The Dangers of Following the Crowd

Most of us have heard our parents say “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, does that mean that you would too?” My answer was, “Well if the bridge is narrow and there was a speeding car coming at us, then yes!”.

The truth is that there are times when following the crowd can be safe, secure and justified. Following the crowd can also give us a false sense of security. It can make us numb to the dangers that may be down the road. We have this delusion that the masses can’t be all wrong, and even if they are, at least I will be in the company of others like me.

Billy Joel wrote “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. The sinners are much more fun. You know that only the good die young.”

As we look back over the history of life on this planet, we see many patterns of individuals following the crowd. We see this in every war, every election and every cultural trend. It happens in the media, in the supermarkets and in every religion in the world. Sometimes crowds don’t even need a leader to take them there. In unison we take the route of least resistance, whatever feels good at the time or meets an immediate need. Billy Joel gave us a classic example of the blind leading the blind.

There is a branch of social psychology that studies crowd behavior. They look at the behavior of both individual members of the crowd, as well as the crowd as a whole. They have discovered a correlation between crowd behavior and responsibility of the individuals.

Individuals that take full responsibility are much more likely to move away from the crowd. They choose their own results independent of popular opinion. Those who avoid responsibility find comfort and stimulation from groups of likeminded people. Social acceptance makes it easier to justify their thoughts or behavior. Confirmation bias fuels the illusion and perpetuates the feelings that encourage their position. It’s is not hard to influence someone to do what their nature already wants to do.

The emotions of a crowd headed down a path that aligns with their desires can be appealing. These feelings can grow as the group grows, leading to a movement. This is where the danger of following the crowd begins

Every destructive influence has a touch of appeal that tantalizes our senses. It is just enough to get us interested. Every world religion, political view or philosophy of life can tempt our allegiance. It can be difficult to identify where we fail to line up with reality. It’s amazing how individuals can feel so strongly about popular ideas they know little about.

There is a basic human need to align ourselves with the crowd. We all have the need for acceptance and to find significance in what we do. We have a desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. The problem is we can tend to be short sighted and seek to have these needs met at the cost of a much bigger picture. We all do this to some extent. Some people are people pleasers seeking affirmation. Some are black and white thinkers in need of certainty. Others are running away from responsibility looking for relief. Either way we find comfort in numbers.

There is a great quote from my favorite book.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Mat 7:13-14

Travelling the “broad road” is quite easy to do. It is by far the most popular route. It assures you of your freedom to be in control of your own destination and requires no commitment. It give the appearance of a much easier route than the option of the narrow gate. There is no sign at the beginning of the road that says “Road to Destruction”. If there were, it would lose some of its appeal. “Broad Road” is much more soothing to the eye and non-offensive.

On the “broad road”, there is no disclaimer, only the promise of not being alone or accountable. There is no promise of any specific destination, nor is there even a map to how you may get there.

Lewis Carroll summed this up well in Alice in Wonderland:

“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice: I don’t much care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.

Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.

The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”

So why do only a few find their way through the narrow gate? …I would say it is because so few are even looking for it. The majority of people are not looking, or willing to take the road less traveled that leads to a full life. Some believe they are taking the narrow gate, only to find out they have been on the same broad path as everyone else. Taking the narrow gate has an immediate admission price that most are not willing to pay.

If you want to know where your path is taking you, just take an honest look at where you have been, and where you are now. If the trajectory doesn’t seem to be travelling in a favorable direction, you may be on the “broad road”.

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” Lao Tzu

If you want to know what path you are on, just look around you. Are you surrounded by people that lift you up and contribute to your well-being? Do you find significance in your hard work and feel great about your impact on others around you? If so, you are likely on the narrow path or at least headed that direction.

You are the sum total of the people that you are closest to. If your assessment of your inner circle doesn’t pass the sniff test. You may need to change to a new path that includes others who are experiencing life to its fullest. The good news is that there are many, you only need to join their path.

If you think your current life is a result of exterior circumstances out of your control or bad luck, you are on the “broad path”. This is the signature belief of the broad-pathalogians. If you don’t know how you ended up on this path, don’t blame the path or crowd. You went along with them. Even if you stayed on your default path, you could have chosen a different one. Others can choose a different path for you, but they can’t make you take it.

