If you’d told a younger me that playing it safe was like trying to climb a ladder with one leg, I would’ve laughed. But here’s the thing: the joke was on me.

So, let’s flashback, just for a minute. I was just another enthusiastic soul with a gleam in my eye and a startup idea that, in my head, was destined to change the world. Hell, I was convinced this was my golden ticket. I had rehearsed my pitch a thousand times, had my slides (which were killer, by the way), and had every Q&A answer down to the T. And then, in that high-stakes room, I fired away.

But halfway through my perfectly choreographed dance, a friend of mine who was a big-shot investor, cut me off. “Dude, for real? That’s what everyone’s doing!” And damn, he was right on the money. That sinking feeling? Yeah, I wasn’t ready for it. The sea of nodding heads I was expecting turned into raised eyebrows. My killer plan? It was just the ‘same old, same old’. I had strolled into the trap of the conventional, the expected, the… mundane. That burn? Ouch.

That little hiccup, my friends, was my introduction to the realm of contrarian thinking. It’s when I realized that following the herd, while comforting, could be like wrapping your dreams in lead and trying to make them fly.

But before we delve into the gritty details of what that means and how you can leverage it, let’s set the stage. This isn’t about promoting rebellion for rebellion’s sake or asking you to be different just because. Nah, that’s teenage angst stuff. This is about understanding why the ‘common’ way of thinking – the one everyone’s so cozy with – might be your biggest pitfall. So, strap in, and let’s get cracking on this journey. Because, let’s face it, if you’re here, you’re not looking for more of the same.

The Sirens of Conventional Wisdom

Remember those sweet stories from Greek mythology? Ships sailing, beautiful sirens singing, and sailors being lured to their doom? That’s conventional wisdom for you. It sings this alluring tune that promises safety, success, and a shit-ton of applause. But here’s the twist: more often than not, it ends up shipwrecking your dreams. Dramatic? Maybe. True? Hell yes.

Let’s break it down. Every industry – be it design, tech, fashion, or heck, even food (avocado toast, anyone?) – has its ‘trends’. And no, I’m not talking about those harmless #Trending things on social media. I’m talking about these big waves of thought everyone just hops onto because, well, it’s easy. The path’s laid out, the risks are known, and there’s comfort in numbers. “Everyone’s doing it, so it must be right!” Uh-huh. Heard that one before?

But here’s the rub: if you’re chilling where everyone is, you’re also competing with – yep, you guessed it – everyone. And in that vast sea of sameness, your chances of standing out? Slimmer than a string bean. That’s the subtle, sneaky danger of following the herd in business and design.

Take branding for instance. We’ve seen enough startups come up with logos that look like they’ve been churned out of the same damn template. Sure, they look “modern” and “minimalistic,” but do they stand out? Nah. They all blend into this monotonous sea of similar-looking icons, fonts, and color schemes. And that’s just one example.

But perhaps the biggest misconception the Sirens of Conventional Wisdom sing is this: “If everyone’s doing it, it must be right!” Ha! Remember those movies where everyone’s running in one direction and one dude’s going the opposite way, and everyone thinks he’s lost it? Yeah, nine times out of ten, that dude’s got it figured out. Conventional thinking might feel like a warm, snuggly blanket, but often, it’s just a cover for lack of originality and fear of risk-taking.

And just to keep things light, let’s talk about lemmings. Cute, fluffy, and notorious for…running off cliffs. Yep, legend has it these little guys just follow the pack, even if it means plummeting to their demise. But here’s a fun fact: that’s a myth. Lemmings don’t just blindly follow the crowd off cliffs. And you shouldn’t either. So, moral of the story? Don’t be a damn lemming. And definitely don’t fall for the myths – in business or wildlife.

Unboxing Contrarian Thinking

Ah, contrarian thinking. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? Like some kind of rare jewel. And honestly? It kind of is. But before we get all Indiana Jones about it, let’s demystify this gem, shall we?

First off, thinking ‘outside the box’ – sounds cliché, but what the hell does it mean? Well, imagine everyone’s living in this gigantic cardboard box. It’s comfy, well-lit, there’s Wi-Fi, and occasionally, someone orders pizza. But outside that box? That’s where the magic happens. That’s where you get to be the trailblazer, the innovator, the one who goes, “What if…?” and then actually does something about it. It’s where you question the status quo and ask the hard questions, like “Why the hell are we doing things this way?” or “Is there a better, bolder, crazier solution?”

