If Society is Telling You to Do Something, Do the Opposite

26 Mar

CrowdA few years ago, NBA star Lebron James faced a decision.

Basketball fans know that it wasn’t just any decision, it was THE decision.

Where would he go to play basketball when his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers expired? Would he stay in Cleveland, his hometown, where he had built up fame and the support of an entire city, the clearly logical choice that everyone would approve of? Or would he venture somewhere new to try and start a new empire? Or would he dare to join a pair of other superstars in Miami?

When Warren Buffett was a child, he could have been like all of his friends. He could have played in the streets, running wild and free and having all sorts of fun. Or he could be weird, and try to make money. And once he had some money saved up, should he follow the advice of financial advisors? Should he listen to trends just like every other investor?

Those are just two examples of situations where society has told someone to do something. And as you likely already know, they decided to go against what our culture was suggesting they do, and despite some criticism, have done extremely well in their respective fields.

A King Becomes One Third of a Big Three

When Lebron’s contract was near expiration, he was playing some of the best basketball this world has ever seen. There is just no denying that he was, and still is to this day, the best active basketball player around. So, naturally, him becoming a free agent caused a big commotion in the world of the NBA. With half a dozen teams actively pursuing him, and more wishing they had the cap space to sign him, it was safe to say that wherever he ended up he would take one of the biggest salaries in professional sports.

The obvious choice, and the one that many people wanted him to make, was to continue to play in Cleveland. He grew up in Akron, and the Cavaliers were the only pro team he’d played with at that point. Another great choice would have been New York, which had cleared enough cap space to sign him up for a massive amount of money.

Meanwhile, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, two of the other superstars in the NBA, had decided to join forces in Miami. This represented a merging of two of the league’s perennial players, something which had rarely, if ever, happened in the NBA before. And then Lebron made his decision, to take a lower salary and play for the Miami Heat with two other superstars. He gave up literally millions of dollars to do something unheard of in an attempt to win championships. Not to mention the potential glory of building up a team without the aid of other superstars.

Predictably there was much backlash in the sports world. Lebron went from one of the most liked guys in basketball to public enemy number one literally in the span of an hour. However, he seems to have clearly made the right choice. In the Heat’s first season with the Big Three, they reached the finals. In its second, they won the title, and Lebron took home both the regular season MVP award and the Final’s MVP award. And as I write this, the Heat are in the midst of a 27 consecutive win streak, the second longest in NBA history. Society told him to do anything but join the Heat. It then criticized him into the ground when he did. But going against what everyone told him to do may have been the smartest thing Lebron has ever done.

The Oracle of Omaha

You may have heard the name Warren Buffett before. If you haven’t, he is arguably the most successful investor of all time, formerly the richest man in the world, and one of the best examples of a person succeeding by going against convention there is.

Buffett began his business success early, amassing nearly $100,000 (accounting for inflation) by the time he was 20. After working for various investment companies and starting several partnerships, he bought a majority stake in a textile manufacturing company called Berkshire Hathaway. This company then served as the vehicle for all of his future investing, and is now worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Buffet himself is worth over $50 billion.

His value investing approach is radically different than what the vast majority of financial experts will tell you to use. Instead of looking at market trends, he looks at individual companies and determines whether or not they are viable, and whether or not they are currently at a fair price. He doesn’t care about daily surges and drops in stock prices, and he is famous for doing the opposite of what the market is doing (buying when everyone else is selling, selling when everyone else is buying). In reality, he does pretty much the opposite of what any “financial expert” will tell you to do.

Apply the Lesson

Obviously, we aren’t all the world’s greatest basketball player or investor. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take a very important lesson from these two incredible people, or many others like them. And that lesson is to stop listening to society.

Our culture has each and every one of us fixated on things that aren’t even close to good for us. Instead of being another drone working the system and being just like your buddies, buck the system.

Everyone around you is fat? Get healthy, and maybe even ripped.

Most people retire at 65? Do it at 30.

All your coworkers car commute to work? Show them who’s boss and ride your bike.

Your friends think they have swag and dress like slobs? Show some class and dress to impress.

A TV commercial came on for the latest fast food sandwich that looks oh sooo amazing? Cook something better. And if you don’t know how to, it’s time to learn.

Some company is telling you it knows your life? Show it how it doesn’t!

And those are only a few examples of the many things that you should go against the grain of society on. The next time you are falling in line behind everyone else, doing what is expected of you, ask yourself this question: “Am I doing this because it is a positive thing that I want to do, or just because someone told me to?”

One Response to “If Society is Telling You to Do Something, Do the Opposite”

  1. Jim Weston March 26, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    I personally try to go against society a lot of the time. For instance, most people like to give themselves lots of energy by drinking caffeine. I stay away from it, and yet I feel like I have just as high of an energy level, if not higher than my peers.

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