Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Individuality as an Asset

“A man who does not think for himself does not think at all.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Yesterday afternoon, as I sat with my son to work on some Algebra problems, I scanned through the math workbook and tried explaining the different steps he should follow. He was lost at first, so I solved one of the problems and hoped that he would see the pattern. He looked at it for a minute, then grabbed a piece of paper and wrote something down. I hadn’t the foggiest idea of what he was doing, but when he finished the result was the same as mine. I gave him two other problems, and I solved them myself separately – once again, the results matched. When I looked at the steps he had taken, they made absolute sense, although I probably would not have followed that same path to get to the solution. The way he processed the problem was not a conventional one, yet it led to correct results.

Each of us is an original, and thus we cannot be replicated. We spend large portions of our lives trying to be someone else just to belong, and if we can’t identify with our fellow humans through a similarity of appearance or thought we feel like the proverbial oddball, and often doubt our self-worth.

We can never truly be like the person in front of us, or like the one behind us for that matter, simply because they are not us. The way we live our lives - and the path we follow to seek a solution - are not better or worse than others, they are just different; they are our way, our unique approach.

One of the greatest evils of societies is the tendency to sacrifice individuality in favor of the collective good, but a society without free thinking is nothing more than an assembly line spitting out generalized concepts. In order to evolve, great minds must be allowed to unlock their hidden potential. What counts is the final result, not the path we have chosen to get to destination. Each of us is important and irreplaceable, and we should honor our individuality, instead than feeling inferior or superior because we are doing things differently than anyone else.

Similarly, we must respect the uniqueness of others, and their contribution to the whole. As Oscar Wilde so eloquently said: “A red rose is not selfish because it wants to be a red rose. It would be horribly selfish if it wanted all the other flowers in the garden to be red and roses.”

So be who you are, always. Respect that in the greater scheme of things you are one-of-a-kind and you are exactly who and what you need to be, at the very place and time you need to be there. Just because your potential is not visible at this moment doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, but rather it means that it probably won’t unlock until you use a different key.

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