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Jordan Shapiro

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3 Ways to Be Edgier

Posted: 07/07/2013 9:17 am

Hardly a day goes by that I don't crave a little edge, a little oomph, some pizzaz.

When we say something isn't edgy enough -- a piece of writing, a song, an advertising campaign, a marketing strategy, a new product -- we are asking for more uniqueness and distinction.

In our modern technological society, everyone strives to be "cutting-edge." We value sharpness and precision. We like when things "cut to the chase" and are "right on point."

To be edgy means to be just outside the status quo. Innovation is the positive flip-side of marginalization. Politically, we want acceptance. In the creative arts, science, and business, a tad of non-conformity separates the exceptional from the lemmings, the mainstream ho-hum.

However, being edgy is not so much about being revolutionary, or rebellious. Rather, it is about pushing the limits. It is about having the courage to take risks, to stand on the edge of a metaphorical cliff without a safety net. It is about cutting through the collective clutter. It is about living your life (and productively contributing to society) in a way that's more aligned with our unique individual attributes than it is with the collective habitual attitudes.

Here are three guidelines for getting more edge into your life.

1. Break Down Boundaries

This is the slogan of innovation, the war cry of physical fitness, the mantra of personal transformation. "Push it," they say, "move out of your comfort zone." We all build up walls. Usually, they take the form of habits. A habit is something you do over and over again without giving it new thought. These are the little things, the tiny routines. We all have both bad habits and good ones. Expand your definition of habits. Your daily way of being is made up of habits. Habits form the foundation of your everyday life.

In other words, we each inhabit a unique blend of daily ways of being. Our psychological and emotional habitat is constructed out of the everyday ways we interact with the world. Our habits structure the domain of our way of being. They provide the foundation of our thinking and feeling abodes.

Traditionally, you might think of your abode as your home. But you have another abode: your habitual way of being. When you cast aside your habits, you cast aside your abode.

Breaking down boundaries is scary because you lose your abode and you no longer feel at home in the world. It means you need to get over your unconscious agoraphobia (a fear of unfamiliar places).

Boundaries provide shape and definition to the world around us. Without them, things are much harder to grasp, to categorize. Things are fuzzy and ambivalent. There are no guidelines.

You want to be edgy? Cast aside habits. Defy definitions. Resist ordinary genres, categories, and abodes.

2. Build Them Up Again

Despite everything the personal development gurus have told you, breaking down boundaries is fairly immature. It is the stuff of adolescence. It is about rebellion and revolution. It is being contrary and antagonistic. With courage, anyone can swing around with a sledgehammer, deconstructing things. You don't need a hammer. Resistance can be non-violent, but non-violence is not, in itself, constructive.

The mark of maturity is the ability to build walls up again. My five year old can knock down a tower of Legos, but he can't always make the new one look the way he wants.

After you break down the boundaries, how do you reconstruct them in better ways and better places?

Boundaries are the Lego-blocks that give definition to our everyday lives. They situate us. They make us feel at home in the world. They provide order to chaos. They allow us to make meaning of the world around us.

Without boundaries, one thing would blend into another. I'd be you and you'd be me and we'd have no individuality or distinction. While there's certainly some truth to the spiritual vision of unity (that we're all bound in the oneness of Mother Nature, or Gaia, or the Universe, or God), there is also power and sanctuary in the divisions. It is through the separations, and the boundaries that define them, that we find meaning in our everyday experiences.

The trick is to make sure that after you've torn down the walls, you're then mindful about the world you reassemble. Habitual boundaries are constricting. Intentional boundaries are edgy.

3. Know Your Limits

Understand that your limits are not what holds you back, but rather the place from which you push forward. The philosopher Martin Heidegger once wrote, "The boundary is that from which something begins its presencing." He likes to make up words like "presencing." But his point is that as we move into the world, it is our edge that relates to the world around us.

An edge is not just a limit, a boundary, and a border, but also a seam. It is the way we connect to others. It is the thing that allows to things to bind together.

If you want to be edgier, it takes three steps.

First, break down the habitual boundaries that are created through cultural conditioning, parental nurture, and ancestral routine.

Second, build your boundaries up again, but build them in a way that's in alignment with who you are at your core. Form habits with intention. Find rigorous definitions mindfully. Have the maturity and the persistence to construct the world you want rather than the world you've been given.

Finally, relate boldly from your edge. Go all in. Step forward. Be present and courageous. Press your edge up against the other edges in the world around you.

Of course, where surfaces meet and rub up against each other, friction is created. It is not always pleasant, but it is powerful and authentic.

Be edgy. The radiance you present to the world is related to the radiance the world presents back.

For more by Jordan Shapiro, click here.

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