On Defiance

Defiance has a negative connotation. To school administrators, a defiant kid is someone who gets in trouble constantly for no reason other than to cause trouble. To parents, defiance is the rebel teenager who decides to contradict their will at every twist and turn, again, for the sake of causing trouble. In these contexts, defiance is largely negative, and leads to negative outcomes for everyone involved.

Defiance is, arguably, what defines us as dropouts. Of all of the students frustrated with an educational institution that either took our money or our time (usually both), we’re the students who decided to forge our own path and go against what everyone else claims is correct. No doubt, we can and will make the path work, but it won’t come without an ounce of defiance and a propensity to continue to be unconventional.

Even among your friends and family, you will face situations where it is absolutely necessary to be defiant. Some will try to tell you not to work hard, or to do something that you know is wrong, or to follow them on their path to nowhere. The only thing standing between your fate and theirs is your ability to defy those orders and continue humbly on your own path, constantly learning and seeking to improve your chances of succeeding and fulfilling your purpose.

Martin Luther King Jr. refused to be put down by the opposition to his dream by millions of people who aggressively and often violently disagreed with him. Steve Jobs went against the notions of realistic” and pushed product design to its limits to spur innovation. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus and sparked a movement towards equality. Coco Chanel challenged the idea of women simply dressing for men and not for themselves. The American Patriots rebelled against a monarchy and created the most successful form of government ever created. Mahatma Gandhi led a march and defiant protest that changed the course of an entire nation. Nelson Mandela served jail time for his defiance, yet became one of the most respected revolutionaries in history because of it.

That is real defiance. We have the ability and judgment to be reasonably defiant, and when it is absolutely necessary, we will not hesitate to be defiant for the right thing. This defiance that led us to become dropouts in the first place is the same defiance that will bring meaningful and positive change to the world. Remember that we’re not aiming for mere security in life, we’re aiming to change the world in meaningful, positive ways. Defiance will be necessary in our path to do so: we’ll have to think different in order to make things different.

Notice, however, that none of the previous examples were performed simply for the sake of being defiant. In order to make it reasonable, there has to be a reason. There’s no excuse for breaking the rules if you’re just wrong. You don’t have to have everybody agree with you, but you must be justified. In fact, there’s a whole lot of thinking that goes into being effectively and reasonably defiant, and not one portion of it can be overlooked or ignored.

There are three components of defiance that have to be addressed before any of us go out into the world to violently shatter the status quo (we’ll get there!). These three components are necessary to ensure that during every moment of our defiance, we are adequately justified. There’s plenty of defiance in the world, but not all defiance is made equal. In essence, the model begins with knowledge of a situation, rule, or convention that is harmful or wrong, transitions to principle in which we begin to articulate why change is necessary and what the best way to accomplish it is, and finally action, which drives the change itself with tangible, actionable items.