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Marianne Cantwell: Why secretly being an outsider can be your greatest strength

I’ve spent most of my life feeling like an outsider.

On the face of it, I’ve got all the credentials for “fitting in”. Growing up I was fairly competent at sport, school was always quite easy, I excelled at university eventually becoming a lecturer and managed to get a prestigious job as a management consultant.

Yet I always had this gnawing sense that there was something different about me, and couldn’t quite place what it was.

It turns out I’m not alone. According to Marianne Cantwell in the TEDx talk below, most people at some point in their lives feel like an outsider.

Marianne Cantwell, author of Be a Free Range Human: Escape the 9-5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills

She says the experience of being an outsider is where our greatest power lies.

Human beings are social animals. We thrive when we feel understood and accepted. Our mental and physical health levels sink when we are lonely or fear rejection.

Yet facing up to this feeling of rejection can provide incredible insight. According to Cantwell, the key is to create your own island, where every bit of you fits.

You’re not here to try and become like other people around you. All of the leaders in history began feeling like outsiders, and over time created their own island around a unique and authentic version of themselves.

This is where real innovation and change comes from. When you refuse to conform and try to fit in with other people’s islands or worlds, you end up bringing ideas from one world to another.


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You become an innovator or change maker, and you’re advancing humanity literally by being yourself.

Cantwell urges us to see that the traits that many of us hide are precisely what we need to embrace to thrive in today’s fast-changing world.

Cantwell is the author of Be a Free Range Human and has helped over 10,000 people to create their own life where they don’t have to leave their personality at the door to get paid.

The TEDx talk below is well worth watching. Cantwell is an incredibly moving speaker.

The truth is, although we are all unique, we have more in common with one another than we are different. Even the experience of feeling like an outsider is itself one that is shared with millions of other people.

You may be different, but you are not alone.

Written by Justin Brown

I'm the CEO and co-founder of Ideapod, a platform for people to connect around ideas. I'm passionate about people thinking for themselves, especially in an age of information overload.

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