The Monsters University Guide to Non-Conformity

“One who walks in another’s tracks leaves no footprints.” Proverb

In the last post I urged you to accept your ADHD for what it is, and start living with it instead of judging it. Today, I will tell you why. And let me give you a little hint – it has everything to do with non-conformity.

We are all born with limitless potential. From the moment of birth, the path laid before us is one of never-ending twists and turns, speed bumps and potholes. There are ups and downs, unexpected sharp curves and just sometimes… unswerving thoroughfares we can coast along enjoying the journey. We know this about life. Though we don’t know exactly where we are going, we do know that we are going somewhere. At least we hope we are.

Over time, our faith in the path erodes. We can’t see where we are going. We see the twists and bumps, the curves that took us off guard, but we lose sight of the destination. Others seem to coast along, while we veer from side to side and occasionally even hit the ditch. We compare our journey to theirs. We start to wonder if we are going anywhere. We fear that, in fact, we are going nowhere.

So what can a couple of fictitious monsters teach us about course-correcting our life’s path?

If you haven’t seen Monsters University, here is a little synopsis (spoiler alert here):

Mike Wizowski is a small and somewhat cute one-eyed monster. All his life, he has dreamed of going to Monsters University and becoming the best Scarer there ever was. He believes it to be his destiny. When he finally gets the chance, he discovers that despite his unequalled spirit, dedication and hard work, he does not have what it takes to become the Scarer he dreams of being. He knows the theory better than anyone but he lacks the one thing that can never be taught: he’s just not scary.

While at University, he does manage to overcome some major challenges. He finds a purpose for his wealth of knowledge and learns how to apply it to his work. But he never graduates and he never – ever – learns how to be truly scary.

There was an opportunity for Disney Pixar to give us the cliché happy ending we tend to want from an animated film. They could have had Mike reach deep down inside himself; get in touch with the inner Scarer he longed to be and let him out. That would have told the tale of the underdog finding victory through heroic self-mastery.

But they didn’t. Instead, Mike flunked out and got his coveted Scarer job – eventually – by working his way up from the mail room of Monsters Inc.

Profound, isn’t it?

In all seriousness, there are several take-aways this movie offers as inspiration. One being that just because you are not headed where you think you should be going, doesn’t mean you are going nowhere. Sometimes you have to go about reaching your goals in a way you hadn’t originally planned.

But I think the more important lesson that resonates is this:

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”
Lao Tzu (Click to tweet)

Uh-huh. I did just make a connection between the great Chinese philosopher and a Disney monster. You see, I did not tell you the whole story. Mike never became a world-class Scarer. But he did become a top notch “scare consultant”. One who helped other monsters, especially his best friend Sulley, achieve unprecedented success as Scarers through using prowess for advising on them with his expert knowledge. You don’t always have to play the game to be in the game. In essence, he became what he might be. Not what he originally wanted to be, but what he was meant to be nevertheless.
(I can’t stress enough here that I, too, am alarmed by the fact that I am philosophizing over a monster movie!)


But what does this mean for non-conformity and ADD?

When you think you are going nowhere…
When you feel like you’re chasing your tail…
and never getting any further ahead…

You might be forgetting an important truth about the journey. Just because your destination is not visible on the horizon, does not mean it isn’t there. And because your journey looks a little different to the journeys of those around you, does not make your journey any less worthy, or your destination any less beautiful. You just need to open your eyes to the horizon in front of you.

Put another way:

“The irony is that the energy ADD adults expend on their attempts at sameness is wasted, as is the anxiety parents generate of their child’s differentness. The world is much more ready to accept someone who is different and comfortable with it than someone desperately seeking to conform by denying himself. It’s the self-rejection others react against, much more than the differentness. So the solution is for the adult not to “fit in”, but to accept his inability to conform. The child’s uniqueness has to first find a welcome in the heart of the parent.” Gabor Mate, Scattered Minds


If you want to make footprints in this world, walk your own path. Even when you’re not sure of where that path is taking you … keep walking.

The destination is always in front of you.

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4 comments on “The Monsters University Guide to Non-Conformity

  1. Non-conformity… It’s a tough one. Especially when it seems like the whole world is readily telling you how to do or be, in order to be “acceptable”. But this is a great post on an important topic. My favorite part is,”If you want to make footprints in this world, walk your own path.” I wholeheartedly agree and believe that. Because walking our own path ISN’T about being acceptable to others. It is about breaking the mold in being ourselves, who we were created to be and who NO ONE else can be. OUR path is our own, and no one else’s. Now, the task is only to daily embrace it. 😉 And to somehow teach my kids this freedom. 😉

    1. If, as a parent, I could give one thing to my kids it would be this freedom. I hope that by walking our own paths we can lead by example. Not always easy though!

  2. “….just because you are not headed where you think you should be going, doesn’t mean you are going nowhere.”
    Thank you for this. If I could just play that piece over and over in my head instead of the record I have playing now, how different my outlook could be. Truly, thank you.

    1. Rikki – I have this record. I could lend it to you? Another idea, just take the record you have playing and smash it. Like a rock star 🙂

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