Metro, Business, Column

For Success, Boston Should Embrace Its Weirdness

There’s no denying it—we are all a little weird.

Maybe you frequently talk to yourself, have a strange obsession with birds, or feel the need to check behind the shower curtain every time you go to the bathroom.

But did you know that being weird could be the edge in creating a life-changing business? Best-selling author and New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell shared this message last week during his keynote speech at the annual HubSpot Inbound conference in South Boston.

Thousands of marketing and technology professionals gathered at the Inbound conference to learn the latest ways to interact with customers.

During his speech, Gladwell explained that the most successful entrepreneurs responsible for vast technological changes share much more than merely using similar skills and resources—they share the same “habits of mind,” according to BetaBoston.

Put another way, these people are very weird.

From reading many of his books—including The Tipping Point, Blink, and the more recently published David and Goliath—it is clear that Gladwell loves to illustrate his points with historical anecdotes.  Per usual, he summoned a number of biographical examples to illustrate his point that Bostonians should embrace unconventional ideas.

One running example during his speech was about Malcolm McLean, a key figure in the freight industry who began by asking his boss at the gas station if he could make a fuel delivery trip. He was astounded one day at the cost and amount of time it took to unload shipments from one location to another, and he went on in 1956 to create the first detachable shipping container, reducing the shipping cost from $5 per ton to 15 cents.

“It’s not enough to simply have great ideas,” Gladwell said in his keynote speech. “You also need to be the kind of person who can tune out the naysayers.”

When McLean first approached the container problem, everyone thought he was crazy. In his position, he required the approval of his peers in order to do something that was completely new, and instead he erased the existing boundaries.

Whether you are a student or an entrepreneur,  in order to transform something, you need to have ideas that are so great that people think you are crazy.

Boston is home to one of the biggest startup capitals of the world, and it is no coincidence that our city is full of individuals whom many would call crazy or weird.

But what is so special about Boston?

Disregarding its great location, transportation system, or food options, the city is the education hub of America. The city is able to attract famous speakers like Gladwell because of the plethora of young students who go on to become entrepreneurs and completely change industries.

If you are doing something revolutionary instead of embracing your ideas, the world may call you a weirdo. Being a weirdo is what distinguishes successful students, entrepreneurs, or businesses from everyone else.

Without this type of thinking, many recent Boston-based companies like Facebook, Zipcar, or TripAdvisor may never have been introduced to the world.

So we, as students, should take advantage of what Gladwell described to thousands of young professionals last week in South Boston:

Let’s get weird.

Featured Image by Huifeng Qian / For the Heights

September 24, 2014