As a kid, my dad used to always tell me that I was a shit disturber (and I was).
I was always getting into trouble.
Sometimes I wanted attention, other times I wanted to see what I could get away with, but more often than not, I was just insatiably curious. And because of this, I was constantly pushing boundaries, edges, and rules.
I had a deep thirst for knowledge, understanding, and wanted to know how & why everything was the way it was. And maybe you’re the same way. Or you know someone who fits this description and you’re constantly wondering what make them tick.
Maybe you are like me – you want to know it all.
I wanted to know…
Why people get divorced?
Why some people cry at the sound of a violin concerto while others can’t stand the sound of it.
What the hell is the difference between dark matter and dark energy?
But most of all, I wanted to know why some people are successful while others struggle relentlessly to achieve their dreams.
I became obsessed with how people work.
People fascinate me.
And without sounding like a cocky jerk, I fascinated myself.
As my consciousness came online as a child, I started to realize that there were pieces of my behaviour which were largely automatic and somewhat unknown. Sometimes I would say and do things only to look back at them and think: “why the hell did I just do that?”
I began to witness aspects of my subconscious and unconscious at play. They were, in a way, guiding me towards understanding. They were seeking to know, to learn, to be accepted, to win.
And the more I disturbed my inner and outer world, the more I became curious about the other people shaking things up.
Being a shit disturber as a child was like throwing a rock into the pond to study how it impacted the water, what kind of waves it created, and how it impacted the fish.
So after years of being acting like a shit disturber, I started to study them. I started to see that there were two types of shit disturbers: the change makers, and the trouble makers.
Now, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you’re not here to learn about how to become a better bank robber, Ponzi scheme organizer, or con artist, so I’m going to focus solely on the change maker.
Here’s what I learned.
1. They are successful because they challenge the status quo
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them… Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ― Rob Siltanen
The status quo is another word for accepted mediocrity.
It’s another way of saying “here are the things we all accept, usually without question.”
When we sit in the status quo for too long, we get bored, and start to stagnate. Stagnation is a form of death and when we stay stagnant for too long, we cannot help but feel the weight of the status quo crushing down upon us.
This isn’t about good and bad, right and wrong; it’s about what we blindly accept and don’t bother to question or understand.
Take water as an example.
Water is one of the most fundamental components for the existence and creation of life.
Water is the thing which breeds life of all kinds.
It feeds the plants and animals that walk the earth,
it gives us life and makes up most of our biological composition,
and it is the womb for an abundance of creatures who cannot live outside of it.
It is the birthplace of life…
But it is also the birthplace of death.
When water becomes stagnant and stops moving, it is responsible for the creation of some of the worlds most deadly diseases (like malaria).
It can become toxic, and so hazardous that practically nothing can survive within it.
But when movement is re-introduced to it, it comes back to life and can create again.
This is why people who challenge the status quo are so valued in our culture.
It’s why in an age of heightened sensitivity and politically correct communication, people who aren’t afraid to break those rules are highly coveted, respected, and equally attacked.
Political correctness, in its extreme iterations, is an incubator of stagnation.
It can stunt and overly protect those from experiencing many aspects of life which are valuable to the growth and development of more life.
This is why being a shit disturber can be so powerful, because you embody someone who isn’t afraid to say what is true, but highly unpopular.
You aren’t afraid to ask the uncomfortable questions,
Say the uncomfortable truth,
build the product and services that people might dislike
because it creates progress, or threatens “the way it’s always been done.”
This is why people like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk have been so wildly popular and successful, they disturb and challenge the norm.
So find a status quo, within yourself, or outside yourself, and challenge it.
2. They bring what’s unconscious into the conscious
Shit disturbers are essential because they say what no one else wants to say.
They talk about the ideas, movements, concepts, and obstacles that most people would rather avoid.
Shit disturbers master the art of turning towards the unknown.
This is valuable because the amount that we don’t know as human beings FAR exceeds what we do know.
Much like the psyche, or the solar system, the amount of information we know or can observe is dwarfed by the things we can’t comprehend.
It’s estimated that 97% of the brains activity happens in the subconscious, or unconscious processing. That means that the majority of our daily activity is largely out of sight.
So when someone comes along and turns a flightlighn on in the direction of the unconscious or unknown, it can be incredibly valuable on so many levels.
Einsteins General Theory Of Relativity is much like this. It took an astrophysicist with an insatiable imagination to solve one of the most mysterious aspects of the universe.
And it was all possible because he was willing to gaze curiously into the unknown.
3. They see what’s needed before others
In 2008, two friends, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, were attending the LeWeb tech conference in Paris which the Economist described as “where revolutionaries gather to plot the future”
One winter night during the conference the pair was unable to get a cab. They were stuck out in the cold, frustrated, freezing, and a little helpless.
It was in this place that an idea was born which would revolutionize the world.
Initially, the idea was for a timeshare limo service that could be ordered via an app. After the conference, the entrepreneurs went their separate ways, but when Camp returned to San Francisco, he continued to be fixated on the idea and bought the domain name UberCab.com. And Uber as we know it was born.
This one moment spawned an idea that would provide hundreds of thousands of jobs globally and distrust an industry, all because these two men knew that people needed something different, something more efficient, than the masses even knew themselves.
This is what shit disturbers do.
They see things not as they are, but as they could be.
They are able to see a future where things have shifted. A future where things are different (and hopefully better).
They can take the mundane, the social norm, and stir it up to create convenience, capital, and connection.
4. They are willing to be wrong, and are comfortable outcasts.
Failure is how you learn to play and win any game.
Literally any game in the world, if it’s worth playing, requires that you first must be unskilled and unsuccessful. It requires you to learn from failure.
You must be curious about failure, open to it, and humbled by its arrival.
And this is what shit disturbers do.
They meet failure head on and learn from it.
But it’s not only about risking failure, it’s also about risking looking like a fool.
Shit disturbers can at first look like complete fools.
I remember when I started my company, ManTalks, and went to a close friend for business advice. I looked up to him because he had built an insanely successful, profitable, and impactful business.
I told him about my plan for ManTalks, the concept, and the name…
His exact words were “Dude, I love you, but if you call it ManTalks, it’ll never be successful.”
Two years later we were standing on his rooftop patio overlooking Vancouver, laughing about how he thought I was insane, only to watch the idea come to fruition in ways he never thought possible.
But he was partially right, because for the first few years, I faced an immense amount of ridicule, doubt, and outrage because of the controversial conversation I had sparked.
5. They are ok being the first guinea pig
Shit disturbers, when successful, are the ones who put their own reputation on the line.
They test, experiment, and evaluate their results based on what they’ve observed to be true (within themselves and outside themselves).
Take Elon Musk for example. The guy was so committed to disrupting the car industry that he took all the money he had made from PayPal and invested it into Tesla… then worked 100 hours a week to build the company and hasn’t stopped.
For a long time I thought it was a bad thing to be a shit disturber, but the more I read, learned, and reflected, the more I realized that greatness is on the other side of stirring some shit up.
This is how change happens, and it’s why people who create change are often leading the charge of humanity.
You have to be wiling to let curiosity lead you where your gut, heart, and mind want to go.
So in the words of Captain Kirk, be willing to “Boldly go where no man has gone before.”