You’re Not Normal. Welcome Weirdness in Business & Life.
You’re not normal. Neither am I. And I think that’s a good thing.
Normal is the small scoop of ice cream. A clean house. Always well-behaved kids. Normal is an always-balanced household budget.
In business, normal trudges to some job. Neither the over or under-achiever. Instead, sitting exactly in the middle – the most uninteresting place to be. A place where it feels neither accomplished nor challenged. Just normal.
Normal doesn’t say what it thinks; it’s too scared of judgment. Normal lives through its head, not its heart. Normal sits around a table and shakes its head “yes,” because everyone else is doing so. Normal walks, when it really wants to skip. Sits, when it really wants to dance. Normal doesn’t sing loudly and off-key.
Normal goes through life, not well or badly, but with no particular feeling at all. Normal is blue shirts and khaki pants. Sensible shoes. Normal likes what everyone does. Normal doesn’t shake with tears of joy, compassion or heartbreak. Normal shows up, maybe even with an idea or two, but is too afraid to leave its mark.
Normal is the goal we think we want to achieve, but are disappointed when we have done so. Be careful when you wish for a ‘normal’ day or a ‘normal’ life. You may just get it.
Now weirdness, on the other hand? Weirdness, I can get behind.
Weirdness is the seemingly errant thought. Weirdness says and does things that aren’t always considered popular. Weirdness can often be considered outrageous. Sometimes dangerous. Or just plain weird.
Weirdness asks, “I wonder what would happen if I just (insert totally random thought here).” Weirdness questions if any other person on the planet meets its depths of crazy. Weirdness can be interesting. Funny. Smart. Innovative. Odd. Bizarre. But at least it’s something.
Weirdness lives fully and laughs hard. Weirdness inspires great art, music, literature. It provides entertainment. Weirdness fuels business. It is the engine behind innovation, creation and collaboration. Most importantly, weirdness is the rock of love and authentic relationships.
Weirdness connects people in a way that normal could never even dream of.
As Robert Fulghum said, “We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness—and call it love—true love.”
I think when that mutually satisfying weirdness extends beyond two people that becomes our tribe – our tribe of weirdos. Weirdos we need. Because in all of our quirkiness, we help each other appreciate the world – each other and ourselves – for all of its (and our) weird wonder and possibility. Making it more colorful. More joyous. More intriguing. More alive. Weirder. Better.
Great things come from weirdness, in business and in life.
Weirdness Acceptance Helps a Team Double Revenue
The first time I learned the power of weirdness in a business context was twenty years ago. I’d accepted a management position at a British non-profit. I was young, the only American and not familiar with the ways of the non-profit world. To say I was out of my element is an understatement. To top it off, I was supposed to manage a 30-person team, all British and all — after a couple of rough years with multiple managers– rightfully exhausted. The team was having a hard time working together. People were beating a quick path to the door. We struggled through the first few months, trying to find our balance.
As the team responsible for delivering the most revenue to the organization, we needed to work. At that time, personality assessments were all the rage in London, often used to help people work better together. I’m a fan of data, but wary of these type of assessments. Still, the entire team took the test. HR called me to review my team’s – delicately worded – “broad range of results.” Turns out, some of us were XYZ, others PDQ. I called my tired team together and announced, “Well, looks like we’re all a little weird. Maybe we just go with that.”
It was a watershed moment for our team. We accepted what was, who we were, able to laugh about it all and ourselves, and moved forward, together. We started working with our weirdness, instead of against it. We had each others’ backs. We won big accounts. Created ideas that were replicated by other organizations in Britain and the US. People who once couldn’t wait to clock out at 5:00pm were calling me at home to tell me something they had proudly created. Mostly, we were having fun.
Within a year, the team doubled revenue, employee retention and productivity. We also were named, “The most effective corporate fundraising team in Britain.” We were all so proud of our weird team. Today, that professional experience remains one of my most valued. Importantly, some of those weirdos remain my best inspirations and closest friends. Our weirdness was truly compatible.
But for however well our weirdness has served us, we don’t love our weirdness. We push it down and pull our normal up. To the top. Where it doesn’t deserve to be. Normal is not the cream. It’s the grounds. Left over from our once good cup of weirdness.
I don’t know why we do that.
Because you’re not normal. Neither am I. None of us are.
I’m glad for it.
And think we should kind of accept it.
This post is dedicated to my tribe of weirdos. You know who you are.
Patty McDonough Kennedy is a global communication expert, Board member and business builder with 20+ years of experience helping C-level executives, multinational and emerging organizations transform and grow through smart communication. She’s lived and worked in the US, Europe and Africa. Check out her blog at The Connection Mindset where she provides tips that help people and organizations thrive. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.