Embrace Your Inner Rebel

I was at a wedding on Saturday and, thanks to what I was wearing, received some inquiring comments about a tattoo that’s usually covered. It sits close to my heart, speaking to a message that 19-year old Alicia thought it was important I be reminded of daily.

It’s no museum piece, but it speaks to something that 19 year old me really believed in and I don’t want to lose my connection with. Inspired by a Rage Against the Machine vibe from the early 90s, it’s a visual reminder of my little inner rebel. And to be honest, I quite like her – she doesn’t suffer fools, and she asks questions about things we take for granted. 

Rock inspired tattoo or no, I think we could all learn a few things from 19-year old Alicia (and certainly from Rage Against the Machine) about listening to that inner rebel. I’m confident we all have one – like an inner child, but way more interesting. Some of us are well connected, while some of us have silenced them completely.

Being ‘average’ is not the safe bet that we are led to believe in. In fact, according to thinkers like Nikolas Taleb, it could even be the most vulnerable place to be in. The barbell investment strategy is one example of this thinking. In an investment portfolio, for example, the safest position to be in is as far away from the middle as possible. Instead, you would aim for asymmetrical returns by playing it safe in some areas, and taking lots of small risks in others. This minimises the potential downside, while opening the opportunity for large upside. In other words – it leaves some space for the rebel, who wants to take some risks and support something new and scary.

Rarely are those who go down in history the ones known for their diligence or total conformity. They’re not usually the most popular, and they’re pretty much never the ones who are most reflective of their time.

“No one at present dares to state the obvious: growth in society may not come from raising the average…but from increasing the number of people in the “tails,” that small, very small number of risk takers crazy enough to have ideas of their own, those endowed with that very rare ability called imagination, that rarer quality called courage, and who make things happen.” – Nikolas Taleb

Instead, progress and growth is usually down to someone connecting with that inner rebel and challenging conventional wisdom. Thanks to the inner rebel, we see movements for civil rights, gender equality, mental health awareness, diversity and inclusion. Thanks to the inner rebel, we’ve got computers in our pockets, vaccines, flight and instant global communication. 

In the everyday, the inner rebel can be found suggesting a brave new policy tool, designing new products or questioning common assumptions that are holding us back. Extraordinary results, and experiences worth having, require extraordinary people, and risks worth taking. The inner rebel might get us into trouble, (and leave us with tattoos to explain at weddings) -  but that willingness to say, do and try things that others won’t is the seed of every change worth having. 

Every time you silence the brave idea, clever hack, tricky question or gnawing feeling in your gut, you’re losing touch with your inner rebel. Is it time for you to reconnect?

How to.. Embrace Your Inner Rebel

  • Challenge ‘the way things are done around here’ when the process detracts from the outcome

  • Take calculated risks as part of your approach to selecting actions, projects or investments – balancing out the danger of averages

  • Take the gnawing feeling in your gut seriously next time you get it – say or do something differently, and see what happens.

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