Saturday, May 14, 2016

Embracing weird.

Keep Austin Weird!
It's a common theme in the news. Local shops forced to close down due to an influx of national chain stores taking over the high street. Go to most major cities, even many smaller towns and you'll find that the same brands and names predominate. It seems almost Darwinian, survival of the fittest.

And yet there are places where variety is prized over homogeneity. Market towns and craft districts where individual retailers and artisans have opened up shop and where there's not a national chain in sight. Hotbeds of diversity, where the bottom line tends towards relationship and quality rather than quantity and profit. There's a vibrancy you don't find in a mall.
"There are places where variety is prized over homogeneity"
In Austin, Texas, a movement sprung up to resist the tide of commercialisation and homogenisation of the city. At its heart was the slogan "Keep Austin Weird", which began to appear on bumper stickers, on tee shirts and around the city. The point was about the city embracing its uniqueness rather than becoming a clone of many other major cities. It was about celebrating difference and diversity rather than enforced conformity.

The truth is that we're all a bit weird aren't we? We might try to cover it up to fit in to socially accepted norms, but the danger of covering up or holding back is that we can end up trying to be something we're not. Like a cloned high street we can surrender parts of our identity.
"The truth is that we're all a bit weird aren't we?"
We're all a bit weird aren't we?
It's our quirkiness that makes us stand out, that often attracts people to us. When I interviewed Alex Pellew and Martin Amor for The Potting Shed Podcast they touched on this very thing, especially with regard to entrepreneurship. Customers value passion and people, and not everyone wants to engage with big business.

Their point was that you don't have to become something you're not - like an aggressive contestant on The Apprentice - to create something great. So embrace who you are and be true to that.

The other day I asked for suggestions on social media for where I could locally get some balsa wood for a craft project I was doing with my daughter (if you really want to know, we were making a big Blue Peter badge, and the balsa wood was for making the ship logo).

I was pointed in the direction of a local specialist model train shop. I'd never been before but one Saturday afternoon in the torrential rain my son, father-in-law and I took a trip there. The shop was amazing! It felt like a converted house - it's certainly the same size, and in the front room were shelves and displays stocked with amazing model trains, scenery, track and accessories. My four year old took great delight in counting the trains (until he lost count).

Through the back the shelves were rammed full of magazines and books on the subject. I was led upstairs where there were further stockpiles of accessories and raw materials - including the balsa wood I needed. Even on a rainy Saturday afternoon, although we were the only ones in the shop, their phone kept ringing. Plenty of people are passionate about model trains.
"I think weird is the new normal."
I'm not into model trains, but I admire the passion of the people running that shop - it feels like they're living the dream! Their success comes from occupying and embracing a very specific niche.

Embrace your passion - even model trains!
If we want to live the life we're meant to, we need to keep weird. In fact, I think weird is the new normal.

It's often the weird bits that we're most passionate about - or to put it another way it's the things we're most passionate about which can be seen as weird.

But weird is not something to be afraid of - difference is not scary, it's uplifting! I know it's true for me that I'm most energised when I'm doing or talking about something I deeply believe in.

So follow your passion, embrace your weirdness!  That's where the energy is  - in fact it struck me that when you move energy (e) in how you're wired you end up weird. I'm not suggesting you turn up to work tomorrow dressed as a Roman soldier or Stormtrooper. BUT even in the small things you can add your own twist, insert your passion, and do it your own way.

Stay weird folks! Or, as Oscar Wilde said "Be yourself - everyone else is taken."
"Weird is not something to be afraid of - difference is not scary, it's uplifting!"


Thanks for taking the time to read Embracing Weird. If you've enjoyed it please share it with your friends on social media! Why not subscribe to The Potting Shed Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher for expanded musings and much more (direct RSS feed is here). 

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My Random Musings

My Random Musings


Someone's Mum (Danielle) said...

So very true. Everyone has their quirks. The sooner we embrace them all and feel comfortable being ourselves, the happier everyone will be! #BloggerClubUk

Random Musings said...

I love this :) I totally agree that it's the quirky parts that make us individuals and I love weird little one off shops too
Thanks for linking up to #BloggerClubUK :)

Luke Strickland said...

Thanks both!

Unknown said...

That's fantastic - good for Austin! I agree, weird is uplifting & should definitely be embraced! How dull to all be the same. #anything goes

Luke Strickland said...

Exactly - life would be dull if we're all clones!