I came across this picture of Carmelo Anthony two nights ago. Initial thoughts. Is that a head wrap? Is it silk? Why is he wearing Elton John’s glasses? Is this nigga wearing a blouse? Why is the last button on this shirt the only one fastened? Why does it look like he has a jheri curl? I need some answers. As is the case anytime I come across some tomfoolery, I took a screen shot, and immediately dropped it in the group chat for a roast session. “Do y’all see this nigga??” I asked emphatically. Replies from the rest of the Talented 6 trickled in, some in support, some expressing a similar level of concern. The jokes flew, cause no matter what…we gonna get these jokes off. But something strange happened. On my way home from work yesterday, the picture flashed through my mind again and I had a flood of different thoughts.
When you look at that picture, you see the shirt, the pants, and the head scarf? But you see something else, Carmelo literally could not care less what anybody thinks about him. How do I know? Because you don’t walk in public like that unless you feel that way. And I, I too feel like Melo.
Groupthink. This concept is more popular now than ever. Basically, groupthink says I follow the group because I give in to the pressure they exert and do not feel like taking the alternative path, stance or view. You know what groupthink looks like. I call the mid 2000’s to the stand to testify. TALL WHITE TEE’S *Dem Franchize Boys plays in the background*. The mid 2000’s were a dark age for hip hop fashion. I can’t tell you how many 3x white tees and pairs of size 36 (I weighed all of 150 pounds at the time) wide leg FUBU, Rocawear and Sean Jean jeans I owned. If one of your friends had on an XL tee…that was grounds for breach of friendship, “Dog, why is your shirt so young?” A question an XL tee wearer would hear mercilessly.
Sidebar - Tall tee’s and oversized jeans are just a couple of the many inductees into the “I can’t believe that was hot” hall of fame. Other members include the headband and sweatbands worn while not even being within 15 miles of a court. Band-Aid’s worn on the face because that’s what Nelly did, buying Jay-Z’s orthopedic looking S. Carter shoes because Jay-Z made them and a host of other terrible items (Girbaud's anyone?).
Groupthink ended successful careers overnight. Remember Ja Rule? Multi platinum recording artist. He vanished seemingly overnight when 50 Cent came around and snatched his credibility. At that point, it was over, his promising career felt like it turned sour overnight because music consumers (the group) decided his music wasn't hot anymore.
In society, we see the truly ugly side of groupthink - slut shaming, vicious stereotypes, double standards and blatant racism. It is the angry mob on Twitter, attacking someone when they don’t even know half the story, those eggs that always seem to show up when there is a fire because God knows the world would end if they didn’t give their opinions, but they couldn’t give you any basis for their outrage because, hey they come running like the Ultimate Warrior whenever they sense an opportunity to get their hot take off. We see it in the work place with lower wages for women and minorities. We see it on the street in reactions of people we may pass on the side walk, the effects of groupthink are present all around us.
We’ve discussed groupthink high level, but now I want to examine how it manifests itself in everyday life by telling my personal story.
I wasn’t a great high school student, I wasn’t much better in college either, if I’m honest, I didn’t exactly set the world on fire my first couple months on my first job. I was introverted, underdeveloped and unsure of my direction in life. But then something changed. I realized buying into groupthink had me empty, exposed and unfulfilled. I didn’t try that hard in school because I didn’t think it was cool to try hard in school. That’s the other thing about groupthink. It makes you stupid. Like why would you not TRY in the thing you do for 70% of your day 5 days a week?
My lack of effort knew no ends, it carried over into my work and my personal life. If I wasn’t working I was chilling, if I wasn’t chilling I was playing video games, there was no sustenance. So much like many people do after college I evolved. I started to invest in me because if I don’t, who will? I began to read more, study the practices of successful people I looked up to, strengthen relationships with those close to me and around me. I figured out I could never be the best accountant, but I could develop my personal skills. I could use empathy, charm, charisma and other aspects of my personality to advance within my field. So I started to do those things and I got a little happier. As reading became a hobby I learned more, my mind opened and my paradigm shifted. The world was illuminated. I could recognize my talents and figure out my lane. See it’s hard figure out your lane when you're hitching a ride in the trunk of another persons car.
Time went on, I learned how to hold conversations with people outside my demographic, the clothes got less baggy, the vocabulary expanded and then….oh my God, look at those teeth….yes, I learned how to smile. Life was good.
This post is not some self-serving look at me, I don’t want a round of applause or to be looked at as some started from the bottom now I’m here figure. Most of my shortcomings in school and professionally were self-inflicted and that is the danger of groupthink. You follow the crowd, your individuality atrophies and you don’t even realize it. One day you’ll wash up on the shores of reality and realize the skills you need to navigate life, you don't possess because you’ve been riding the whole time. This post was meant to motivate you to grab the wheel and hit the accelerator…feel the rush as you open up the throttle on your life.
You can’t live the best version of YOUR life doing the same things everyone else is. My path is not your path, only you can navigate your terrain. But as for me? I know when everything changed. It was the day I put my head back, relaxed the buttons on my shirt, put my sunglasses on and stopped caring what everybody else thought, just like Melo.