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On Being Yourself


While it’s comforting to belong to a group, here’s why you should stop trying to fit in with the crowd and instead focus on being yourself

Terry Kinder precious metals analysisBullion.Directory precious metals analysis 25 March, 2015
By Terry Kinder

Investor, Technical Analyst

It’s not always easy standing apart from the crowd and learning to be yourself. Most of us, on some level, want to be accepted by our peers. We want to belong to a group of like-minded individuals who hold and reinforce our own view of the world. You can learn a lot from others. Where the danger lies is when being part of a group leads to group-think – the herd mentality. Losing the ability to hold two contrary ideas in your head at the same time deprives you of the opportunity to periodically re-examine your views and make sure that either something hasn’t changed or something wasn’t missed.

I have learned my lesson about crowds the hard way – often from being on the wrong side, opposite the crowd. Between Kindergarten and 1st grade my family moved to a different town. My parents had purchased a business, so we moved away from everything I had ever known (or at least remembered). Leaving my friends behind was not an agreeable experience and I was not the kind of person then, at that young age, who adapted well to change. Add to that, the town we moved to, Forks, Washington, was a rough and tumble logging town where offering any sign of weakness was an invitation for ridicule, or worse, and the stage was set to learn a hard lesson about just how cruel children can be.

It’s so distant now that I don’t really know exactly how it began, but mocking and ridicule became a constant companion. Kids can be pretty sneaky. Most all of it happened when no adults were around. There was one occasion where my Mom came to the school (I suppose out of concern for what was going on) and witnessed the children make fun of me for herself one day while the teacher was out of the classroom. This kind of thing continued for quite a while, perhaps a couple of years.

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Life is funny how you can forget so many ugly and sordid details. What I do remember is when it began to end. It started with a bit of self-deprecating humor. I learned to beat the attacker to the punch – taking the wind out of their sails. Eventually, I got quite good at turning around any verbal attack with little feints of verbal jiu jitsu. It was something that served me well through years of involvement in student politics.

So, I suppose I grew up with a different perspective on herds, having been figuratively trampled on by more than a few. The experience didn’t necessarily eliminate a desire to be accepted. However, it did temper that desire with the realization that crowds are often wrong. Popularity and acceptance, at the end of the day, mean nothing if you can’t look at yourself in the mirror every day and know that what you have done during the past 24 hours has been right.

Then there’s the flip side to running with the herd – taunting it. That’s not too smart either. I have had my experience with being aggravating for aggravation’s sake. It’s a bad strategy. There is a certain point where being the maverick, or lone wolf if you will, is counterproductive. I encountered that point too often the last year or so I was involved in student politics at university. I made it my task, rightly or wrongly, to disassemble a number of programs that certain student groups held dear, and did so without much give and take with those students who would suffer most from the changes I had determined to make. I was not popular – not a new position, but I also showed very little grace, compassion or humility when dealing with my peers. Needless to say, the year did not end well. Without going into details, the personal cost was high and I ended up transferring to a different school. Nearly all of it the result of choices I willingly made – wrong choices.

There were many more wrong choices along the way. There was a lot of conflict – both external and internal. I spent years trying to be who I thought others wanted me to be, but never succeeding, and never feeling right about it. There were years of disappointing myself and others. I have always been the designated black sheep of the family. It got to the point where my Dad started using me as the example with my younger brother, “Don’t do what Terry did…” It hurts being criticized, whether fairly or unfairly, by a parent. While I wouldn’t recommend using the line, “Don’t be like your brother, mother, father, sister…” as a parenting technique there was an element of truth to what Dad said. He was right (perhaps for the wrong reasons) to say not to be like me because I wasn’t being my true self.

It took the tragedy of Dad’s passing at age 56 to start to examine myself more closely. I had spent the bulk of my life up to age 33 attempting to gain the acceptance of others. Most of all, I wanted to be like my Dad. He was, despite what has been portrayed thus far, one of the most kind, generous, loyal, and genuinely good human beings I have ever had the privilege of knowing. He would have given you the last dollar in his pocket, the last can of food from his pantry or the shirt off his back if it helped you. There were few times I left Mom and Dad’s house where I didn’t leave with something he gave me, whether food off the shelves, a kitchen utensil, pot, pan or whatever he thought I needed.

