everyone to end this post.

  • We are all on the same boat going to the future together so we need to make a way for us all to get their safely. Share yourself, your life, and your treasures with others that will value them. If you get taken advantage of occasionally you are on the right track. If you get hosed often you need to rethink things.
  • There are people who will hurt you because they can and because you are peculiar. You will not reason with every friend or enemy. It may seem peculiar to defend yourself, your country, and your family from these people, but we must. Otherwise who will be left to defend the weak, homeless, and disenfranchised of the world.
  • (Revenue – Expenses = Profit) – taxes = Motivation to Achieve
  • Free rides are not free. Striving builds muscle and eliminates self pity. Let your children fail and feel consequences. Its not fun, but it is necessary. God has a testimony to write on their heart just like He did on yours.
  • Generosity is not all about money, it also includes spirit. Don’t cheat others on your presence. Be fully available and a gifted listener.
  • Life is a gift, don’t squander your’s or other’s lives through your actions. It may cost you dearly, even your own life or personal welfare. Your values always trump security. It’s the only way to be truly free.
  • Love is our calling. It’s not always a hug. It might be a “flick of the ear” or a kick in the butt. Love is deep and true. We know when we are loved and we know where it comes from…its source. Love is the most peculiar thing.