You always have a choice, and that choice is 100% your responsibility to make. No one will ever grab you, kicking and screaming, and force you to enter through the narrow gate. We all get to freely choose our own path. Choose wisely.

If you are struggling with your direction personally or professionally, please contact me. I would love to have a cup of coffee with you.

How Are You Branding Yourself?

You are branded, whether you know it or not.  We all are.  Every , company, team and every individual.

When you think of branding, you probably think of marketing or advertising.  Branding is all around us. TV, radio, websites, social media, signs and billboards and even on our clothing.  The idea behind commercial branding is to make an impression on you that will be remembered. It will prompt you to take action to enter into a positive transaction. We try to distinguish our service or product, as having a greater benefit than other options.

Branding increases our opportunities. The reason branding is so effective is because it allows the consumer to take a peek behind the mask.  It helps them see what we are all about.  Consumers want to know what we stand for and what our mission is. Why should they trust us, and most of all, what you are going to do for them.
Branding can be used in many ways.  Branding is used as an agent of influence.  It helps the world see our “best” side, hoping to keep our “work in progress” side non-visible.  It can also be used to connect with people through transparency and authenticity.  Regardless of the branding motives, the consumers will always determine effectiveness.  They will always have the last say.

Think about successful companies like McDonalds, Chick filA, Apple, Disney and Toyota.  They generally have great credibility in the eyes of consumers.  People are fanatics because of how these brands make them feel. How they make their world just a little better.  It is an experience, not just a product.
Not all branding ends up as initially planned.   When you hear the name Enron, you remember the scandal that took the whole company down along with many associated business’s. How about “New Coke”?  Back in 1985 they thought they were on to something great only to find out their consumers wanted the “Old Coke” back.  They had some damage control to do.  I am sure Pepsi got a chuckle.

In one way branding is sharing “who you are”, or at least who you wish for them to think you are.  Who you are will largely determine whether they wish to continue with you.  This is true with companies, products, services and even individuals.  We like to think that what we brand is exactly what others will perceive.  What ever people perceive defines your brand.

Over the past year or so I have been hearing more and more about “personal branding”.  This is not a new concept, but it has been popping up more and more lately.  There must be something more to it.  Personal branding is much like any other branding. It is intentionally building credibility in the eyes of others. Personal branding can increase your opportunities if done effectively.

Those who are not on the front line of marketing or sales, you too are branding yourself, whether you know it or not.  Someone may ask “But I am a restaurant manager, how am I branding myself?”  Your customers, employees, and your supervisors are continually evaluating “who you are”.  They determine what you represent by what they see in you. This is how we as humans determine level of trust.  We do it subconsciously, without even knowing we are doing it.  It’s not only what you say about yourself, but your actions and behaviors.  You won’t always behave according to what you say, but you will always behave according to who you truly are.

This brings me to the heart of personal branding.  Some would say that your actions will determine “who you are”.  I say “who you are” will determine your actions.  When you do things or behave in ways that are generally not in line with who you really are, you may find yourself running out of mojo, and reverting back to who you really are.  This is the reason you don’t generally see the real person is on the first date.  In most every case, given time, who they really are comes out. This hold true with new employees and new leaders on the scene.  There is such an emphasis on first impressions (and they are important), but not enough emphasis on continued impressions.

We can’t fake it for long. An honest person doesn’t need to remember what they told people.  A caring person doesn’t need to pretend to care. And a person with emotional intelligence doesn’t need to hold their anger in.  When “who you are” stands out above others as excellence, others will go out of their way to be part of what you are doing. When “who you are”, regardless of what you say stands out negatively, others will go out of their way to avoid you.  Who I am will determine my brand.
The effectiveness of any leader is determined by their personal brand. This isn’t always realized by the leader.  When a leader justifies himself by his own assessment of his work, or by his intentions or desires, he misses out on one of the most important resources he has. The truth as seen by others. We love to hear others tell us how much they like our brand, but when it comes to a hard honest evaluation, most of us too often turn a blind eye.  We don’t want to know about the bad stuff.

Protect your personal brand like it is the key to all future opportunities, BECAUSE IT IS!

