In Part 1 of The Story of Two Watches, we talked about how daring to be different can open you up to new possibilities, help you find unconventional solutions, and allow you to meet needs that are uniquely yours. In Part 2, we’re talking about how other people react when you dare to be different. Basically, their reactions can be boiled down to two options: WHY or WTF?
Two watches and countless funny looks
Most people don’t wear two watches. But I do. For me, it boils down to a balance of style and function—one of my watches reflects my style, while the other helps me stay on top of my busy life. They both make me happy, for different reasons, and rather than force myself to sacrifice one for the other, I simply decided to wear one on each wrist. No big deal, right?
The truth is, most people don’t notice right away. But I can pretty much count on them doing a double take when they do—for one of two reasons.
Other people’s reactions
At Design.org, we talk a lot about curiosity—about asking questions and being open to ideas. This is the reaction that some people have when they see my two watches. But far more people have a different reaction. Instead of going to a place of curiosity, they go to a place of judgment.
I’ve lovingly categorized these reactions as WHY (curiosity) and WTF (judgment).
When you dare to be different, you’re bound to get funny looks. Some people might scoff, criticize, or make fun of you behind your back. I call this the WTF response.
WTF is a judgment. When someone responds this way, they aren’t interested in learning more about my two watches. Rather, they have reactions like:
“That guy must be crazy.”
“I have no idea why someone would do that.”
“I’m confused. Does he know how dumb he looks?”
People like this don’t care to understand something that doesn’t fit into their already-formed worldview. They’re so stuck in what they believe, and in what they think they “know,” that they’re not willing to entertain a new idea or different concept. They might even feel a little afraid, maybe that their belief is being called into question or is being challenged.
Now, I realize that I myself sound pretty judgmental of these people when I say that, so let me just clarify—we ALL do this! We all have our prejudices, our preferences, our beliefs, and our opinions. It’s difficult to push those aside when we see something that doesn’t look quite right. I think it’s safe to say that most people, most of the time, have a WTF reaction to something like two watches. (I count myself among them, but I’m trying to do better!)
(For more evidence of this, look no further than negativity bias. It’s real and it’s common for people to default to thinking the worst.)
The other potential reaction—WHY—displays curiosity. This is what happens when someone sees my two watches and thinks something like:
“Huh, that’s really interesting.”
“I wonder why he’s wearing two watches.”
“I’ve never thought about doing that before!”
“Maybe I should try that.”
These reactions are more accepting and understanding than the WTF reactions. People who ask WHY give other people space to live their lives and make their choices based on what’s best for them, rather than trying to make them conform to societal norms or the ideas in their own head.
Something interesting about WHY people: I find that they tend to be more confident, creative and successful than WTF people. Remember the fear that WTF people feel around the unknown or unfamiliar? WHY people don’t have that fear. Rather, they have the confidence that there are ideas and solutions out there that they haven’t thought of yet—and that’s okay. Their identity isn’t shaken or called into question by the unfamiliar. In fact, they embrace the opportunity to learn something new or to pick up a new perspective.
Can you imagine how different our world would be if people were more curious, and less prone to judgment? If they stopped to ask WHY before jumping to WTF?
Responding to the reactions
Just as other people can choose how to react when they see my two watches, I can choose how to respond to that reaction.
When I get a WTF reaction, it’s easy for me to think “WTF” right back. I feel mad that I’m misunderstood, and annoyed that other people aren’t open to new ideas. It’s easy for me to get critical of those people, and think of them as “close-minded.”
Of course, I don’t have to respond that way. Even if someone judges me for wearing two watches, I can still choose to respond with understanding. I can choose to think, “It’s okay that they don’t understand. It’s too bad that they won’t ask me about it, because I’d be happy to tell them.”
Obviously, it’s easier for me to respond well when someone is curious about my two watches. Any time anyone asks me about it, whether it’s an old friend or a total stranger, I’m more than happy to share how my watches make me happy and help me live my best life. It’s a great opportunity for me to share my passion for experimentation and curiosity with others, and there’s really nothing I love more. (Honestly, I’m this close to making a t-shirt that says “Ask me about my two watches.” #weartwowatches)
Letting go of what other people think
The most important thing, though, is that I continue to choose what I create, regardless of what anyone else thinks. I go after the things I need. I create the reality I want to live in.
Why? Because I’d rather be “dumb” and trust my heart than be “smart” and follow the crowd (while ignoring the creative solutions that might help me be happier or better yet, change the world for the better). I choose to “create happy” in my life. If people have a WHY response, great! If they have a WTF response, oh well—I can’t let it take me away from the things I know I need and want.
As we talked about in Part 1, not caring about what other people think is pretty hard to do, but it’s also pretty important. Only once you stop living by others’ expectations will you be able to focus on creating solutions to the problems that really matter to you. Once you do that, you’ll be able to “create happy” for yourself.
How to choose WHY over WTF
So how exactly does one choose WHY over WTF? How can you adopt that mindset and overcome your negativity bias so that you think with more creativity and less judgment?
Give the benefit of the doubt
Choose to think the best of people. If you catch yourself thinking thoughts like “That person doesn’t know what they’re doing” or “What a dumb decision,” call yourself out for thinking with judgment. Instead of jumping to the conclusion that that person is dumb or ignorant, ask yourself if there’s another possible reason why they’re doing what they’re doing.
Face your fears
Does seeing something different make you feel uncomfortable or afraid? Maybe it makes you worried that your worldview is incorrect, flawed, or incomplete. Acknowledging those fears is the only way you’re going to be able to face them and reject them. Think about how “differentness” makes you feel, and explore the fears that lie underneath any judgmental feelings.
Since our brains are wired to see the negative, you have to proactively train yourself to see the positive and to get curious. Practice asking questions about why things work the way they do. Practice looking for creative answers to everyday problems. Embrace the unknown and allow yourself to be the explorer, rather than the judge and jury. The more you practice, the more naturally it will come to you.
Seek out different perspectives
Deliberately seek out new ways to look at things. Expand your social media feeds to include people whose opinions don’t typically align with yours. Be open to honest discussion instead of defensive debate. Educate yourself on different opinions and viewpoints. Opening yourself up to new ideas will help you see that there are different ways to look at the world, and help you as you reject judgment of things you don’t understand.
To sum up all these tips in two words: choose love. Love other people enough to listen to their opinions and perspectives. Love yourself enough to have confidence in your “differentness,” and to seek out creative solutions to problems that matter to you. Learn to love the creative process and the curiosity that it requires. Approach life with love—it will always serve you well.
My two watches are only one example of how I “dare to be different” and receive WTF responses for it. I love Taylor Swift, but find that most people I know judge her as a person and her style (and judge me for being a true, deep fan of her talent and art). I’m careful about taking care of myself in terms of diet and exercise, but I know that many people don’t understand or appreciate exactly why I make the choices I make. And I’m intense about running my business, and my life, to the point that I’ve lovingly been called “problematically determined” by people close to me. I love and appreciate them, too.
If people choose not to take the time to understand me, I have to choose to let that go. If I don’t, then I’m sacrificing what I want, need, and love, in favor of things that won’t serve me in the long run.
So I’m going to keep wearing my two watches. And when I see something I don’t understand in the world, I’m going to hold back my WTF and ask WHY instead.
I hope you’ll join me.
It’s time to get curious and change your life, with Design.org.
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