I know what it’s like to be different.
I grew up in a very (VERY) Christian household, and I am not religious. While attending school, I was always the punky looking kid in the nerd classes. One time, I was sitting on a swing and some kid called me a chink. Whatever.
I also know what it’s like to be popular.
There were two times in my life when I was super popular. It just happened. I wasn’t trying to do anything differently at those times.
Looking back, I don’t think that my popularity in those environments was a coincidence. The environments that I happened to be popular in were atypical in two respects:
- Flat social structure
- High individual autonomy
This is the type of social organization where I can effortlessly excel. It’s more like a cooperative rather than a corporation.
I think that it’s valuable to have clarity on how one combines with certain social environments for a couple of reasons:
First, you can influence environments to make them more like the ones in which you are popular, thus making them easier for you to navigate. This can be difficult and take a lot of time, but if you’re in a social situation that you can’t get out of, it is likely worth the effort.
Second, when choosing amongst social environments to be in, you can significantly improve your odds of success by understanding the environments in which you are popular and choosing to spend time and energy in those that are similar, thus increasing your probability of return on investment.
I’ve certainly put a lot of thought into how to manage the religious family situation, and I’d like to think I had a hand in the fact that my parents are less horrified that I don’t go to church regularly. I’m pretty popular with my parents these days, actually. Definitely more than I was ten years ago.
As for choosing social environments, whenever I see nerds, punks, or nerd punks, I know that I am probably going to do great. Conversely, I know that if it’s a racist environment, it's not going to go so well, and it’s easy enough to walk away from.
No one can be the most popular person in every room, but when you are able to recognize the places that you are popular in for being yourself, as well as the reasons why, it’s like having a map. You can build things on the map to make things better. You can continuously choose to go where you’ll strike gold, and not waste time in areas that offer you less.
When in your life have you been most popular? What was it about you and the social environment that made this happen?