Now, for the fun part. Remember when the first iPhone dropped? Yeah, before that, phones were just… phones. They had buttons, maybe a camera if you were lucky, and T9 texting (remember that nostalgic nightmare?). And then, outta nowhere, boom! Steve and his crew roll up with this sleek piece of tech, all touch screen and swagger, and people were like, “What the hell is this wizardry?” That, my friends, is contrarian thinking in action. Apple didn’t just make a better phone; they redefined what a phone could be.

Then there are ideas or products that seemed, well, downright batshit crazy. Electric cars? Yeah, because who doesn’t want a car that runs on the same stuff as your laptop, right? But now, everyone and their dog wants a Tesla. Streaming movies? Pfft, DVDs are where it’s at… until Netflix came along and made Blockbuster a thing of bedtime stories we’ll tell our grandkids.

The point? The truly revolutionary stuff—the ideas that flip industries on their heads—those don’t come from playing it safe. They come from taking risks, from questioning everything, from daring to think differently. They come from looking at traditional mobile phones and envisioning an iPhone.

But, and here’s the kicker, it’s not just about being different for the heck of it. That’s like dying your hair green and calling yourself a Martian. Nah, it’s about being different with a purpose. It’s about spotting gaps, seizing opportunities, and, yeah, sometimes just shaking things up because the status quo has gotten too damn stale.

So, next time you’re faced with a challenge or a problem or just a boring Tuesday, ask yourself: Am I thinking inside the box, outside the box… or am I ready to toss the whole damn box out the window and see what happens?

Beyond Originality – The Real Perks of Going Against the Tide

Alright, alright, alright! Buckle up, kiddos. It’s time to deep dive into the real gravy of thinking differently. And no, I ain’t just talking about the giddy pleasure of watching folks’ eyes pop when you drop that game-changing idea. There’s more meat to this bone, and we’re here to carve it up.

Numero uno: Fewer competitors. Think about it. When you’re zigging while everyone else is zagging, who’s left in your lane? Damn near nobody. You know why? Because most people are scared shitless of the unknown. They prefer to stick to what they know, keep their heads down, and follow the pack. It’s safe, predictable, and, quite frankly, boring as hell. But for those of you who’ve got the guts to break away from the herd, it’s like a VIP lane on the highway of business and design. No traffic, clear skies, and the open road ahead.

Now, let’s talk benefits. No, not those snooze-fest, corporate health plans and 401(k) benefits. I mean the perks that come from serving up something truly unique to your consumers or clients. When you’re not just another face in the crowd, when you’re the dude or dudette doing things that no one else has even thought of, you become a freaking magnet. People want in on whatever you’re serving because it’s fresh, it’s exciting, and it’s not the same old reheated leftovers everyone else is dishing out.

And, oh man, let’s not forget the sweet, sweet joy of proving the naysayers wrong. ‘Cause let’s be real – when you’re out there, breaking molds and taking names, there’s always gonna be a chorus of haters in the background, chirping about how “It’ll never work” or “They’re off their rocker.” But nothing – and I mean NOTHING – beats the feeling of watching their jaws drop as you not only succeed but freaking soar. It’s like the entrepreneurial equivalent of dropping the mic, then casually strolling offstage to roaring applause.

To cap it off, thinking contrarily isn’t just a strategy; it’s a damn superpower. It’s the ability to see not just what is but what could be. It’s the foresight to look beyond the horizon and envision a future that others can’t even fathom. It’s about being the game-changer in a world full of players.

But hang on a sec. Before you dash off, ready to shake things up, remember: Not all that glitters is gold. Contrarian thinking isn’t about being different for the sake of being different. It’s about being different because it’s better. It’s smarter. It’s the future.

Shattering Misconceptions About Contrarian Thinking

There are so many myths floating around contrarian thinking, it’s like trying to navigate a boat through a foggy harbor. Good thing I’m here, huh? Let’s shatter some damn misconceptions and clear the air. You with me? Great.

First up: “Oh, you’re a contrarian? So, you just like to be difficult, right?” Hell no! Being a contrarian doesn’t mean you’re just sitting there, poking holes in every idea for the fun of it. It’s not about being that annoying guy at the party who disagrees with everything just to get a rise out of people. (We all know one, don’t we?) Contrarianism is about seeing potential where others don’t. It’s about questioning the status quo, not for the sake of being a pain in the ass, but to seek deeper truths and innovative solutions.

