Seriously, You Can Do Whatever You Want.

Most days to the office, I wear jeans and a white t-shirt. It’s the same thing I wear on the weekends…and have for pretty much every other day of the last three or four years. I like it. It’s comfortable. I don’t have to stress about brands. It makes me happy and that is why I do it.

But a lot of people dress up. I have a feeling it’s because they think they’re supposed to, not because they like it. What are the chances of everybody picking the same style?

When I was in 2nd grade, they took us to the computer lab for the first time. The same year, they forced us to learn cursive. “Nice handwriting is key to business documents.” How wrong did that turn out to be? It was the first thing I decided not to learn. To this day, I cannot write in cursive. What teacher was going to fail me because I couldn’t add a tail to my vowels? I can fake it–I can sort of drag the pen on the paper and connect the letters, but I can’t write in cursive.

That’s the thing. You can walk in other people’s footsteps and you make all the moves they tell you to make. But see, the people teaching you have a certain bias they don’t like to disclose. If they teach you their rules then you’re a lot less likely to challenge them on your own terms. And they’ve already got a solid head start when it comes to the old system. Think of it this way, if there is a general rule or aphorism that lays out your path then it’s probably a common one. And thus it lacks any scarcity or value. We know for sure at least one person has already done it, and enough followed to propagate a cliché about it. Is that what you want? Does that sound like the field or the life for you?

A crowded field with a lot of competition is one low profit margins–so success hinges on brute strength, on bearing the unpleasantness longer than everybody else. You’ve decided to beat them in cursive instead of in content–and gotten all the joy that comes from staring a page with curly letters. Enjoy.

So you can dress like everybody else, and you can pay your dues. You can go to grad school because that’s what your brother did, or you can become the best damn paper filer in the entire world so then you can be the best trainer of paper filers and then later you can maybe pick which papers they have to file. And then you can pray to everything that is holy that the world will remain exactly as it is so you can get the same payoffs as everyone else.

Or, you can understand strategic options and flexibility. And grasp that a lot of people have done it their way but no one has done it your way. Thucydides realized way back then that the weak subsidize the strong. [ “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.“]. If you bring something to the table, you get to take something back. When you add value, you get to decide the terms of its delivery. So seriously, you can do pretty much whatever you want.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.