I don't know what gets more of a reaction – telling people we are car free or telling people we aren't on Facebook (well, actually, weren't on Facebook). In truth, those are just a couple of the things, minor things actually, that prompt the crinkled brow in people. We happen to get that befuddled look – the same one people often get when looking at unusual art – a lot. We see it as a good sign because it usually means we're on the right track.
"Disruptive" is currently a big ol' buzzword in our world of work, Human Resources. Savvy employers are now vigorously searching for "disruptive energy" to keep the workplace "bleeding edge." Yes, "bleeding edge" is the new "cutting edge" and, today, being called "disruptive" in the workplace is like being called a "change agent" ten years ago.
I know, I know... It's very "peapod green is the new black." And, to be honest, a lot of this crap is why we bolted from the 8-5 corporate world. But, there's a fantastic core philosophy in all this that can make work and – more importantly – life more fulfilling.
In the kinds of places you want to work (trust us here), disruptive people aren't viewed as trouble makers. Sure, some people still perceive them as such, but – for the most part – they are embraced as mavericks for examining popular wisdom. These people are often recognized for not only perfecting processes and making organizations more successful, but also for transforming industries and reshaping organizations' cultures.
There's a lot we can learn from the way "disruptive" has been redefined in the workplace – how the concept has shifted from something unfavorable to something prized. Being disruptive, in this positive sense, can obviously be about much more than success in the workforce.
One of our main goals in life is to be disruptive. We love to look at things that are explicitly or implicitly explained away as “just the way it’s supposed to be” and ask, “why?” We strive to examine popular modes of living and make sure they genuinely align with who we are. When they don’t, we aim to be strong-willed enough to say so, even when it contradicts the collective and induces the wrinkled brow.
Regardless of the arena, we view being disruptive as the ultimate form of being authentic, curious and bold. To us, it's about seemingly small actions that make people stop in their tracks and question what they believe – especially those beliefs that have been long held as facts.
Sometimes, it's simply about doing the right thing. That might mean helping someone who needs a hand when everyone else walks by, or being positive and constructive when everyone else is being negative and unproductive.
We are about to get a lot more practice at this, as we're preparing to take off for our annual camping advocation. Just like last year, we'll be doing lots of camping and hiking and spreading the word about our disdain for poverty. What's cool is that we don't have to be confrontational or annoying at all. Last year, for instance, we got people's attention by wearing t-shirts with a strong anti-poverty message. Don't worry, we rewarded people who stopped us with granola bars.
We're still navigating how to be disruptive, but we do have some quick pointers to pass along from our journey.
Think critically. We subscribe to the notion that if something is popular, it just might be wrong. Mindless group-think is a powerful force that goads people into simply "going along" with things. Question the norm. Make your own decisions.
Define yourself. Don't be limited by others' need to put you in a box. We're all dynamic, multi-faceted individuals. Create the frame through which others see you (and not the other way around).
Be honest. We try not to simply go with the flow. This isn't about being tedious or unkind; it's about being truthful. People will get over it. If not, whose problem is it, really?
We continue to figure it all out, but we firmly believe that these small acts of individuality can drive larger-scale social change and, hopefully, inspire others to look at their own lives.
Being car-free, as an example, is no big deal. But you'd be surprised at the number of people who still look at us like it's the strangest thing they've ever heard. You'd be even more surprised by the number of these same people who – weeks or months later – loop back around and say "I think you guys are on to something..."
And that's good, because being car free is nothing, and it's just the beginning of what we have to say.
Join us. Be disruptive (but not in a jerk sort of way).