Your future opportunities will depends on the impression you leave on everyone who crosses paths with you.  This is your wake that you leave behind.  You will either be a magnet that attracts others to your personal brand, or something less.  If you  don’t offer the world anything remarkable, don’t be surprised if others don’t seek out your un-remarkableness.

In your workplace, if you show stress and fail to keep your emotions in check, you are branding yourself.  If you believe you are always right, and are condescending to people, you are branding yourself.  If you show up late and take short-cuts, you are branding yourself.  If you are more concerned over results than you are people, you are branding yourself.  If you fail to take full responsibility for your actions, make excuses and blame others, you are branding yourself,  Likewise if your actions line up with values such as integrity, commitment, personal growth, transparency and kindness, you are branding yourself.

If you are struggling with your personal brand, or if others are struggling with YOUR personal brand, don’t give up.  There is hope.  You can learn to improve your brand by first beginning to change what you believe about yourself.  You can’t change what others see in you (your brand), until YOU change what you see in you.

You have the ability to brand yourself to make an impact in your workplace, your family, in your community.

If you want to make sure you are displaying a positive impression that will lead to opportunities, you’ll need to be willing to change your perspective. You may benefit from finding a person that has the skills and desire to coach you to become the brand you know you can be, and wish to display to others.

I would be glad to discuss with you the opportunity to help you change your personal brand.  You can change “Who you are”.

Step Up and Stand Out!

“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.”
Steve Maraboli

You were set aside for greatness.  Very few people believe that to be true.  Sometimes life experiences, bad worldviews and a misunderstanding about reality paint a different picture of our lives, and our future.  What we think about ourselves matters most, especially concerning what we will accomplish in life and the workplace.

A Crisis in our Workplace

There is something very wrong with our workplace culture today.  People look at work not as opportunity or mission but rather as a necessary evil to stay alive.  Work ethic seems to be at an all-time low as people struggle to find a worthy endeavor to leverage their efforts.  There are many opposing ideas out there telling us that our efforts won’t really matter much, our dreams likely won’t come true no matter what we do.

There seems to be a sense of hopelessness.  It’s not that there are limited opportunities. Businesses are hiring all over the place. It seems there are fewer good opportunities being offered. The key words here “being offered”.

divided(1)James Harter (cbs.com) says -” Of the country’s approximately 100 million full-time employees, 51 percent aren’t engaged at work — meaning they feel no real connection to their jobs, and thus they tend to do the bare minimum. Another 16 percent are “actively disengaged” — they resent their jobs, tend to gripe to co-workers and drag down office morale as a result.”

People feel stuck, like their options have been limited.  For many, what once was a healthy ambition to do something they love, has turned out to be a surrendering, a conforming to the mediocre means.  Our circumstances have shackled many of us, and left us with a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, so it seems.

I have also noticed that there are a greater number of people in the marketplace who  fail to see the future as a place to capitalize on accumulated experience and success. They see the future as a place of darker and more cynical circumstances than the past. It seems as though our opportunities are depreciating as we go through time.  As we age, we anticipate diminishing physical and mental skills, but more so we fear falling behind the cultural and technological curve.  It’s like the tractor pull effect, the further you go, the more resistance increases, until you eventually become incapable of maintaining and come to a screeching halt. So many people don’t see any future of retirement or health benefits available to them and they fear how that will play out.

“Blending in” as a Valueblending

We find a sense of comfort in blending in with others around us.  We all long for fellowship with relationships with our fellow man and are willing to compromise much to get it.  It is so much easier to join the crowd, go wherever they go and value what they value. We experience little resistance from others when we stick to cultural trends and speak the language.  In the land of complainers, complaining is the highest form of expression.  Is it any wonder so many people are slave to their surroundings, slave to the path of least resistance, and slave to the imaginary fences that are their circumstances? You will never have to be alone if you choose that path. Ever heard the expression “misery loves company”?

Sometimes we sell out to blend in, and have peace with our surroundings, only to wage war against our very soul that wishes to escape and be free.

Surrendering your Power

When we come to rely on everyone else to present us opportunities for our financial, emotional and professional needs, we give all power to everyone else to have our needs met. We become dependent on our surroundings to provide for us.  Dependency on others becomes the constant theme in our lives. Blame becomes our mantra, when the people and environment we depend on let us down.  This is the essence of victim thinking.

