by Maisie Smith on March 4, 2016
The first time I remember taking a stand against anything was in kindergarten. Recess was over and it was snack time. I sat at a miniature round table with other 5-year-olds, watching the clock tick for what seemed like an hour. Where were our snacks, dammit? The teachers were supposed to provide snacks upon our return from recess.
And they were late.
So I did what any starving five-year-old would do: I banged my red plastic cup on the table to the chant of “We wanna eat. We wanna eat. We wanna eat.” Soon, other children joined in. What started out as a personal act of defiance turned into a classroom-wide coup.
Long story short, I didn’t get my snack. I took a stand and it didn’t pay off. Instead, I spent an hour with my nose in the corner while my classmates munched on Saltines and apple slices. Standing with my back to the world gave me time to think about the lesson I was put there to learn. It wasn’t how to better harness my leadership skills. Instead, it was how to get teachers to like you. The formula was simple:
FOLLOW THE RULES.
SIT AND SMILE.
My rebellious essence shriveled up that day in kindergarten, stuck in a corner where it would sit and wait for 30 years while I maneuvered through a world of perfunctory college essays, canned corporate mission statements and blinding mediocrity. Society told me to keep my hands in my lap, keep my eyes on my own paper and for crying out loud, quit rocking the boat and asking so many damn questions.
I listened. Teachers and bosses loved me. Don’t cause a ruckus and you’ll never get put in the corner again.
One day, a switch was flipped as I realized that the rule makers—an unhinged world telling us how we “should” be—are basically a bunch of dickheads who want to keep us quietly munching on our apple slices while they think up more rules for us to follow.
My journey since then has been a series of roadside markers punctuated by the simple question, “Why?” Ask it enough times and you begin to realize how powerful it can be for creating change.
I’m no longer rallying for snacks on demand. Nor am I leading impressionable children down the path to becoming entitled jerks. What I am doing these days is setting my own rules for how I want to show up in the world. Forget drawing lines in the sand. I’m carving my lines into the concrete.
Taking a stand is not the same thing as saying, “I don’t give a flying fuck what you think.” It’s about showing people what matters to you. It’s pulling back the curtain on what gets you out of bed each morning. It’s the wisdom that comes from living life, screwing up at life, opening your eyes to what matters in life and finally being able to say, “This. This is why I do what I do.”
Me? I stand with the underdogs. I guess you could say it’s my mission in life to champion the unexpected. What would I cross-stitch on an antique pillow if I could? What would I carve into the concrete? What do I stand for?
These three things:
YOU CAN SIT BY ME
I believe our world desperately needs more inclusion and compassion and less Judgey McJudgersons running around dictating how we should be. “Dress like this. Act like that. Post funny tweets. Wear interesting socks. Make more money. Turn up the volume on the TV so you can drown out your soul’s calling.”
The world is full of people who feel like they don’t belong, myself included. Misfits. Disruptors. Oddballs. Free thinkers. Shy people. Old people. Young people. Our common thread is that we all want to matter. We want someone to scootch over and make room for us on the bench. We want someone to slide out a chair in the cafeteria of life and say, “Have a seat.”
I’m taking a stand and shouting, “You can sit by me! I get you. I love how weird you are. I want to learn from you. And I’m glad you’re here.”
SMALL CAN BE MIGHTY
Everyone wants to be king of the jungle gym these days. If “being big” is your thing… well… cool. Fight over that tiny square of space at the top however you wish. But don’t discount the power of being small.
Every business owner, at one time, will need to decide how it’s going to play out. Big or small? Chucking a boulder or flicking a pebble? Do you want everyone to know your name? An email list of 300? 3000? 300,000? Do you want a large army or a small community?
I choose to stay deliberately small. Intentional. Boutique-y. I don’t work with just anyone and the hustle doesn’t interest me. I serve the small number of people on this earth who need my voice. Come to think of it, my clients and I aren’t anywhere near the playground where the corporate hulks hang out. Instead, we’re out in the world making cool stuff.
I’m taking a stand and rocking the small corners.
BE FEARLESS IN YOUR WEIRDNESS
My work is all about redefining what it means to be weird. Newsflash, Walter Cronkite… it’s not about wearing a necklace made out of sausage links or collecting locks of hair from people named Martha. Your weirdness is your secret weapon. It’s what makes you different. It’s your passion, your moxie, your stories of sleepless nights and I-can’t-believe-I-did-that adventures. It’s what makes you not ordinary.
My fear is that we are working insanely hard to be liked at all costs and in the process end up homogenizing everything about ourselves to get a gold star on the wall at the end of the day. It’s sad because I believe that your 1% (those people who truly “get” you), are in position and waiting to join the weird parade. You simply need to show them where to go.
I’m taking a stand and creating space for more weirdness in our world.
What about you? What do you stand for? Go beyond your carefully-crafted mission statement and corporate values bullet points. What will you never, ever, ever waver from?
To banging cups on the table,