Next on the chopping block: “Going against the grain? That’s just trying to be different for the sake of it.” Puh-lease. Let’s get something straight. True contrarians aren’t out here donning neon green suits in a sea of blacks and grays just for kicks. They’re not trying to be the loudest voice in the room or the most shocking. They’re challenging norms and pivoting from the mainstream because they genuinely believe there’s a better way. They’ve looked at the conventional, turned it on its head, and thought, “Hmmm, what if?”

Now, let’s tackle one of my favorites: “Contrarians are isolated, out-of-touch folks who can’t handle reality.” This one cracks me up every time. Honey, contrarians are some of the most in-touch people I know. They’re not hiding away in ivory towers, looking down on the plebs. They’re right in the thick of it, with both feet on the ground, seeing things from angles most folks can’t even comprehend. Just because they’re not singing the same tune as everyone else doesn’t mean they’re not listening. They hear you; they just choose a different beat.

It’s high time we ditch these tired, worn-out stereotypes. Contrarian thinkers aren’t just rebels without a cause, ruffling feathers for the hell of it. They’re the visionaries, the pioneers, the folks who dare to dream bigger, reach higher, and challenge what we’ve always known.

Contrarian thinking is not about negating everything in sight. It’s about seeing the world in technicolor when everyone else is content with black and white. It’s about realizing that the box everyone’s thinking inside of? It’s made of cardboard. You can break out any damn time you want.

Harnessing Your Inner Contrarian – Making It Work for You

Ready to dive deep into the badass world of contrarianism? I mean, who wouldn’t be? Here’s the catch, though – this ain’t a buffet where you fill your plate with everything in sight. This is a finely curated 5-star meal, and you gotta savor each bite. Contrarian thinking? It’s an art. And like any art, there’s a method to the madness. Let’s explore.

Remember when your folks used to tell you, “Don’t talk back!”? Well, forget that. I want you to talk back. Not out of disrespect, but out of genuine curiosity. You see, there’s a lot of BS that’s been fed to us over the years, from what success looks like to how businesses should operate. Question it. All of it. Especially your own beliefs. Why do you think a certain way? Is it because it’s truly what you believe, or is it just what you’ve been told? Get into the habit of asking “Why?” like it’s going out of style.

Here’s a hot take: The Dark Side isn’t just about cookies (though that’s a stellar perk). It’s about looking at the world through a lens smeared with a mix of wit, irony, and a dash of playfulness. You can’t take yourself too seriously if you’re gonna play this game. Why? Because the world’s a funny place, and if you’re too uptight, you’re going to miss half the jokes. When you come up with an idea that’s off the beaten path, own it with a smirk. Why fit in when you can stand out and have a blast while doing it?

Let’s get one thing straight – just because something’s popular doesn’t mean it’s crap. And just because you want to be a contrarian doesn’t mean you oppose everything. That’s just…well, dumb. It’s about balance. You’ve gotta be smart about what you challenge and what you accept. Take a leaf out of Bruce Lee’s book – “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.” Just because you can turn everything upside down doesn’t mean you should.

Alright, you beautiful rebels. You’re now armed with the basics of how to think differently, challenge norms, and still keep your head screwed on straight. But before you jump into the fray, a word of caution: Like every superpower, contrarianism has its kryptonite. And it’s called Blind Contrariness. Don’t worry, I’ve got your back. Stick around as we dive into VII. Avoiding the Pitfalls of Blind Contrariness in the next section. Because being unique doesn’t mean being reckless.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Blind Contrariness

Welcome to the shadowy back alleys of contrarian thinking! Now, don’t get all jittery on me, but every silver lining has its cloud, and contrarianism ain’t immune. Blind contrariness? That’s the quicksand you need to watch out for. It’s like throwing on clashing patterns and calling it high fashion. Look, not every rule needs breaking, and not every accepted belief is a load of bull. Let’s delve in before you end up being “that” person – the one who’s contrary just for the fun of it.

Being contrary for the heck of it is like being a rebellious teenager without a cause. It’s fun for a bit, but then you just look kinda…ridiculous. Questioning widely accepted norms? Brilliant. Opposing an idea just to appear cool? That’s like wearing sunglasses indoors. Uncool. The goal isn’t to be different; it’s to be genuine. Being a contrarian doesn’t mean being contrary all the time.

