When the Goal is to “Not Fit In”

June 25, 2023 by Charlie Hedges − 2 Comments

Rules direct us to average behaviors. If we’re aiming to create works that are exceptional, most rules don’t apply. Average is nothing to aspire to. The goal is to not fit in.Rick Rubin, The Creative Act

Certain aspects of life demand social agreement. Standards and rules are necessary for civilization to be “civilized.”


We live according to rules and codes designed to establish conformity. But when conformity gets in the way of creativity and personal expression, the question arises, “Where would we be as an innovative society if Einstein and writer Cormac McCarthy were limited by the rules of their crafts?”

As a sort of iconoclast and fiercely independent thinker, I struggle with a culture of too many rules or standards of behavior. Although rules are necessary, they are also, by definition, limiting.

Without limitations (or boundaries), one can easily get lost in a forest of out of the box ideas and possibilities. However, with too many limitations we miss out on the vast opportunities of creative thoughts and actions.

The Menagerie of the Imagination

For the creative, the time inevitably comes when we must “walk off alone in the menagerie of our imagination.” And yet even then, in the territories of imagination, I still must choose some kind of limitations and definitions which are most meaningful to me so I might inspire or influence others.

Rick Rubin, in his brilliant book The Creative Act, proposes that the goal of the iconoclastic creative is to “Not Fit In.” For to fit in, requires submission to the values and social mores of average American (or human) thought.

Rules: Obstacles of Ballast?

When the rules begin to impede meaningful creativity, then the rules are obstacles. When they inform and provide ballast, they are indeed helpful.

A story I think I wrote about recently: When I graduated from a very conservative theological seminary, my advisor warned me with the words, “Charlie, in this I have concern for you as a minister, “You have a proclivity for the novel.””

Little did he know that he gave me, perhaps, the greatest compliment of my life. Haha. I will never forget that admonition! After decades of life, I have learned to embrace fully my own sort of individualism when it comes to rules or standards or codes of behavior.

It’s Your Choice

As always, you have a choice of when it is necessary to conform and when it is essential to break the mold and free up your inner voice to express new or odd ideas that serve a much higher purpose than mere social agreement.

Life’s Great Question:

When to Abide and When to Be a Bit Radical?

Photo courtesy of undrey at istockphoto




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