The road less traveled by
What “Above the herd” is about (chapter intro):
Now more than ever, we Americans need to look up and around. Plain and simple. Stop following the herd! Stop being one of the millions who timidly accept what society dictates as “the thing to do.” We do so many things because “everyone else is doing it,” and the unintended consequences to us personally, and to society as a whole, are devastating. Our country has gone to the crapper because everyone just does what everyone else is doing, little of which is uplifting, “life-giving,” or world-changing.
The term “following the herd” originated with the Native American hunting practice of chasing buffalo herds over cliffs as a way of killing their prey. All the buffalo who were following the leaders, with heads down, didn’t see what was coming ahead, and they all fell to their deaths. They called this tactic a “buffalo jump,” but it was nothing short of a collective death leap. The same happens with modern livestock that are led to their deaths at the slaughterhouse. Cattle merely follow the herd…to their deaths.
We humans tend to do the same. We follow the crowd without question. We assume the majority knows what the hell they’re doing, and we follow like gullible livestock. If only we would look up to see where the herd is heading. If we would stop for a moment and re-evaluate the landscape, would we really continue following? How often is the herd really going to a place we should follow?
I’m talking about digging deep into our very souls to discover our unique purpose in life and then going for it. Too many of us follow the herd because that is what’s easiest and will draw the least public ridicule. We unwittingly get caught in this trap (or perhaps we walk into it willingly) of trying to impress ourselves and others with how we can keep up with the latest fads. Wittingly or not, we get caught in this trap because we aren’t being vigilant about our lives. If we were more proactive, we could be the ones starting the trends by looking above the herd and doing our own things.
Remember, very often the herd is not as smart as we think they are, or even as smart as they think they are. There’s a good reason for that old maternal saying, “If Johnny jumped off a bridge, would you?” Our parents knew that where Johnny was going was often not a good place.
I certainly didn’t follow the herd in my younger days, right out of the high school gate. Less than three months into college I realized that the path all my friends were taking was not for me. So I joined the military and it changed the entire trajectory of my life. I still got through college, but on my own terms and timeline. And it has made all the difference.
I didn’t always look above the herd throughout my adult life, and those were my lowest and least inspiring years. But whenever I did stop to do some soul searching, followed by making new plans and commitments, those were the times of greatest growth and progress.
“Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson