Just take a look at the above picture. That's classic Warren Buffett--all smiles without a care in the world. Many people attribute that folksy, easy manner to his being a billionaire. When you're worth $67 billion, you can do a lot of crazy things and not give a Dairy Queen Blizzard what anyone thinks.
But Buffett said to me once that money doesn't really change you. It just makes you more of who you are. If you're a jerk, with money you're a bigger jerk. If you're a kind person, with money you're a kinder person. I have not been able to test this theory to a Buffettesque-level myself, but my gut tells me he's right. (He's right about most things.)
There is another theory Buffett is testing out by donning those shoulder pads and a Dolphins jersey in the above photo. I call it the Basic Instinct Ninja move. Before you get offended, let me tell you that what I'm referring to is not the actual movie scene itself, but the effect of the scene on the audience. The element of surprise was so shocking, so unexpected, so outside the industry norm that to this day, Sharon Stone cannot walk this earth without being reminded of it. Basically, Basic Instinct = Sharon Stone.
Which is exactly the kind of thing Buffett does so well, whether it's showing up at a football game in essentially a costume, playing a ukelele at the annual meeting, or explaining how he'd gotten his investment idea by sitting naked in a bathtub. He is so unlike anyone else that the shock value of what he says or does keeps you enamored and enlarges his persona.
Others do this well, too. Elon Musk is another Basic Instinct Ninja personality. Just when you think you've got him pegged, he comes out with some slick move like the Hyperloop idea. Donald Trump epitomizes this concept too. He comes out and buries the Republican presidential candidate competition, right when it seemed everybody had dismissed him as a flamboyant reality-TV star. John Boehner just did a Basic Instinct on us--the House Speaker floored pretty much everyone with his resignation. All anyone could do Friday was give him some props for doing it his way.
So what's the lesson to be learned here? Rather than always try to fit yourself into a set of expectations that are, let's face it, pretty boring, chart your own path. Be true to yourself. Do unexpected things not because you solely want to surprise people but because they're in line with your true north. Those things can be as simple as raising your hand when nobody else wants to do a project. Dropping out of law school to pursue your dream of being a magician. Or taking on an assignment or job nobody would ever expect you to do. You get the picture. Do something different, and don't be afraid to break the mold. We're a country that values individualism, and yet we put so much pressure on people to live the "2.5 kids in a suburban family home" stereotype.
The next time you start feeling pressure to conform, think of your next Basic Instinct Ninja move. Just make sure it's appropriate for all audiences.