Sep 01, 2021

Balancing conventional and unconventional

We constantly seek others to validate what’s worth consuming or producing before trying to figure it out ourselves. This can save us from losing time or money on something that doesn’t have any social proof, but there are flaws to always seeking the conventional.

First of all, it’s a strategy that mitigates risk at the expense of reward. Because of this, we ultimately miss out on some of the most meaningful experiences—the ones that were made just for us.

Second, there’s a conformity effect where the closer something gets to consensus, the more likely others will feel compelled to agree with the majority. Some psych experiments illustrate this nicely.

I felt this second one impacted me recently when I read How to Win Friends and Influence People. It seems to be one of the most recommended business books and after finishing it, I think it’s overrated. The general gist of encouraging empathy is good but I think there are probably other more modern, interesting books that communicate the same points. I’m curious how many people recommend that book just because it’s the book that everyone else recommends instead of actually enjoying it. I bet more than many would like to admit.

It’s work to go against the conventional and more often than not, the conventional approach is the most effective way to get where you’re going. But save some space in your life for the unconventional. The unconventional has the most asymmetric upside.

—Quito, Ecuador