Do We Ever Fit In? Should We Bother?
The desire to fit-in starts early, at least for me. The bigger the gap, the greater the desire became.
I never really felt like I belonged anywhere. I was in a foreign country with foreign people speaking a foreign language I didn't know since I was six.
My Korean name didn't fit so I changed it to John. That was my first English name before I officially chose Daniel. I continued to move schools, cities and countries and my name went back to my Korean name then to a new English name. Confusing for me, old friends and new friends alike.
I've continued to feel like an outsider in every city I've lived and now when I go back to South Korea they treat me like a foreigner too. Apparently, I don't look like them and I don't dress like them. Most are genuinely surprised when I speak fluent Korean to them.
So then where did I belong?
High school and university didn't come with the attachment of my previous identity because I didn't have a continued friend group. So each time, I could assume a new identity since no one knew my back story. I was an intense person in high school but in university I was seen as a chill and calm guy.
Throughout my career I was the finance major who worked in accounting, then the accountant in management consulting and then an accountant/management consultant in a hedge fund. I actually rejoiced sticking out. Overtime, I realized I had a natural propensity to love being the nail that sticks out. I love being the one who disagrees, the one who puts his hand up, the one who sits up front, the one who performs in the primary role.
Then why did I want to fit in? Why were there these contradictory feelings of wanting to be understood and belonged but also wanting to stick out?
Oddly enough, this contradiction became so apparent on this recent "journey".
The first year of my journey (I first called it a sabbatical for as long as 6-8 months) was about trying to find the next box. The next job title, description, industry for me to fit in. I even called this period a sabbatical to fit in some kind of box. Because if I said "I'm living" people would think I had finally lost it.
I spent close to 12 months trying to find a box. Turns out there was no box. After interviewing for all kinds of jobs and speaking to more than 120+ people in the startup world, I had not found a box for me. Everyone tried to put me in some kind of box. That's how the game is played after all. I am all for playing the game but I eventually realized I would need to pick the I want to play based on the box I wanted to create for myself.
What resulted was a discovery and conviction for where I wanted to steer my journey towards. A vision to create an ecosystem that constantly challenges conventions. One can only do this by being polarizing. By taking a stance, sometimes unpopular, and being very honest and vulnerable.
There is no "business model" I've found to fit OMD Ventures under. Nor is there a set "title/occupation" for what I am other than the creator of this business with no obvious business model. I have no desire to hire people, fundraise or have some billion dollar company. It could very much be that this is a fool's errand and there may be a reason why I've had a hard time finding people like me doing things that I like doing. The natural proclivity is to believe I am special. Which is not true. I just haven't found a group that has a similar shade with me yet.
I just know I'm going to change the world. The result is the creation of a utopian ecosystem where human potential will be unlocked. I luckily have the arrogance to be inspired and feel a connection with Buffet's quote:
It seems almost obvious that I wouldn't fit in. But I realized the foundation for such a behaviour as 'breaking rules' comes from having a sense of safety. A belonging somewhere. This became my family and close friends. I was a misfit to most of the professional world, including the risk-averse start-up environment.
Fitting in or sticking out became a matter of environment.
A Korean may fit in Korea but not so much in Norway. Obviously in looks but culture too. Which is okay. It's actually good to not fit in. It's also natural that you don't and there really isn't a requirement to force it either. The natural tendency is a desire to but the funny thing is that you eventually will.
See, a misfit somewhere is a fit elsewhere. There is always a tribe somewhere.
There is always a group for people who don't fit in somewhere else. A collection of misfits if you will. At the most micro level, there are small tribes. Whether it's in a consulting firm where there is a small group of people from the same starting year of a specific ethnic background or a group in a co-working space who all love a niche, unpopular sport.
That tribe will give the support and umbrella of safety necessarily for the individual to be the change somewhere else. Of course you can be the change in your tribe but the material change will happen as a misfit somewhere else. That's where major progress will be made. This is why we need misfits. For without progress there is only decline.
I wore a suit, worked in a skyscraper, sought money and prestige and got the top brands in my resume. There was an innate desire to fit in but just stand out a little. Now, this model seems wholly broken.
Maybe the agenda is to just push further on to be the misfit. I'm still looking for a tribe that will provide with a blanket to feel safe but at least I'm learning to no longer want to fit in. For the tribe that will give me safety should feel effortless. Like a glove designed for me. Any resistance means they're the ones I will have to change but not the ones who'll provide me with the safety to launch my campaign from.