(This was originally published on my WeChat Official Account in September 2016. I hope it inspires you to “wear your own hat”!)
A lot of people ask me… Simon, why do you wear a hat?
I answer, why don’t you wear a hat?
I’m serious. Why not?
For men, 50 years ago, everybody wore a hat. It was standard. Normal. Expected. To wear a hat outside, and take it off inside, was a strictly enforced cultural norm.
At some time between then and now, we stopped wearing hats. Now, I’m a little special when I wear my trilby in public. I’m different.
Different is interesting. It can be good and bad.
Different is what you need to stand out and be remembered. That is very useful for career or business. We often remember somebody, simply because he or she wasn’t afraid to stand out.
Different is also frightening and threatening to us. We do everything we can to conform, so that nobody will look at us or single us out. So that we can just go about our lives without trouble.
Different is very interesting.
I believe we live in a time when the old ways of doing business, and jobs, and everything like that, is disappearing, and the new ways are not yet found.
Therefore, we need to, as Steve Jobs put it, “Think Different”.
This goes against our human nature, our desire to conform and stay out of trouble.
Therefore I give you my first answer of “why do I wear a hat”.
I wear a hat because I’m just as scared as you.
I’m just as scared as you of change and loss and not being ready for life. But I also believe I need to be different, and think different, to find the new thing. So, I wear a hat, to remind myself to stand out anyway. To be different anyway. To get used to being unusual and special, in both good and bad ways.
So, what’s the story?
In May 2011 I bought a nice hat in Melbourne, Australia. It was an impulse purchase, a silly decision just for fun.
For a long time I had thought I needed something distinctive. As a public speaker I admired Steve Jobs and his signature sweater and jeans. Everyone knew that’s what he would wear, and everyone knew it was him wearing it. He broke the rules that said you had to wear a suit to do that kind of presentation.
So this hat was a nice idea. But we brought it home and put it on the hat stand. Just for fun. Useless.
Then in March 2012, I joined the Shave for a Cure event. Shave for a Cure is a charity event to raise funds for a cure for cancer. People get others to sponsor them to get their head shaved, because often cancer victims have to lose their hair when they do chemotherapy.
My dad died of cancer when I was not yet 4 years old. I have a personal reason to support this charity. So I was more than happy to lose my hair for a cause!
After the shave, suddenly, I had a reason to wear the hat! The weather was getting cold!
See, sometimes we need a reason to do something different. And we don’t know the effect that has on others.
It’s not a big deal for a man to have a shaved head. It’s normal. But for a young lady, it’s quite exceptional!
That’s why, in 2013, I was so proud to get shaved together with my colleague Camellia. Because of what I did in 2012, she was willing in 2013 to stand out, and be different.
And that’s the other thing we don’t think of when we decide to be courageous. Taking some small courage can inspire others, too.
So… that’s why i wear a hat.
- I wear a hat because I’m scared of change, but I know change is coming anyway.
- I wear a hat because I’m afraid to stand out, but I choose to stand out anyway.
- I wear a hat because others need me, and I need them, and the hat is my way to remember that.
What kind of a “hat” do you wear? What is a challenge you are avoiding, that you need to embrace? I would love to know.