I did a little exercise recently to pick a few words to describe who I am and how I operate. I jotted down words that I would call “standard” for most professionals, but then I wrote the word atypical.

Against the grain

I’ve always been of the mindset to go against the norm, and it just comes naturally. It’s common for me to question why things are the way they are and opt to go down the path less followed.

Before college, I took a year off to pursue music. The band I was in made a great attempt to gain traction, but things didn’t pan out in the end.

I will never regret that time because it was the most exciting experience. If I didn’t try, I would regret quitting to follow the standard conventions we are told to follow. Regrettably, I still did follow conventions, even after my failed attempts with music.

Too many people give up on their dreams to fit into typical patterns in life. Our parents and their parents are conditioned into thinking college, and the insurmountable debt from it is the better path. It likely was during their time, but these days it puts young professionals far behind when just trying to kick-start their careers.

I went to college, and I regret it. I was convinced it was the best thing to do at the time. The output never translated to the financial burden and time I had to input.

I was disciplined enough to work and pay off my student loans. Most can’t say this, and it’s a shame. Being “typical” causes these problems.

I don’t follow blindly

I see so many people follow the conventions of their formers. They’d instead rather be told what to do rather than put in the work to educate themselves and make decisions on their own accord.

This is because being told what to do is simply more effortless in the near term. This short-term thinking causes many to make incorrect decisions that hurt them in the long run.

We’ll see this soon with the “Boomer” generation living longer and their retirement plans unable to maintain their living expenses. More people will be forced to work into their old age or put more strain on their families, which hinders the economy.

An example of this is the government-sponsored 401k plan. If you go deep into the so-called investment, you find that it’s entirely not safe as society seems to tell us. While for the financially illiterate, it might make sense as an investment, I find it odd that so much risk is required to survive.

There has been a 20%+ drop in some market sectors, so those looking to start living off these funds just got a slap in the face. The market will likely rebound, but with the roller coaster effect, you have to begin to wonder if your money could be doing much better good elsewhere or in “atypical” investments.

In short, the more volatility I see, the more I will be an atypical investor and learner. Observing what’s typical today makes me consider what will be best for my kids when they are of working age. The typical path of going to school, getting good grades, going to college, and getting a good job is losing its luster and I think the public is finally coming around to realize it.