I’m in the process of writing a book and it’s a project that’s quite different from my day-to-day duties helping event management companies. Although running my own business requires that I perform tasks that far exceed what’s expected from most 9-to-5 jobs, getting the writing process started has proven to be a difficult – and different – challenge. As Seth Godin has taught me, writing a book is the creation of art. And those who make the attempt have something called writer’s block to overcome.
When you begin something that’s outside your comfort zone, fear starts to kick in. To overcome this fear, I did some investigation as to why this happens. In reading Seth Godin’s book, The Icarus Deception, I discovered something that seems to be a fundamental barrier to the ability to extend beyond one’s comfort zone, and it’s a discovery that I thought worth sharing with you.
Apparently, there are a set of ten rules that together comprise what is known as the Law of Jante. These rules, strongly associated with Scandinavian countries, express a set of social norms and behaviors that champion the accomplishments of the group, while dismissing anything that emphasizes the achievement of the individual. It’s an advocacy of convention and conformity, rather than ambition and individualism – or art. I believe that following such rules helps reinforce the hesitancy that paralyzes someone who attempts to “step outside their lane” or otherwise attempt to create something unique.
The ten rules are:
- Don’t think you are anything special.
- Don’t think you are as good as we are.
- Don’t think you are smarter than we are.
- Don’t convince yourself that you are better than we are.
- Don’t think you know more than we do.
- Don’t think you are more important than we are.
- Don’t think you are good at anything.
- Don’t laugh at us.
- Don’t think anyone cares about you.
- Don’t think you can teach us anything.
I believe that elements of this law – and its underlying philosophy – were present during times when I prevented myself from taking a chance. But when I chose to ignore – or overcome – their guidance, I was able to create and do things that were beyond my greatest dreams.
Perhaps, rather than follow the Law of Jante, we should listen to the guidance to be found in Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, by Dr. Seuss. After all, “You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”
What’s holding you back from getting to the next level?