You know you’re not much of a “team player” when they try kicking you out of marching band. For real. This happened. “David, you’re a great musician, and everybody looks up to you. But that’s the problem. They follow your lead. And you’re a bit of a loose cannon”.
“Loose cannon”, in this context, apparently meant “You don’t mindlessly swallow the bullshit we put in front of you, but take the time to critically think about the clichés and bromides we regurgitate with our group-think program”.
March and step like little cogs, my children. Adolph would have been so proud.
Yes, they almost kicked me out of marching band. (In true David Johnston style, I didn’t wait to get kicked out, but rather, took the initiative and told them to go fuck themselves.)
I’ve never been a “team player”. That’s not to say I don’t bust my ass and contribute to the greater good—arguably more so than anybody else on the “team”. BUT, I have a different perspective—the “team” is only there to serve the best interest of the INDIVIDUAL. Last I checked, there is no “team” that goes to the doctor when it’s sick; we don’t collectively eat our food, digest our nutrients, and lift our weights. Each one of us IS an island on this dirtball called Earth, 100% self-responsible for the end result of the lives we choose to live. Nobody can think for you, exercise for you, or even figure out what matters to you.
And as such, I don’t do well with the “team” concept. If something is culturally popular, I am inherently suspicious and cynical, assuming that, in order for it to be “popular” with the masses (who, let’s face it, tend to be pretty stupid), that trend itself must be pretty stupid. What else would explain its popularity?
In college, I majored in philosophy, and more specifically, gravitated toward the philosophy of Objectivism as penned by author Ayn Rand. One of the central tenants of the philosophy is independence—independence of thought and decision-making, independence of value formation and deciding what really matters to you, independence of spirit, and even independence of economics (not relying on government handouts and “assistance”, but rather, making your own way in this world).
I then discovered there was an “Objectivist group” at my school. And I laughed and laughed and laughed. It sounded like an inherent contradiction in terms—a “pack” of people who got together to discuss their “admiration for independence”. Ridiculous much?
But then, I went to one of the meetings. And I realized rapidly that I was being an idiot.
The group did not get together and group-speak and group-think themselves to death. It was not just a bunch of yes-men nodding their heads in alignment and goose-stepping to the doctrines of Objectivism. No, it was a group of about 10 individuals with similar values and interests, all committed to independent rational thought above all else; none willing to sacrifice his or her independent judgment or values, simply for the sake of “fitting in and being hip”.
We often disagreed. Hell, we usually disagreed. But we did so rationally, cordially, with logical debate and citation of fact trumping feelings and numbers. Just because an idea was “popular”, it was given no more weight or credence than something wild or off-the-wall. Sometimes, reinventing thousands of years of stale philosophical brainwashing requires ideas that are “off the wall”. Only way to tear down a rotting system and rebuild it from the ground up.
And so I saw the value of this group of people. Over time, they all became serious friends of mine, people I could trust and respect, because I knew that, even when we disagreed, we shared certain core values. And none of those individuals would have ever expected me to sacrifice my own independent judgment, for the sake of “fitting in”. That was what was so special about the Objectivist club.
Now here we stand with TEAM Warrior Within, my baby, growing like wildfire. Every week, I see more and more people proudly wearing our shirts, posting on social media, hashtagging me to death with smarmy phrases and pseudo-witticisms in an effort to win at Facebooking.
And there are moments when I step back and say, What in the holy fuck have I helped to create? Am I perpetuating bikini-think, rather than fighting it? Have I welcomed lemming-thought and flocks of sheeple into my world, just blindly following and parroting what I say, in an attempt to also be bonafide badasses?
How have I unleashed so much potential mindlessness into the world?
And then, I remember the Objectivist club. I remember that being part of a group, in and of itself, speaks nothing to the values of that group, and nothing to the virtues of each individual within that group.
I am proud of what we have built with TEAM Warrior Within. We don’t push clichés. We don’t expect “loyalty” of our clients. We expect them to pursue what is in their best interest—best value for their dollar—and vote rationally with their decision. We don’t expect anything to be given to us, but rather, proudly work for everything we have.
We have built a team premised on the value of hard work, consistency, rationality and objectivity. We have built a team premised on the value of the individual, not the value of the pack.
Rarely will you see me wearing TEAM Warrior Within clothing. Why? Because I don’t like to “identify”. I don’t like to “fit in”, even if I’m the one who built the box in the first place—I still spend all of my time trying to find a more efficient route out of that box. The instant you get comfortable trapped inside your own creation, you are doomed to be stale and unoriginal for the rest of your life. And I would rather find new ways, better ways, to keep growing, expanding, accomplishing, winning.
But I am proud—of what we have built. I am proud of the pride our teammates show towards the concept—the idea of hard work trumping cliques, the idea of passion trumping mediocrity, the idea of putting your best fucking foot forward, with each and every step you take. These are the values that we have promoted. And this is why so many are proud to be a part of TEAM Warrior Within.
Even I stand back and smile at this thing I have unleashed upon the earth. And the funny thing—I didn’t really unleash it. It was within you all along. I just gave you permission to embrace it, and not apologize for trying to be great.
Let the rest of the sheeple apologize for standing out and being different.
We, by contrast, have an empire of independence to build. Whether the logo is on your back or not, I couldn’t care less, so long as the values we cherish are stamped upon your soul.
-David A. Johnston