Now, here’s a spicy nugget of truth: Not every groundbreaking idea is a market winner. I mean, remember the Segway? Revolutionary, sure. But did everyone swap out their cars for one? Hell no. See, sometimes the market just isn’t ready, or maybe the idea, though unique, doesn’t really solve a genuine problem. You’ve got to mix your contrarian thinking with a solid dose of reality. Does it serve a purpose? Will it sell? Is there a demand? If you’re only hearing the sound of crickets, maybe it’s time to pivot.

You might think going against the tide means ditching all the handbooks and flying solo. Hold up, cowboy! Just because you’re charting unfamiliar territories doesn’t mean you’re going in blind. Back up your mad-genius ideas with research. And trust that gut of yours – intuition’s a real thing. By merging hard facts with your instinct, you create a roadmap that, while uncharted, isn’t aimless.

Alright, my friends, it’s been a trip and a half, but here’s the crux of it: Don’t be a contrarian douchebag. Be genuine, be real, and challenge norms with purpose. Up next, we’re diving into VIII. Inspiring the Next Wave. It’s not just about you – it’s about setting the stage for those daring souls who’ll come after. Get ready to pass the torch (or, you know, light a few fires with it). Let’s roll!

Inspiring the Next Wave

Alright, trailblazers, here we are, standing on the precipice of change, looking down at the horizon that’s just brimming with potential mavericks. Sure, taking the path less trodden has its adrenaline rushes, but what’s the freaking point if you aren’t leaving signposts for the next gang of audacious thinkers?

Listen up! You’ve got a duty, a darn obligation, to make sure the folks coming up after you have a fighting chance to be as badass, if not more, than you are. And that starts by fostering environments that don’t just tolerate, but celebrate diverse thoughts. None of that, “We’ve always done it this way,” crap. Nah, scrap that manual. Encourage debates, appreciate those weird-ass questions in brainstorming sessions, and for the love of everything snazzy, stop with the eye-rolls when someone suggests an outlandish idea. Who knows? That might just be the next big thing.

You think the folks who first thought of a portable phone weren’t laughed out of rooms? Heck, they probably were. But look where we are now. You’re probably reading this on your phone, aren’t you? Point is, don’t dismiss anything as “too out there.” Instead, ponder, “What if?” Because, darlings, today’s madcap might be paving tomorrow’s golden roads.

To the innovators, the rebels, the misfits, and everyone with a glint of madness in their eyes, here’s my plea: Never dilute your essence to fit into a mold. If there’s no seat for you at the table, pull up a chair or, hell, build your own damn table. The world’s too drab with the same ol’, same ol’. Be that pop of color. Be that breath of fresh air. Be the wave that capsizes the boat, and then throws everyone a lifeline.

So, to all the brave souls daring to dream the ‘impossible,’ remember, the future’s written by those audacious enough to envision it. And as for the rest? They’ll just have to catch up!


Alright, friends, time to land this contrarian plane. As we begin our descent, grab onto those overhead bins of your unconventional ideas and let’s sum up this wild ride.

Look, I started off like most folks – in line, head down, following the same, dusty old script. Remember that snoozefest of a presentation I told y’all about in the beginning? That was me, trying to blend into the wallpaper. But once I decided to embrace my inner rebel, shake things up a bit, and yes, even fluff a few feathers along the way – let me tell you, the universe sat up and took notice.

Hear it again for the folks in the back: Sticking with the status quo? It’s a snooze. It’s vanilla ice cream without the toppings. It’s the same song on repeat, day in, day out. I mean, come on! We’re in this wild, unpredictable journey of business and design, not to merely exist but to freakin’ THRIVE! To light up the darkness with bold, blistering, brilliant ideas. To challenge. To shake things up. And yes, to go from zero to one, again and again.

Look, I’m no marine biologist, but here’s a nugget of wisdom for you: swim with the current, and you’re just a fish in the sea, mate. But swim against it? Hell, now you’re in a league of your own! Besides, who wants to end up downstream with all those other… umm… less lively fishes? Not me! And hopefully, not you either.

So, go out there, be daring, be audacious, be the damn change you want to see. And when the world tells you, “That’s crazy!” just wink, nod, and whisper, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

About the Author: Geoffrey Byers
Geoffrey is one of the world's foremost Designers. He is also a Serial Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, and Mad Scientist. Hypothesis-Driven experimentation is his love language.