Challenge the status quo

At breakfast with my 13-year-old daughter Chloe and her friend, a baffling question was posed. Chloe’s friend asked, “Can I get the vegetarian omelet…but with ham?”

“Absolutely! Why not?” I grinned. And then it hit me. She’s at an age when her imagination still hasn’t been beaten out of her; where she can still balk traditional thinking and embrace a seeming contradiction.

But unfortunately, she still sheepishly asked me instead of ordering boldly like she would have just a few years ago. The scary realization: We grown-ups are attempting to mold her forcefully into a rule-following automaton. The intense pressure to stay in line, do what you’re told, and accept things as they are feels overpowering.

As an adult, would you consider adding ham to your veggie omelet? Would you consider questioning a policy at work? Pushing back on your boss’ decision? Standing up for your beliefs? Letting your imagination soar, uninhibited?

Most of us are so busy thinking of the world as it is rather than imagining what it could be. We restrict our curiosity instead of unleash it. We learn to salute authority and not question it.

Yet imagining new possibilities is the root of all human progress. Scientists who fail to accept disease invent life-saving drug therapies. Filmmakers who push the boundaries of their art are the ones who win Oscars.

It’s time to encourage your friends, colleagues, and kids to realize they have the ability to shape the future. Even more, this is something you must remind yourself on a daily basis to fend off the strong-arm of others compelling you to conform.

So order your Big Mac without a middle bun, deep-fry your tofu, or ask for your orange juice in a martini glass. Unshackle the imaginary restrictions that are holding you back, and run your own race. Those that push the boundaries are the ones that make history.

When I asked Chloe’s friend how her breakfast was, she simply smiled and said, “Delicious.” I can’t imagine a more “delicious” moment than a kid realizing that she gets to craft her own future. Wish we had all learned this lesson that young.

Josh Linkner is a Detroit-based entrepreneur, author, consultant and investor who was the keynote speaker at the BizExpo in Milwaukee 2010. His blog is republished by BizTimes with permission by the author.

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