Stay in your lane!?

Is that a question being proposed or is it a statement being made by someone that lacks vision?

I recall one of our beloved modern comedians, Kevin Hart, having an entire routine about this subject. I, like most people laughed and understood his point but when accomplishing greatness is the goal, is his advise practical?

We grow up hearing “stay between the lines” we also grow up hearing “think outside the box”. Talk about two contradictions. Which one is accurate?

The answer may not be black and white and we may discover the answer is embedded in what an individual is attempting to achieve. A person that stays within the lines can absolutely be successful and even be considered a pillar in their community, however is that the same thing as achieving greatness? If you want to provide for your family, be a productive member of society and be remembered for the things you did, then staying in your lane is not a negative. However, if you want to leave a legacy and be remembered for the ideas you imparted that will live on long after you have passed on, staying in your lane may not be enough.

I have been trying to think of one person that we can all agree was “great” but was also an “in the box”, “stay in your lane” type thinker. I haven’t been able to do it. This leads me to conclude that great people tend to not stay in their lane.

There was a meme going around on Facebook that was aimed at our educational system. It depicted students sitting in a classroom thinking. Thinking can be different from learning. The students thoughts were all represented by circles. Why was the circle important? Circles traditionally have signified free form thinking and an endless possibility. It is considered by some to be the ultimate symbol of “self” which translates into what it means to be an individual. In this meme the teacher was cutting the children’s’ individual circles into squares. Why is this important? Squares symbolize conventional/structural thinking. Squares, can be viewed as the ultimate symbol of not only thinking within the box, but in the case of this meme, the teacher was making a deliberate effort to ensure the students stayed within the desired conventional norm. If greatness is achieved by thinking outside of the “box” then this meme clearly goes against what it takes to achieve greatness.

There are two examples that come to mind of individuals that did not “get the memo” that they were supposed to stay within the lines, one is my Great-Grandfather, Dr. Louis Hughes. The other is former heavyweight champ, Muhammad Ali.

Dr. Hughes was born in the late 1800’s. He was a preacher and educator. He was the first African-American to serve on the Greenburg Board of Education (White Plains, NY). He also understood the value in owning property, which is one reason why more than 70 years later my family still owns real estate that he purchased. Why would a man born in the south, less than a generation removed from slavery being abolished, believe that he could accomplish those things? He passed away 11 years before I was born so I was not able to get that information first hand.. However, knowing the challenges and advertises that African-Americans faced during that era, what other catalyst could there be for his success other than not being willing to adhere to conventional norms? He is not the only example of this within my family.

Muhammad Ali, was in my opinion the greatest global athlete ever. What is my evidence to support that claim? He was known and loved around the world, even while sometimes being despised in his own country. This was before the internet, Google, Facebook or Twitter. Muhammad Ali was a brand before America and the world truly knew what an individual brand was. Ali did not think inside the box, to paraphrase a point from the movie The Matrix, he realized there “was no box”.

How will you achieve greatness? I don’t know! What I believe is there are enough examples both within our families and in the outside world to substantiate that if you want to achieve greatness…understand that a cell is also a box! Build your own roads, create your own lanes!


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