A while ago, I wrote that giraffes need to be around giraffes, and alligators need to be around alligators. It’s a way of saying that we feel more comfortable and more sane when we surround ourselves with like-minded people.
Writers hang with writers. Entrepreneurs chill with entrepreneurs. Comedians spend time with comedians. Musicians have musical friends. There’s nothing inherently strange about this. We enjoy being around people we can relate to, people who understand us and do what we do better than the average person.
But it’s also a problem. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is a gateway to biased, monotonous thought.
There are a few ways to alter the quality of your thought.
If you surround yourself with like-minded individuals—which is what a lot of people believe to be a key element on the path to “success”—you end up with like-minded thoughts. The like-minded have similar thoughts, similar experiences, similar perspectives, similar preferences. Does being in such an environment sound like a catalyst for deep, original, nuanced thought?
To underscore this observation, I’m going to describe two simple scenarios and then ask a question.
Scenario A: I’ve decided to do the classic writer thing and write a book about writing. So I talk to other writers about their writing methods and principles, and stir in my own experience and observations.
Scenario B: I’ve decided to do the classic writer thing and write a book about writing. So I talk to other writers about their writing methods and principles. I speak to poets and songwriters. I converse with bloggers, advertising and marketing people. I chat with rappers. I ask scriptwriters about dialogue. I pester playwrights. I talk to game designers. I search out narrative experts. Then I stir in my own experience and observations.
The question: Which book sounds better? More interesting? The one where I talk to the like-minded? Or the one where I talk to people who think and do things differently to me?