True story. A few years ago a friend and I were dining at a delightful local bistro. After we finished we noticed the bistro had set up several tables where people were reading palms, tarot cards and people’s auras. I decided, just for kicks, to have my aura read. What could it hurt?
To read my aura, I had to give the aura-reader a possession of mine so I handed over my amber ring…and waited. She said (and I’m paraphrasing), “It seems you’ve had a lot of difficulty in your life starting as a child. But it wasn’t your fault. You were at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
I started to cry, and I don’t mean a few tears fell down my cheeks. I mean the full-on ugly cry, my face crinkled up, copious amount of tears fell out of my eyes, and my nose began to run. I was so embarrassed. Both my friend and the aura reader looked at me, both flummoxed and very concerned. The aura reader asked me if I wanted to go on, and I said, “Yes,” as I dried my tears.
The aura reader went on telling me I had difficulty in my childhood (which has continued into my adulthood) because I was always an outsider. No matter where I was, I just didn’t fit in.
So you can imagine my joy in finding Robert Kelsey’s book The Outside Edge: How Outsiders Can Succeed in a World Made by Insiders.
A native of England, Kelsey is the author of several best-selling self-help books. He has worked in various industries including journalism and finance, but always as an outsider. In the very class-conscious Great Britain, Kelsey grew up in the wrong class. He never had the right educational credentials. And though he’s been very successful, he’s never felt like “one of the boys.” Yet, somehow he’s let his outside status work for him, not against him. And now he’s letting other outsiders, true rebels, misfits and just those of us who feel out of sorts how to find value in ourselves and ultimately our idea of success.
Though we live in a culture that claims to celebrate outsiders and other assorted misfits, the truth is those who are considered outsiders are merely pretenders (or as I would have called them in high school “posers”). These people “play” the role of the outsider, the rebel or misfit because they have the cushion of family money and/or connections. In other words, I’m looking in your direction Lena Dunham.
Most true outsiders don’t have a whole lot of family money and connections to fall back on. They often have unique ideas, opinions and concepts that are met with contempt not with open minds.
However, all is not lost for outsiders. For instance, look at how well the ultimate outsider, Senator Bernie Sanders, is doing against the ultimate insider, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Who would have thought this rumpled haired Democratic Socialist from Vermont, a Brooklyn-born secular Jew like Senator Sanders would be such a formidable opponent to someone like Hillary Clinton?
But so many outsiders don’t reach the success like Senator Sanders has.
As someone who has felt like an outsider my entire life, I can safely say that most outsiders feel completely alienated from the insider world of the “cool kids’ table.” They resent the “cool kids’ table” while at the same time have a longing to have a seat at the same table. And not only do they want a seat, they want to be successful. However, they don’t want to compromise their values, ethics, ideas or opinions to get a seat and shine.
Furthermore, many outsiders feel a great deal of torment and humiliation over their outsider status, as if they are so much less worthy than the insiders. And they often have a lack of proper self-esteem and don’t value all they can offer the world. And ultimately, the outsider status just makes so many of us resentful, depressed and just really pissed off at the unfairness of it all.
However, all is not lost for us genuine outsiders. We can achieve some amount of success and we can do it on our own terms, not on the terms of the insiders.
And this is why I found Kelsey’s Outside Edge such a knowledgeable and inspiring read.
In this book, Kelsey encourages outsiders to embrace our “outsiderness” to give us the leverage to succeed in life, both professionally and personally. We should embrace those qualities that we think make us less and see how they make us more. We should look at the insiders and say to ourselves, “Nope, I’m not like that at all, and it’s okay. In fact, it’s pretty damn fantastic.”
For instance, for the longest time I saw my introversion and more reserved nature as a burden instead of an asset. Let’s face it; in our world of D-list celebs, reality show cretins, and people who have nothing to say and say it all the time, I should embrace the following:
Instead of being known, I should promote my knowledge.
Instead of being a “brand,” note that I am a human being.
Instead of marketing myself, I should focus of providing a quality product or service.
Perhaps, all of these things will help this outsider looking in, with the tools to succeed but succeed on my own terms. Be the change I want to see in the workplace where show ponies may get the attention, but it is work horses like myself who get things done and with a unique insight and a creative spirit.
But first I need to do a little homework and soul searching. Kelsey’s book tells us to identify just what makes me feel like an outsider, being more accepting of my outsider status and look for meaning in everyday life, focus on being more creative and focus on some tangible skills and goals while still staying true to my morals and values. And most importantly avoid negativity as much as possible when it comes to relating to others and especially myself.
Granted a lot of this is easier said and done. But now that I have written it down, I now realize I can do this. Why? Because I’ve done this in the past.
Take my little place in the Internet, this very blog. I started this blog because I have a serious love of books and wanted to share this love with others by writing reviews. I also did this to heal some latent wounds I felt as a professional writer. Instead of using every social media to make myself well-known, I chose to expose my knowledge of books via The Book Self. I never tried to brand myself. And I’ve also done my best to provide quality content over a mad rush to market myself.
And in my own little way; I have been successful. Steadily I have gained followers and likes. I have worked with a PR professional to gain access to other books and have reviewed them. And many authors of the books I’ve reviewed have thanked me profusely for my reviews by leaving comments, sending me lovely emails, and posting links to my reviews via their websites, blogs and social media. Hmm, I think I’ve been pretty successful in that regard; and I’ve done it on my own terms.
The Outside Edge ends with Kelsey offering outsiders some wise counsel, including finding meaning, participate and serve your apprenticeship
I really enjoyed reading The Outside Edge, and I learned a lot from its pages. I just wish this book would have come out earlier like in my teens or twenties; it probably would have saved me a lot of angst and tear-stained pillows. And while reading it, I also mused that it might be easier to be an outsider as a man than as a woman. It seems there is more of a romanticism to the male outsider. He can be the lone wolf or the quirky genius. Women are still supposed to live fully on the inside or else face some serious repercussions. And no the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” or “Bad Girl With Issues” are not outsiders; they are tired pop culture tropes.
Still, I am very grateful for Robert Kelsey and his book The Outside Edge. I think it is great addition for anyone who has felt like an outsider