Civil Disobedience

I’ve just started reading a book called How to Change the World and I was surprised to find that it didn’t start by talking about what high ideals we must have to change the world. “How does it start?” I hear you cry. Well, it talks about how to change the world you need to swim against the stream. By definition, if you do what you have always done, you’ll get what you have always gotten and, ergo, nothing will change.

In a book I’ve mentioned a lot before – Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss – he or someone he interviews says “You can’t out-obedience the opposition.” What great advice, but what does it mean?

As far back as most of us can remember we have been presented with a set of societal rules: don’t touch that; come here; stay here; sit down; boys are strong and aggressive and don’t talk about feelings, girls are gentle, feminine and wear their hearts on their sleeves; you put your hand up in class; you do not swear; you do not ask awkward questions; you proverbially walk before you can run; you must not stare; you do not talk to people about how much you earn; don’t talk to strangers, the list goes on. Sure, there are some sensible rules that have been written into law – you must not commit murder for example, seems pretty sensible – but a lot are just societal rules that we are told we must follow.


Why not go for a run dressed as a sunflower? Why not drink tea in the shower? (Try it. And a beer for that matter). I have a rule that unless there’s a really good reason not to, if the opportunity presents itself to have my face painted, I will get my face painted.

The. Only. Way. We. Move. Forward. Is. By. Misbehaving.


If we just followed the rules – and think about this deeply for a moment – we would still be in caves. By pushing boundaries, by breaking the rules, by trying new things we grow as people and as societies.

This morning I was at a place called Leake Street in London filming some graffiti. I had a bit of a go. I’ve done it before but too long ago for it to count. It terrifies me. All that space. It seems so permanent. It’s so public. What if I screw it up? Listen closely. You can’t screw it up. It’s a great metaphor for life. Sure, you will do things that both subjectively and objectively could be seen as mistakes but life is a blank canvas and you LITERALLY CANNOT GET IT WRONG. Again, give that a moment’s pause. There is no rulebook. There is no ‘right’ way to live your life.

Disobey. Do not follow the rules. Go for it. Try it. Try something else. Pick up the spray can and paint your life.

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