Is your social role getting in the way of your success?

There is a common misconception that what you think affects what you do. But I would contend that more often than not, what you do affects what you think. It's based off of this little principle in sociology and psychology called "Role Theory" which states, "most of everyday activity is the acting out of socially defined categories (e.g., mother, manager, teacher). Each social role is a set of rights, duties, expectations, norms and behaviors that a person has to face and fulfill."

And it seems fitting that this would be the case - after all, it's only because people carry out the expectations and responsibilities of their roles in society that our society even functions. We need parents to be parents and raise their children. We need police officers to be police officers and enforce our laws. We need barbers to be barbers and cut our hair because I'd be scared to see people in public if they didn't.

But every once in a while, we'll hear stories of a rare individual that defies their social category and reaches beyond it to grasp at something they believe is right or fair. These people are often the "misfits" and the "rebels" that Apple spoke of in its 1997 ad campaign, "Here's to the Crazy Ones."

The truth is, our social roles can sometimes be an obstacle to what we're chasing.

 

Who you're told that you are, affects what you create.

Misfit: Srini Rao, founder and host of The Unmistakable Creative, grew up in a household that had certain expectations of him - straight A's in school, fancy colleges and a well-respected, high-salary job. But this wasn't the life that he envisioned for himself. So without an inkling of how to go about it, he set off on his journey to create one of the most expansive and insightful podcasts in the creative space, putting out over 500 episodes in its six years.

 

Who you're told that you are, affects what you pursue.

Troublemaker: By all accounts, Bob Goff was not the right fit for law school. Guidance councilors, friends and grades told him so. Yet he knew that this was something he was meant to do whether or not his social status told him otherwise. For a week, he sat outside of the dean's office until he was handed his book list and told to show up to class on Monday. He now is a world-renown lawyer, fighting for human rights in countries around the world through his NGO Restore International.

 

Who you're told that you are, affects who you can interact with.

Rebel: History is littered with people who took a chance and reached outside of their social standing to grab a hold of something they wanted. Don't let the fact that you're a low-level employee keep you from pursuing something great. Don't let the fact that you're a freshman in college keep you from pursuing something great. Don't let the fact that you're new in town keep you from pursuing something great. Because if you don't try, your percentage of success is guaranteed to be 0%.

Reach out to someone you're scared to reach out to. Tackle a project that's too big for you to handle alone. Learn a skill that's "beyond your expertise."

Because if what you do affects what you think... it's time to do better.