Just like you, I didn't really fit anywhere when I was a kid.
I still don’t, so I've built my own place.
Modern psychology has evolved to understand a bit better how different we all are. We now test for things like the autism spectrum or ADHD. We’re getting to the true nature of depression and its connection to intelligence. We’re far still, but getting better.
A month after starting school, I was declared a “genius” by my teacher. So, at 6 years old, they moved me from first to second grade. I was so sure I was in trouble when they called my mom. Relieved, I went the next day to my new class.
All my friends were gone and my new peers were older and knew each other for a whole year already. They didn't like me at all. From that moment to the day I graduated high school I was always shorter, younger and weirder than everybody.
When you tell a kid that he's a genius, that kid will believe you and use that “fact” to form a sense of self. And he will understand "I am not like everybody else".
I didn't do homework and I was always in trouble with my teachers. I almost failed 10th grade because I was going to a night school after class to study programming with adults. After leaving high school I took some months to do my first startup (in Visual Basic, didn't work). I started college in the middle of the year, out of sync with the world once again.
This is going to leave scars in your soul
I hated being different as a kid. I love it now. It made me see the world from very different angles. I hate thinking of living a life on rails. A life pre-planned. I love chaos. I love the pain that makes you grow.
Love is super hard when you're this way. Friendships are hard. Relationships of all kinds are a struggle. Turns out, people don't really like it when they see someone behaving out of the norm. Sometimes they won't talk to you. Sometimes they will harass you. Mostly, they will actively ignore you. You will be an outcast, a misfit, a problem.
I've always loved being a problem. But, as an adult, I definitely don't love the loneliness of it.
Yes, I write this today as “Freddy, Platzi’s CEO”. Since Platzi has millions of happy students every day, it’s tempting to believe that in hindsight success was inevitable. But I’m very aware of the dark cliffs my life could have taken. And still can.
Being a misfit, curiously, is pretty common
Turns out 30% to 40% of us are truly neurodiverse and different. But we're all different in VERY different ways, so we don't naturally meet.
That’s why, when people like us click, that's a beautiful miracle. A spark of ideas, creativity, friendship and love. That's what creates startups, books, art, change.
For some of us, sadly, the default reaction to new people is to fall back into deep, deep introversion. To protect ourselves. As it happened to me for a very very long time.
Are you there, too? I bet you are. Here's what worked for me:
- Take risks. Life is safer than you think.
- People don't care about you, they only care about them.
- First impressions don't matter. A good ending erases a bad beginning.
- If someone takes a chance on you, listen.
- When you find someone like you, CHERISH that person.
- Work with people that give a shit. Cynicism is the shield of the average.
- This is easier at startups. Work at startups.
- If you definitely don't find your place, build it.
This place can be a company, a community, a group, a forum, whatever. The internet was made by people like us. The world is controlled by people like us. We are not that special. We are capable of horrible things and wonderful things. We are good and we are bad. We are heroes and criminals.
The only thing that separates us is how extreme we are when we go out in the world. I know it's scary and lonely and sad and terrifying. Just know, it can be worth it.
There is a place for you and by connecting to other people, you can find it.
The world is a wonderful, big, non-boring place. You will find your people.
And if you don’t, you can build that place. I did.
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