How To Be A Successful Rebel

Robin Hanson has some really insightful advice:

I’ve known some very successful people with quite weird ideas. But these folks mostly keep regular schedules of sleep and bathing. Their dress and hairstyles are modest, they show up on time for meetings, and they finish assignments by deadline. They are willing to pay dues and work on what others think are important for a while, and they have many odd ideas they’d pursue if given a chance, instead of just one overwhelming obsession. They are willing to keep changing fields, careers, and jobs until they find one that works for them.

Their conversational styles are also modest and polite. While they are quite willing to talk about their weird ideas, they do not push such topics on uninterested others. They do not insult people around them, nor directly challenge local powers that be. They don’t lash out randomly and scare people.


Think of it this way. When some folks go out of their way to show off their defiance and rebellion, others go out of their way to publicly squash such rebellion, to assert their dominance. But if you are not overtly rebellious, you can get away with a lot of abstract idea rebellion — few folks will even notice such deviations, and fewer still will care. So, ask yourself, do you want to look like a rebel, or do you want to be a rebel?

via The Dish

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Ƶ§œš¹

    I wonder if this works on the internet. If I change my profile picture to a suit-and-tie getup and act polite, people won’t know what’s coming.

  • KG

    How ridiculous: if no-one notices you’re a rebel, then unless you’re involved in a deep-laid plan to overthrow the existing order which requires keeping quiet until the moment to strike – then you’re not one.

    • Dunc

      Depends on the nature of your rebellion… If your object is simply to live as you will, rather than as somebody else wants you to, then escaping notice whilst you do so is definitely a success. For example, suppose you disagree with the War on Drugs and like to smoke marijuana… Not getting noticed is a lot more of a success than getting busted. In this respect, it’s even more successful than the OP suggests – not only can you get away with “a lot of abstract idea rebellion”, you can get away with actual illegal activity.

  • Editor B

    It’s a nice idea, but I wonder. If THE MAN demands your compliance with something as trivial and superficial as your haircut, will he really allow you more profound freedoms? If we can’t take small liberties, I doubt we’ll take big ones.

    • Daniel Fincke

      The point is that the only way the Man will let you do things is if you first become the Man. You want to beat the system? You have to master the system first. Power is very difficult to acquire and to wield effectively. Those who are most successful know just how much compromise is necessary to get power and just how much they can use that power effectively, and they don’t overreach and blow the whole thing.

  • KG

    That’s not rebellion, any more than a rabbit is rebelling against a fox when it hides in its burrow.

  • KG

    4 was supposed to be a reply to Dunc @2.1

  • KG

    This is a reply to Daniel at 3.1, in case the reply system doesn’t work.

    The point is that the only way the Man will let you do things is if you first become the Man.

    And of course once you’ve done that, you no longer even want to rebel.

    • Daniel Fincke

      And of course once you’ve done that, you no longer even want to rebel.

      Some do. Some rebel. Otherwise nothing would ever change. But yes the problem is that in the process of mastering the system most people get mastered by the system instead.

  • KG

    The reply system doesn’t work past the first level.

    • Daniel Fincke

      I know about the problem with replies not threading. I’ve asked the tech guys to check it out.