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Zen Master Dogen – “Do not follow the ideas of others, but learn to listen to the voice within yourself”

We all to some extent aim to fit into the mould that society and convention lays down as the prescribed path. The reasons that we conform is invariably a function of the altruism and obligation felt to our immediate loved ones and the wider rules laid down by an unstated code presented by society. It’s rather like the British Constitution, we know it’s there and experts are wheeled out to champion it’s finer detail, but it’s not written down in one place. It’s a collection of conventions accepted and followed by society as a whole. It does aim to bond society together in some semblance of order which is a good thing.

From personal experience it seems that we are not truly liberated until we have succeeded in tackling the many challenges placed in our path to test our fitness to be taken seriously within the social hierarchy. The unstated convention on this social path leads from school exams, the lose of virginity, marriage, mortgage, career, children, divorce, remarriage, more career and finally on to retirement. The previous list is a generalisation and may be ordered differently or include/exclude other requirements.

As life progresses rather than taking on the opinions of others a considered person challenges convention and as a result liberation from convention comes in my experience around the age of forty. Having taken the initiation test and succeeded almost up to the ‘Black Belt’ in social terms a degree of personal autonomy flourishes. This fledgling autonomy of thought allows a person to participate in social convention on their own terms and to be more discerning about what to accept or reject.

Whilst those now in their fifties and beyond were aided along the conventional path the younger generation of today are finding it increasingly harder to conform largely due to a lack of opportunity and jobs. So it’s not unheard of that a young person will tread an alternative path becoming part of the counter culture, thereby opting out of social convention. Having secured a level of education, up to say degree level, a young person may well opt to live outside convention and not secure a mortgage, get married or indeed have children at least not until a much more mature age. That younger person may well elect to travel the world without being encumbered by the constraints of any one society. The younger generation have far more pressure on them to succeed and a substantial less amount of opportunity to conclude the race of life. Social convention is dynamic and the boundaries are changing.

Then there is the ‘hierarchy’ word that denotes that the undisclosed ‘them’ will provide the required opportunity in order to meet the needs of social convention. We are lead to believe that our managers and leaders know better and indeed have the answers. That they are able to order the products of life so that successful outcomes are secured. In my experience each tier of management or leadership has a knowledge horizon. Some people have a knowledge horizon set way in the distance and hardly glimpsed by the intellect of others. But the boundary is there no mater how indiscernible it may appear. So don’t invest in the knowledge of those whom you see as higher up the social pecking order but rather aim to find your own knowledge and accommodation of life.

Having stated the above about convention it has done me proud. However you don’t only have to dream about being different. You can actual be different and those that are different normally thrive independently and become the natural leaders of tomorrow. So do it your way and follow the path that best suits you as an individual.