Nurture Your Nonconformity

by Guest Author on · 2 comments


" Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities." – Albert Einstein

For years, I have been fascinated with the relationship between creativity and nonconformity. Unfortunately, many of our institutions, whether in education, religion, or work, suppress creativity and focus on conformity and obedience to authority. This system does not empower people to achieve their creative potential because it stifles our creative gifts.

The culture, including much of the education system, often refuses to recognize the creative gifts of those who march to a different beat. Often students and others who are unconventional creative thinkers can feel outcast. Bored with the status quo, they may turn to negative, harmful, or even destructive behaviors because of this feeling that they just don't fit in.

Several studies have linked creativity and nonconformity. A 1993 study from Turkey, for instance, proposed that creativity in children could be stifled by cultural demands for discipline and conformity. Researchers rated 192 children in the third and fourth grades using the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking and the Teacher Perception Scale (a measure of divergent thought and classroom nonconformity developed for study) and found a significant correlation between creativity and nonconformity ( Runco – Pritzker Encylopedia of Creativity ).

If you have ever felt like your creativity was stifled by school, work, or society in general, remember that many of the greatest thinkers who have changed the course of history have been nonconformists. Galileo Galilei refused to accept the Catholic Church's teaching that the earth was the center of the universe and was convicted for refusing to renounce his astronomical observations. Albert Einstein clashed with his early teachers and school authorities because of his refusal to accept centuries of conventional thinking, and went on to fundamentally reshape our ideas of how the universe works. Mohandas Gandhi stood up for India's independence in the face of oppressive English rule by pioneering nonviolent civil disobedience.

Despite the fact that some of history's biggest game-changers were unconventional thinkers, society often views nonconformists as rebellious troublemakers. What distinguishes thought leaders like Galileo, Einstein, and Gandhi from nonconformists who never leave their mark? Their commitment to positive change and their passion to stand up for what they believed in.

Einstein famously stated, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." Today, as throughout history, we need people who can think outside the box and who are committed to creating positive change.

Here are some ideas to nurture unconventional, creative thinking:

  • Find Your Sanctuary – We need a safe environment for risk taking and creativity, a place we can explore our ideas without fear of being judged. For many of us, that is our circle of friends. If you feel like you don't fit in because you question everything, you may gravitate toward others who feel outcast by their nonconformity.
  • Follow Your Curiosity – Most creative unconventional thinkers also explore many paths in their quest for fulfillment. You may exhaustively study one path, only to find yourself on another path later. Don't feel discouraged if others see you as a restless seeker, but rather follow your curiosity to wherever it leads.
  • Stay Flexible – It is a maxim that the person with the most flexibility in a group controls the group (for example, a baby in a restaurant). You cannot lead people for long from a rigid belief system. However, you can if you develop flexibility.
  • Accept the learning that comes from adversity – Understanding your experiences are all part of your path to your purpose, and looking at the obstacles you encounter in this way, will change your perspective. It's comforting to have the knowledge that there is a good purpose – learning – for everything you experience.
  • Feed your positive imagination – This is the ability to envision a future or a possibility that does not yet exist. Imagination is the key to unlocking novel ways to solve problems and create new possibilities. It's the power to manifest something positive on the physical plane that previously existed only as an idea. I use the term "positive imagination" because imagination can also be negative if it causes you hurt yourself or those around you. If you want to be successful, you must use positive imagination to create that success.
  • Understand Energy Flows in a Cycle – Energy flows in two directions: you send it out with your emotions and it comes back to you with those same emotions. So if you send out the emotion of hate to someone or something, it returns to you as hate. If you send out the emotion of love to someone or something, it returns to you as love.

Creative thinking holds the key to advance humanity beyond the problems created by the mindsets of the past. By recognizing, valuing, and supporting creative thinkers, we empower them to unlock the potential for creative changes that will reshape the world for the better.

About the Author: Samuel P. "Pat" Black III (Pat Black), founder of visionary businesses and philanthropic organizations, aims to create an environment where today's unconventional thinkers can thrive. One of his groundbreaking companies include HERO Bx, LLC one of the largest biodiesel manufacturers in the Northeast. He's building "The Flourish Summit" to give communities tools, spaces, and programs nonconformist leaders will use to find solutions to today's most pressing challenges. Learn more at and in Pat's new book, Cracking the Flourishing Code.

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Pat Black III October 7, 2014 at 10:41 am

In my view, it’s the unconventional thinkers – the nonconformists, the rebels, the crazy ones – who will be most successful in the future that is unfolding. Nurturing your nonconformity is a step on the path toward your true peak in the jungle of life.


Lance Ekum October 18, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Thanks Pat – great stuff!!


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