Culture is not always smart, nice, or good. Or progressive. Or even witty.
There are times when culture needs to change.
There are times when you need to be the one to change it.
Changing the Culture
What changes the culture are the individuals who are willing to stand apart from it.
The individuals who are not going to condone by silence what their hearts say is wrong (or just plain stupid).
Culture-changers are the individuals who are willing to risk ridicule. Willing to be misunderstood. Willing to redefine what is acceptable, what is valuable, what is part of the culture.
You can only redefine a culture by separating yourself from it.
How to Separate Yourself
But you’re living in the culture. You can’t so much go underground, build a hut on a mountain, shut yourself in a bomb shelter.
Okay, maybe you can, but that’s still probably not the most effective way to change culture. You need to be close enough to the culture to influence it. You still need to be part of it, just not dependent on it.
To separate yourself from your own culture, you must understand this simple truth: You don’t derive your value or your values from the culture. It works the other way around.
You bring your own value with you. You are inherently valuable because you are a person, an individual, and when you add yourself to a culture, you add your own value. And when you step back, you take your value with you.
You bring your own values with you. You get to decide what is important, which principles you follow, and what standards you follow. You enter the culture, and you influence it by living according to your values, not according to cultural whims.
You Construct the Culture
Culture is a construct. Without the individual it falls apart.
It is changed by the individuals who approach it confidently, a little cynically, bringing their own distinct value and their own, personally held set of values to the culture.
The individuals who define culture are not the ones who feed off it, not the conformers, not the mumblers of group-speak, not the head-nodders, not the vacantly staring nonentities who have lost their souls somewhere in the murky, gummy depths of the culture pool.
Nope. The individuals who define the culture are the ones who stand apart from it.
They may love the culture (or parts of it), but they don’t worship it. They’ll risk its censure to keep their own identity. And they’ll give far more to it, standing a few feet away, and make it far better by maintaining the individuality that creates a culture in the first place.
Who are you, then, in this picture?
Are you the one pushing forward, setting goals and working feverishly to reach them?
Or are you the one mocking, questioning, doubting, judging when others near you try “too hard” to be, to acheive, to work for something more?
Are you the one pulling the box apart, climbing to a higher mountain, challenging everyone’s perspective, pointing out new connections?
Or are you the one defending, holding onto the past, disbelieving, seeking conflict for conflict’s sake, and pushing aside anything unfamiliar or difficult to understand?
Remember this, friends, and find courage.
Your purpose, your dream, is not meant to be anyone else’s. Your perspective is your own, if you choose to own it.
You do not need others to be just like or even to like you. You simply need to be the best at being who you are, bold, courageous even when you can hardly breathe because the fear is ripping your insides up.
And you need to grant to others the freedom and respect they need to be who they are, as well. Even if you don’t get it, don’t understand it, or don’t like it.
When you see someone being genuine, purposeful, kind, brave, and honest, even if it’s for or about something that is different, cheer them on.
Because when you do, you cheer yourself on, too.
NOW GET OUT THERE AND CHANGE THE CULTURE.