Does Being a Misfit and an Outsider Breed Innovation and Creativity?

“I’ve always felt like something of an outsider,” Nate Silver tells Carole Cadwalladr of The Observer. “I’ve always had friends, but I’ve always come from an outside point of view. I think that’s important. If you grow up gay, or in a household that’s agnostic, when most people are religious, then from the get-go, you are saying that there are things that the majority of society believes that I don’t believe.” 

Silver is the statistics-driven oracle who correctly predicted the outcome of the recent presidential election via his FiveThirtyEight Blog.

Silver is one of those among us who see things through a different lens than most, and who changes the world (or at least their part of it) because of it.

Explorers from Christopher Columbus to Robert Falcon Scott, to technology revolutionaries Steve Jobs and Jack Dorsey have made change based on ignoring the status quo. Consider the idiosyncrasies of Eero Saarinen and Frank Lloyd Wright; Picasso, Pollack and Warhol; Capote and Hemingway—yes, the creative professions have long been a haven for outsiders and misfits who proved to be genius in their innovative, disruptive, and creative ways.

Those who think the same as others may have little reason to step outside the lines.  Many feel comfort being surrounded by like-minded individuals, and society praises those who “are team players,” and “go with the flow.” Society often casts outsiders and misfits aside—through bullying and ignoring their thoughts.

But, if the lens we view the world is a bit different than those around us, perhaps we are more challenged to transform our views into reality—and converted our misfit, outsider genius into revolution. 

My liberal father—a university professor and quite an outsider himself, always encouraged me as a young boy to seek out those with opposing views so I might hear a fresh perspective—or have my own views strengthened by listening to the status quo. “We have two eyes and two ears for a reason,” he’d say, “use all four and you might see the future.”

Radical ideas are not always right, nor are great ideas always embraced by others. But being an outsider may just has its advantages when trying to conquer the world—the majority rarely see the misfits and outsiders coming, until after the revolution has transformed the world.


blog comments powered by Disqus

The Featured Five