5 Signs You May Be a Positive Deviant



“To be a philosopher is precisely not to be a person who never deviates from a single doctrine but to have a history of change.” ~Raymond Guess

What does it mean to be a positive deviant? Positive deviance is the subtle art of bringing harmony to disharmonious systems by strategically disturbing them. It’s constructive discord within corrupted concord. It’s the ability to stir up shit for the purpose of creating healthy compost. It’s the ability to rock the boat in order to steady the ship.

In a world full of toxic systems, positive deviance is a superpower.

A positive deviant flips scripts, turns tables, pushes envelopes, and thinks outside of culturally conditioned boxes for the purpose of creating positive change. Here are five signs you may be a positive deviant.


1.) You are comfortable with discomfort:


“There is advantage in the wisdom won from pain.” ~Aeschylus

In a world full of comfort junkies and status quo sycophants, you embrace the discomfort of nonconformity. On the outside looking in, you stay ahead of the curve by realizing that everything is on the curve.

You have grown to accept discomfort as a given for true growth. You realize that if things are too comfortable there can be no change. So you embrace discomfort as a means toward discovering healthy change.

You see how there is discomfort in working out a muscle. How there is discomfort in challenging an entrenched idea. How there is discomfort in questioning a cherished belief. And how it is all worth it when the muscle, the mind, and the soul become stronger despite such discomfort.


2.) You are an open-minded outlier:



“Every moment of life wants to tell us something, but we do not want to hear what it has to say: when we are alone and quiet, we are afraid that something will be whispered into our ear and hence we despise quiet and drug ourselves with sociability.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche

Because of your comfort with discomfort, you have become an open-minded outlier. Your eyes are wide open. You have developed a keen bird’s-eye view of things. You see how everything is connected to everything else.

Because of this, all your senses are heightened. You are also able to listen to silence, feel interconnectedness, smell out deceit and delusion, and taste gratitude and forgiveness.

As an outlier, you are a catalyst carrying the spirit of creative agitation. From your perch of healthy detachment, you’re able to view the interconnected world as a mighty canvas. You’re able to dip in and dip out, wielding your pencil, camera, brush, or instrument as a proof that the pen will always be mightier than the sword.

You courageously create meaning and purpose, transforming your life into a work of art. You do this despite an otherwise purposeless or meaningless world. The world, then, has no choice but to fall into accordance with your creative deviance.

As Heraclitus said, “Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony.”


3.) You are adaptable to change:


“All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.” ~Bruce Lee

Change is the ocean in which you swim. You honor fate by going with the flow and having the discipline to adapt and overcome. The obstacle is the path, and the path is always changing. Thus, Change itself is the ultimate path.

You walk the Path of Change with moxie and aplomb, embracing the unexpected, honoring paradox, and adjusting to vicissitude with deep curiosity and authentic astonishment.

Your adaptability gives you a spiritual flexibility that most people lack. You’re able to intellectually maneuver through fixed ideologies and hardened beliefs like Theseus navigating the Labyrinth. You have acquired both the courage and the audacity to defeat the Minotaur of Closemindedness again and again.


4.) You think outside the box with ruthless inquiry:


“Thoughts come and go. Feelings come and go. Find out what it is that remains.” ~Ramana Maharshi

The blank slate is your playground. The flattened box is your mindset. Consistently stretching the comfort zones is your comfort zone. Transforming boundaries into horizons is your modus operandi.

You realize that certainty is a disease for which curiosity is the only cure. Thus, you inquire. You delve deep. You question to the nth degree. You self-interrogate and then you turn your interrogation onto the culture that conditioned you.

In search of the truth, you know that the worst thing you could ever do is believe in any given “truth.” Thus, you never forsake the Truth Quest for the “truth.” Your positive deviance is sharpened by your ruthless inquiry.

The journey is the thing. No destination. No answer. No end. You are ever in the throes of overcoming yourself.

5.) You are a teachable teacher:


“It’s impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” ~Epictetus

Completeness is a myth. Mastery is an asymptote. Enlightenment will always be elusive. These hard truths have made you vulnerable but flexible, open but resilient, unfixed but fixable.

You are mutable, changeable, flexible, transformable. Most importantly, you are teachable. And in a world that is dead set on what it has already learned, being teachable is a superpower.

The teacher within you never forsakes the student. The student within you always honors the teacher. You realize that we are all students just as we are all teachers. Life is what we teach, and life is what we learn. You are vulnerable enough to be a good student and openminded enough to be a good teacher.

In the end, your positive deviance allows for the life-death-rebirth process to come alive inside you. You let the ember of the master’s mind slumber inside the enigma of beginner’s mind. You never take yourself too seriously. You give yourself permission to play, to mix it up, to enjoy the mystery of being a student at the feet of Infinity. You cultivate the “skyhook” of curiosity lest the “anchor” of certainty hold you back.

As James Salter said, “There is no complete life. There are only fragments. We are born to have nothing, to have it pour through our hands.”


Image source:    Miró by Roberto Voorbij


About the Author:

Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.

This article (5 Signs You May Be a Positive Deviant) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and self-inflictedphilosophy.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.