Book Review: We Are All Weird

We Are All Weird*, by Seth Godin.

How much time have we all spent trying not to be weird? Until I found the drama department in high school, fitting in and becoming popular was my mission in life. Even in drama, however, there were one or two oddballs who never really fit in with our brand of weird. And I’m sure they had their own tribe somewhere!

Reading this book has shown me that weird isn’t going anywhere; in fact, it’s only going to grow. If mass defined the 20th century, weird defines the 21st. Whether you’re a business owner, marketer, or consumer, understanding this shift will be critical to your success for the foreseeable future.

“The epic battle of our generation is between the status quo of mass and the never-ceasing tide of weird.”

Let’s talk about what weird means in this context: weird means having freedom of choice and embracing uniqueness.

I agree that our ability to choose is a type of wealth, even when we think we’re poor. I often describe myself as broke, but when I think about all of the choices I have, “broke” isn’t really appropriate:

  • I love being able to make choices about what I eat, which is a mostly vegetarian, gluten-free diet.
  • I love being able to instantly create custom, commercial free radio stations.
  • I love having a DVR so I can watch my shows on my schedule without having to make a choice of one over the other.

I love my freedom to choose, and I like showing off my quirks. Having an “I Blog Fresno” button on my shirt opens me up to connecting with other local bloggers and Fresno enthusiasts. Sporting my Tower District t-shirt is a badge of support for the quirky, hippie, artsy area of town I hang out in.

“The marketplace brings power to the chooser.”

In this digital age, where more people can connect in more ways, the possibilities for creating marketing opportunities that fill a need in a respectful way abound. The more specifically you advertise yourself, the more you’ll find your specifically right customer.

Consumers, you don’t have to settle for the personal trainer at the gym; you can go online and find the exact kind of trainer that meets your needs, such as a kirtan-chanting, marathon-running, middle-aged man. And when that type of trainer lets you know he exists through thoughtful, genuine marketing, you welcome it.

Need shoes? You are not limited to the choices presented by one or two main manufacturers. There are multiple sites with multiple search criteria. When I needed to buy shoes for my wedding, I was able to limit my choices to silver/sandal/1.5″ heel/size 8.5/$75 or less/free shipping. I still agonized for hours over the choice, but I was able to find the perfect fit in the end.

“The Internet connects and protects the weird by connecting and amplifying their tribes.”

I may be the only person on my block (or in my city) who practices Shiva Nata (yoga for your brain that also increases your strength and coordination), but I can hop online and connect with a group where Shiva Nata is a shared passion. We have our own lingo and support each other in our practice.

Maybe you love musical theatre, but live in a factory town. Admitting that jazz hands excite you more than cheap beer might be cause for cold shoulders at a town hall meeting, but online you can find millions of people who share your love of Fosse.

I was at an Irish jam session the other night. This local group of people play various instruments, really dig Irish music, and get together several times a month to do what they love. A couple of members are young enough to be in school, and I couldn’t help but wonder what their peers thought of their fiddle playing. Or what kind of reactions the woman who played spoons (in addition to harp, piano, and singing) got when she told her coworkers about it.

Out in the masses, these people might be considered weird and certainly unique. When they gather together, however, a new kind of normal is created. A normal where Irish music of every flavor is embraced and enjoyed.

In high school, I probably wouldn’t have been caught dead at such a gathering, even as a spectator. An Irish jam session? How dorky is that? But a couple of years ago I honeymooned in Ireland and was privileged to experience the best, most authentic Irish music available. In Ireland, weird became not only normal, but popular.

So what happens when weird becomes normal? It becomes just another variable in the range human expression. We’ll have both less and more to judge each other by as one person’s weird is another person’s normal. A farmer may think Rhianna taking her top off in the middle of his field is weird; the teen boys in L.A. think that farmer is crazy. At least, thanks to the Internet, we will never be bored nor at a loss for acceptance.

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Have you changed your thoughts about weird, either in general or in a specific way? Did you read this book?

Please leave a comment with your thoughts below.

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