Only the Outcast Can Lead

Watching BLACK’s TEDTalk, one clearly sees a young man who not only is talented, but a man who has undeniably discovered his authentic self. Psychologist Carl Jung described this as individuation, the process by which the personal and collective unconscious are brought into consciousness to reveal one’s whole personality. In short: it is the process of finding your true self.

BLACK’s journey is one of inspiration and motivation to those who may not yet be living their most authentic life. BLACK himself admits he was unhappy until he discovered a passion for yo-yoing at the tender age of 14. Yet even after winning his first World Championship at age 18 in 2001, he succumbed to societal pressures and set his passion aside to go into engineering, which was a more “normal,” revered, and universally understood upstanding profession in the eyes of the outside world compared to professional yo-yo artist.

If he had asked the room at that moment in his TEDTalk: “How many of you can relate to not pursuing your dreams because they seemed ‘crazy’ or ‘impossible’ to the outside world?” I am most certain there would be a majority of hands raised in response.

In our quest for approval from our peers, parents, mentors, and even from strangers, we often set aside what our instincts tell us is right, what is true, to fall in line with the rest of the pack. And, the energy that we use to suppress our inner voice is the very creative energy that returns to us to be used for our own vocation. Fear of failure or already low self-esteem may further work to push those passions down to a forgotten place, where we try to tell ourselves they belong. The problem is that by attempting to silence our inner voice, we limit our true potential and our ability to lead full, happy lives.

What BLACK did then, is something bold and brilliant: in recognizing his inability to live a whole, fulfilling life as an engineer, instead of continuing to try to make people interested in the standard sport of yo-yoing, he turned the sport on its head and instead made the art of yo-yoing interesting to other people. By studying and incorporating ballet, jazz, hip hop, and performance art, he not only allowed himself space to practice his passion, but he did so in a way that would also make the public take notice in a way it never had before. This allowed him to not only win the 2007 World Championship, but to create his own destiny dazzling audiences with a new form of performing and art.

“What is it, in the end, that induces a man to go his own way and to rise out of unconscious identity with the mass as out of a swathing mist?” Jung asked in his collected works, The Development of Personality. “It is what is commonly called vocation: an irrational factor that destines a man to emancipate himself from the herd and from its well-worn paths. Anyone with a vocation hears the voice of the inner man: he is called.”

The individuation process leads one ever closer to the person he is meant to be, with both a sense of awareness and a sense of wholeness. This journey is not just one of becoming whole, but also one of expansion. Through individuation, boundaries of who we are and what we allow ourselves to know and feel, extend even further out into the far reaches of what is possible: our potential.

BLACK found a way to make his passion — his vocation – acceptable and applause-worthy to the outside world. He found a way to shine and stand out doing what makes him truly happy.

What we see on stage is a young man who, by listening and following his inner voice, was able to self-direct toward a unique and self-actualized life. In doing so, BLACK not only unlocked his true potential and discovered, at last, a sense of personal wholeness, but he also showed the world the power of following one’s destiny. Only the outcast can lead, for he stands ahead and above the rest of the pack.