If you do not determine your priorities for your life, someone else will.  And believe it or not, they may not have your best interest in mind.

Our circumstances are always temporary, unless you choose to make them permanent by giving your power away. We need to stop putting our future in the hands of everyone else and the circumstances they create for us, and embrace our future as 100% our sole responsibility.  Why should you allow others to put a lid on your potential?

So Where is the Hope?

Titus 3:4-7 NIV “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “…But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Washed to be Set Apart

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are washed and experience rebirth by the Holy Spirit.  We are sanctified or ‘set apart’ for a great mission that includes your whole being.

sactified

Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

If you are not a person of faith, the process is still similar in the workplace (but more difficult and not eternal).  Your hope is to change, to be different, to let go or separate yourself from the patterns that you have embraced, and the excuses that are holding you back and keeping you from being effective.

Sanctification is to be set apart, reserved for something.  This is the opposite of blending in or status quo.

2 Corinthians 6:17 Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate”, says the Lord.

God doesn’t necessarily set us apart or change our external circumstances, although he may (see Jonah).  He changes us internally so we can grow and change our own circumstances and help others with theirs.  It’s not about changing where we are.  The grass isn’t any greener if you take your troubles with you.  It’s about a change in who we are, by choosing.

Step Up and Stand Out

 

When we allow, Christ do direct our inner being, we are no longer controlled by, or dependent on the people around us, or our circumstances.  Our true opportunities come when a seed of grace is planted in our hearts by our savior.  This seed creates a burden based on compassion and conviction. It then turns into vision, vision seeks out opportunities to step up and stand out to lead the charge to better ourselves. stand out It inspires us to better our environment, and improve circumstances for everyone.  If no such burden exists, you may want to examine your current ideas and beliefs about the world, and reconsider them considering a grander picture. They may not be adequate to bring about a life of significance.

 

I dare you to step up to the calling that God has created you for, and be willing to stand out among your peers as one set apart for great works of service.  Get up off your couch, turn the TV off, and do something great for someone!

Get Out From Under That Bowl!

We have a problem in our country, in our world.  People don’t seem to value themselves much.  Suicide rates are up, people aren’t taking care of themselves physically, intellectually or emotionally. More and more people lack confidence and motivation to work towards significance.  So many in our culture seem to be defeated, they don’t seem to see any light or reason to even try to move forward.  They are stuck and feel helpless and hopeless with nothing real to believe in.

Is it any wonder people feel this way when they look around and see the philosophy of this world?  We live primarily in a country that the majority of people believe that there is no real lasting purpose in life.  Even people who claim to follow a belief system that includes a purpose tend to live as if there isn’t.  I meet so many people who don’t have anyone telling them otherwise. There doesn’t seem to be any light coming in the window to shine on them.

Jesus has an entirely different perspective on our value.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  Mat 5:14-16

If you are in a position of influence but failing to influence, I challenge you to Get Out From Under That Bowl!

John Maxwell says that we cannot add value to others until we add value to ourselves.  The way we treat and value others is less of how we view them and more about how we view ourselves.  If we don’t believe we have significant value, we won’t think others have significant value.  This is the Mirror Principle.

  • Honest people give others the benifit of the doubt,
  • Thieves believe everyone steals,
  • Trusting people see others as trustworthy,
  • Selfish people are always assuming the worst in others, 
  • Caring people see others as compassionate,
  • People with little confidence don’t have much confidence in others,

Cultural Influence

The truth is that our culture is lying to you.  You do have value, your potential is unlimited and open and available for you to discover.  You do have a purpose and it’s your responsibility to find out what it is.  No one can hold you back without your permission. Choice of thought is the most powerful tool you have.

If you are one who believes you hold little value… Get over yourself and do something about it!  Break your chains of bondage. People are counting on you even if you don’t realize it.  Imagine a line of people waiting to receive something of value from you that they desperately need… and you don’t show up.  From the looks of our world, it appears most are not showing up.

“A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.”

You were created in the image of God for a specific purpose.  When you find your purpose it will bring meaning and value to your heart.  When you discover your gift to the world, you will begin to love yourself and value yourself as God values you, not the way the world values you. 

