Breaking Away From The Herd

The culture we’re raised in teaches us what things we do ourselves, and what we get others to do for us. This is a deeply powerful psychological force, but it is a herd instinct, not a rational and reasoned deduction. We do things a certain way because that’s how our parents did them, that’s how our friends do them, and that’s how people do them on tv. “That’s just how people do them!”

Many people are on a quest to become more self reliant these days; to break away from the herd psychology. Self reliance, as a lifestyle, is in opposition to the herd mentality, a fact that can cause friction between those people becoming more self reliant and those happy to be part of the herd.

Last weekend I gave myself a hair cut. For a few years I had my wife cut it, but it was just easier for me to start doing it on my own. I’ve been to a barber just twice since the mid-1990’s. It’s not a difficult thing to do – I use clippers and cut it short. The first few were a little rough, but they got better. During conversations when people learn that I cut my own, they’re often surprised that someone would do that. Most Americans have someone else cut their hair. To meet someone who doesn’t do things the way every one else does can be unsettling. They want to know why I do it. My usual answer is because I can.

In learning to be self reliant, you need to start doing things for yourself that you had relied on others for in the past, and there needs to be a starting point. It doesn’t have to be dramatic or difficult, such as growing all your own food. It can be as simple as cutting your hair, baking your own bread, making a jug of wine. What it is isn’t as important as getting started and doing something.

This month, try doing something for yourself that you’ve always had someone else do. And if you get a chance, send me an email and let me know how it went.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Great post. Like you, I’ve been cutting my own hair for years. My wife sometimes trims the back a bit to meet her specs, but it’s mostly self-shorn. Thankfully, I’m getting a lot of help from Mother Nature these days so I don’t have quite so much to trim.

    Most folks seem intimidated by changing their lifestyle to one of self-reliance. You’ve hit the nail on the head with your advice to pick just one thing to do yourself. The feeling of pride and accomplishment is usually enough to drive you on to the next project.

    Many of us will never move to Walden, but each step to self-reliance increases our sense of self worth and makes us better prepared in case of a disaster. Thanks for your ongoing posts. You’re doing a great service for all of us.

  • Shannon Reese

    I have been trying to be more self reliant for quite a while. I have grown food, brewed beer, baked bread, sewed gear and clothing, made usefull things from what many others would consider junk, but I had not cut my own hair untill about a year ago. It’s one of those things that you’re just not supossed to do. It was difficult and it ended up shorter than I had intended, but I did it. As I was throwing my liberated locks on the compost pile I asked myself why this task had eluded me for so long. One theory I came up with is that most of things I had mentioned doing for myself earlier could be considered “hobbies” with large amounts of money to be made suppling them. The people who provide these supplies give plenty of encouragment that anyone can succeed. No one makes money when I cut my own hair, so I had to find that courage for myself. Thank you Tim, for doing your part to empower us all.

  • Eric

    Having no income helps it all along, Haha.. I never would have thought that making my own tool handles would be viable, when a new axe handle is only like 9 dollars. Then I realized you can buy an axe head for 9 dollars and make a (Better) handle yourself for free. That was a big discovery for me, learning curve helped me in more ways then just making axe handles.

  • Thanks for all the great, thought-provoking comments. Shannon, I like your theory about self reliance as a hobby. Thanks for sharing it, it really opened my eyes. I never knew so many people were cutting their own hair!
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