While in the Army Reserve I got called up to go to Bosnia and ended up being out of the country for over 9 months. The whole time Dad helped my wife Silvia, whether mowing the lawn, inviting her over to have dinner – basically anything she needed Dad made sure it was done. He was absolutely dependable – there was no one better to handle a crisis than Dad. It seemed he always knew what to do. That’s why his loss was absolutely devastating. Dad was, in essence, the sun in our family solar system. When he passed, September 12, 2000 my days all transformed into night and the world stood still.

I remember distinctly thinking after Dad’s passing that I would have traded places with him if even to give him one more day to shine his light on this earth, but it was not my destiny. Instead, my destiny was to pass from both that long, dark night, and the huge shadow cast by Dad into the light of a glorious new day. It didn’t happen all at once, but slowly I began to focus not on the vast emptiness left from Dad’s passing, but to fill that space with a thousand memories of him – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Which brings us to this quote from Charles Swindoll:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of
attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important
than facts. It is more important than the past, than
education, than money, than circumstances, than
failures, than success, than what other people think
or say or do.

It is more important than appearance, gift, or skill.
It will make or break a company…a church…a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day
regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.
We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact
that people will act in a certain way. We cannot
change the inevitable.

The only thing we can do is play on the string we
have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that
life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent
how I react to it. And so it is with you … we are in
charge of our attitudes.

So, at a certain point in life, having come to terms with my loss, I decided that something good would come out of even the bad things. I decided that there was a reason that I was here on this earth. Whether you call it destiny or something else, I determined to discover my purpose – not a purpose determined by anyone else and not one copied from another, but mine.

It would be more than 7 years before unlocking one of the keys to what made me feel apart – that lingering yet indescribable feeling of knowing there was something odd about me and never quite knowing what it was. It wasn’t until overhearing Glen Beck joke about being addled by ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) that it finally struck me that perhaps there was some explanation for a lifetime full of fits, starts and never fulfilled ambitions. After doing a bit of research, reading some books, taking some questionnaires, I became convinced that indeed I did have ADHD. Eventually I would go to a Counselor (who also happened to have ADHD) and get an official diagnosis.

While it’s beyond the scope of this article to go into all things ADHD, there are a few qualities about my particular ADHD that I find quite interesting / useful:

  • Tend to be able to step into a new situation, job, etc. and quickly understand all of the moving parts of the enterprise, what issues need to be resolved, and have ideas how to fix the situation. An interesting skill, but 99.9% of businesses absolutely hate someone new walking in the door and proposing changes;
  • Quite often (much better than chance) have pretty good judgment about people. It usually only takes me a few seconds to decide if someone is honest, trustworthy, etc. My wife is always amazed how little time it takes me to size a person up. It’s not that I don’t misjudge, it’s just not that often;
  • Good at pattern recognition, problem solving, etc. Tend to see things whole and skip many of the in-between steps many people take to reach the same conclusion.
  • Anyhow, that’s a few of the interesting things about me and my ADHD. Getting the diagnosis helped explain a lot of my personal feelings of, for lack of a better term, non-specific weirdness. It explained a lot of odd behavior – from things like having enough money to pay bills, but just not sending them in to my former love of endlessly debating for debate’s sake.

    All of which leads us to where we are, together, today. It was back in August of 2014 that Mac liked a piece of technical analysis I had posted over on G+ and asked me if I would consider writing here at Bullion Directory. I was, and still am, thrilled to be writing here. It’s by far the longest consistent streak of writing I have ever put together in my life – which tells me that I have, at last, found the thing which I love to do. And it only took a mere forty plus years to happen upon it. For better or worse, I have little sense of time – one moment often seems to run into the next, so time has a tendency to get away from me if I’m not mindful of it. But that’s who I am. It took a long time and some dark days to move from the shadows – the shadow of grief, the shadow of my Dad who was, and still is, larger than life, and the shadows of a poor understanding of self, an understanding clouded by ADHD, which often distorts not only self-perception, but how the world appears generally to the person who has it.

    We all have burdens to bear and mine haven’t been all that exceptional compared to those of others. We all struggle with grief, pain, frustration, failure, etc. We all wonder where we fit within the greater scheme of things. We all want to belong. For me, a big part of finding happiness and becoming more fulfilled personally and professionally, has been learning to be and accept myself. I hope that you too can find the joy that only comes when you accept and are no longer afraid to be yourself.

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