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If You Fit In, You’re Replaceable

by | Nov 30, 2021 | Life

If there’s a second Buddha then it’s Keanu Reeves.

Every time an article about him pops up I read it and wonder. I know something wild is going to happen. In a recent interview actor Sandra Bullock helps us understand Keanu’s weirdness.

“When I first met him, I would spend as much time as I could filling a silence, just to feel comfortable.

And the more I jibber-jabbered on, the quieter he would get. And I thought, I don’t understand what’s happening! He’s looking at me with eyes of confusion. He’s quiet. Did I say something to offend him?”

Keanu prefers to listen than to talk.

He doesn’t fit into society. He’s an outcast, a weirdo, an oddball.

At the end of the interview with the Esquire writer Keanu heads outside the Paris cafe to go to horse training for a new movie. The head waiter stops him before he gets out the door and says, “I want to introduce you to someone.”

In a soft, kind, polite tone Keanu says “Thank you, but probably not.”

The waiter looks shocked. “Why not?”

“Time and work,” Keanu says.

Keanu doesn’t fit in, and that’s why he isn’t replaceable and one of the most iconic dudes on the planet. Silence, kindness, and humility are rare.

The goal is to not fit in, according to Tascha Che whose quote is the title of this story.

Powerful leaders are weirdos

My former boss doesn’t fit in.

He’s a monk in a black suit with no necktie and a shaved head. When my life falls apart he shows up at my door 2 hours later. More than once, and even when he’s not my boss. He owes me nothing, yet I owe him everything.

The guy is a weirdo. Yet companies all around the world want his presence. He grew up on a plantation farm. He came from humble beginnings. He doesn’t care about Lambos. He’s in the business of teaching life lessons, not focusing on revenue.

In a way he’s a lot like Keanu. He shows up to make the world slightly better. It’s not deliberate. It’s not some bullsh*t personal brand. It’s a way of being.

People used to laugh at the fact he didn’t fit in at work. Now they’re not laughing at him anymore. Instead, they’re all desperately trying to get a job working for him.

Good leaders are the ones that stand out, not fit in.

The replaceable corporate sheep

Most employees are easily replaceable. They could walk out onto the street after work, get hit by a car, die, and by Monday morning there could be a new warm body in their office chair. Harsh yet true.

I’ve worked with many corporate sheep. They try to fit in. They agree with HR. They show up to networking events. They say “great presentation” after a lifeless train-wreck of a speech that affected the customer’s will to live.

In a previous job I decided not to fit in.

I got given a pain-in-the-butt customer. It took me a while to get a hold of someone inside of their massive organization. They gave me 15 minutes to speak, to avoid getting an angry email from their boss for refusing to talk to me. You can’t say much in 15 minutes. So I cut straight to the point.

“We’d like to work with you again,” I said.

Then I shut up and listened.

“We won’t ever work with your employer. All you do is sell useless IT outsourcing solutions that are low quality, low cost, zero responsibility, and cause disasters.”

The customer went on a rant. I let them. They got to the end. Time was running out and the meeting ended abruptly.

My one chance died.

I searched around for a solution. It would be too hard to convince them my employer was worth working with. So I looked for a way to change employer names. I googled my employer. We’d made no less than six acquisitions in a year. I searched on LinkedIn for a face at one of the acquisitions. A high school contact showed up. We had coffee.

Then I said, “Can I borrow you and your employer’s logo for 15 minutes?”


A few weeks later I managed to get time with the other leader, who worked with the previous guy that wanted my employer assassinated. Again, I got 15 minutes. I got right to it.

“Would you consider working with my employer?” I said.

The customer went on the same rant as his colleague.

“You guys are the worst IT company in history.”

He waited for my response.

“I completely agree. What we did isn’t fair. We sell low-quality, low-cost solutions that blow up in your face. Never trust us again.”

The customer seemed taken back. Apparently the last three people that had my job all tried to fit in and change his mind.

“Look, we acquired a company that does high-quality work in the areas you need help. They’re not offshore, they know their stuff, and they also hate my employer. They are a separate company and have nothing to do with us. Can I introduce you to them instead?”

The customer agreed. Not long after we signed the unsignable deal, according to my boss, and made a boatload of money for our corporate mothership.

Those that came before me followed the corporate sheep off a cliff. They tried to change minds instead of admit their mistakes and listen to the customer.

That’s why they became replaceable. Some got fired. Others took forced redundancies. And others got micromanaged until they quit.

Patient people don’t fit in

What looks like success is often just patience

— Shane Parrish

I tell people to think of big goals over 5 years.

This rule has pissed off herds of sheep.

They think my approach is dumb. Society wants everything now. Dopamine-driven smartphone behavior makes us ungrateful adult babies. We blame tech when we really should blame ourselves for being so impatient.

You can fit in and want everything now. Or you can be an outcast and want everything when you’ve put in the effort and earned the right.

Short-term thinking leads to failure. That makes you replaceable. Oh, and nobody cares about your sob story because nobody is coming to save you.

Save yourself and learn patience.

The zero hype pseudonymous icon that changed the internet forever

Satoshi Nakamoto is an outcast that invented Bitcoin. You can read through all of his work and online conversations with a simple google search.

What I love about Satoshi is there’s zero hype.

He/she would be pissed if they could see all the Lambo, crypto scams, and flexing that came after their idea went mainstream and blew up the internet.

Satoshi is most well-known for the fact they undersold and overdelivered. That’s why their work can never be replaced. If they’d tried to fit in we would have ended up with another greedy Mark Zuckerberg.

Instead what we got is a person so humble that they wanted their idea to help society, and then to exit through a hidden trap door, never to be spoken of again.

Think about how irreplaceable humble people are.

Final Thought

Loud, obnoxious, selfish people that do what everyone else does are replaceable. Don’t become like the sheep.

Try to *not* fit in.

Be unconventional like Satoshi. Be humble like Keanu. Do the opposite of the corporate sheep and get away from the corporate Powerpoint deck. Arrive at the doorstep of someone in need like my former boss, even when you’re not asked.

Be yourself. Be a weirdo. Think in 5-year chunks. Be quiet more often. That’s how you become irreplaceable, therefore, unforgettable.

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