“For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Mat 7:8

Contact me, lets chat.

Reason To Be

One of the hardest challenges we face as human beings on this earth is to find a reason to be. Purpose seems to be the one thing that you absolutely need to have in order to garnish any sense of worth. Most people have spent much time searching for it but struggle to find it. Sure, people do lots of things on purpose for lots of different reasons, but to tie them together for a bigger more important reason outside of there own need seems to be less popular than our Presidential candidates.

The Search

The search for purpose in life differs depending on your worldview and sometimes it doesn’t even seem to be necessary.  If you believe that ‘what is real’ is limited only to what is “natural”, any purpose for your own life is limited to a finite perspective that seems to lead to the same ending no matter how you slice it. Life is short and then you die.

You may find a temporary purpose but in the end it all seems like a vacation without a destination.  Being part of a story without an author leads people to become authors without a story.

There are too many people in our world without a story.  We position ourselves as authors of our own life but fail to find a story worth telling.  It’s seems so easy to come to the conclusion that there is no real lasting hope in our world, that we can only seek temporary satisfaction while we are here.

“Being part of a story without an author, leads people to become authors without a story.”

The book of Ecclesiastes sums this up pretty well.  The following was written by a man that came to the same conclusion.  Solomon takes a long hard look at what the world looks like “under the sun” (apart from a Creator).  He wrote the book of Ecclesiastes as a journal of his journey to find purpose.

Ecc 1:1-4 “The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?  Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.  1:14 “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

It’s not just Solomon the author of the book of Ecclesiastes that came to the conclusion that apart from a Creator “life is meaningless”.   In fact, what other conclusion can you possibly come up with?!  It’s no wonder we have so many people walking around with nothing to say, noting to believe in and no reason to be.

Broken Dreams

So, what if I bought my daughter a Birthday present, hid it in the shed outside, then told her she had to find it if she wanted it, but also told her it is somewhere in the house and she would not need to look outside?  She would begin her search with much excitement and her anticipation would grow as her expectation of receiving something nice that her father has personally handpicked just for her.  I can imagine her looking all around the house, behind furniture, under beds, closets, and eventually in the cupboards and in the bathroom.  Ultimately her excitement would turn to frustration, and then later on she would begin to get upset and give up.  She would surely conclude that there is no present and it was all a hoax and she was the butt of a horrible joke.  This undoubtedly would do some damage to her perspective.  It is not that there is an absence of a gift, it is that there is a limit to the range she is searching.

I think sometimes people can feel this same way about life.  Like someone told them that there is hope for love, joy and happiness but failed to tell them where to find it. If we just follow the crowd, they will surely lead us to the jackpot.  After years of looking in the wrong places, following the wrong advice they eventually came to the same conclusion as Solomon, “life is meaningless”.

The Bigger Picture

Maybe we need to stop limiting our perspective to just what is “under the sun”.  Maybe someone should tell my daughter that her gift may be outside of the house.  Could it be that our reason to be is there after all but we have allowed others to convince us that our world is much smaller and darker than it really is?  What if the picture that has been painted for us isn’t wide enough or tall enough or bright enough to tell the whole story as it really is?

Lots of people spend their whole lives stuck in a box never to find out that the box isn’t really locked.  They just didn’t believe there was anything outside the box or believed it was locked.

“What if the picture that has been painted for us isn’t wide enough or tall enough or bright enough to tell the whole story as it really is?”

I will tell you there is a reason to be, but it’s not “under the sun”, however when you find it, it will change how you see and experience everything “under the sun”.

It’s Right under Your Nose

If you have yet to find your reason to be, I encourage you to look one more place.  Open your Bible, read it and find out if it is true. Don’t trust me or anyone else, find out for yourself.  Don’t worry; you don’t need to believe it to read it.  That will take care of itself, if it’s true.

You will begin to find your reason to be.  Don’t believe me?  try it, I dare you!  If you don’t currently have a reason to be, you have nothing to lose.  What’s the worst that can happen? You may chase a little wind, but then, chances are you may be already doing that. Been there, done that!

I would love to talk with anyone who wants to discuss or know more about this, shoot me an email at joelsmith123@yahoo.com