Why is “Normal” Acceptable?

February 03rd, 2017 Bob Compton


nor ● mal


conformation to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.


the usual, average, or typical state or condition.


I like to surround myself with weird people; people who look at the standards and then challenge them, rework them and replace them.

I prefer not to be surround by “normal” people. What can I learn from those who define themselves, their peers, their idols, or their families as “normal?” But it seems to me that this mindset is not of the masses. It seems to me that being “normal” equates to “right” or “safe” for most.

I think we need to change that.

Today the idea of normality is inflicted upon us at a young age. Parents and teachers want children to act a certain way (usually for their own convenience) and they do whatever they can to program them to act that way. I use the word “program” because it evokes suppression of creativity; anything out of the norm. Today, more and more often it involves medication.

And by programming we’ve watered down originality, lowered our standards, and medicated those who are struggling so that no matter how your brain works, you can get by. So that’s what people do. They get by.

But I work with some of the world’s most innovative media companies that are publishing ideas that people have never thought about before. They’re 5 steps ahead of their readers. For me to be effective I need to keep up, not get by.

Throughout my time at 14 West I’ve noticed that some of most effective people here are the weird ones. They’re the people who look at challenges from different perspectives and come to conclusions that others can’t. Their “weird” outlooks enable them to discover new opportunities for themselves and 14 West which help to drive us all forward.

If you look into how each of the departments at 14 West work you’ll notice quite a few ideas being tossed around that are out of the norm. For instance, when seeking talent, our recruitment tactics aren’t like many others. If they were, we’d all be fishing in the same part of the pond with the same bait for the same people. We don’t want to be in that part of the pond. We want a fish that’s not in the school and who doesn’t find solace in safety in numbers. And we do that in a variety of unique ways; ways that set our organization apart… like writing a blog that dives into the creative minds here which invites others to explore new authentic ways of thinking.

I recently read a story about a young boy with autism whose mother, when everyone else had given up on his ability to learn “normally,” quit her job to home school him in a way that would work for him, because she knew that he didn’t lie in the middle of the spectrum. ‘”My goal was not to change him, it was really to bring out the best in him…I can’t change his brain and the way he’s thinking but I can change how it’s used.'” Her son is now a Rhodes Scholar who will start at Oxford this fall.

I want to surround myself with people like this boy’s mother. She heard what people were saying was “normal” and she went as far as to give up her own career because she didn’t accept it. I think that’s awesome. And I’d like to meet her son someday.

The norm does not propel you, your family, your team, your organization etc. ahead. It actually holds you back while the risk takers, the explorers and the experimenters evolve rapidly forward.

As far as I’m concerned, there is abnormality in each of us, and if we want to accomplish something great and inspired, we need to start embracing it.


Bob Compton

CFO at 14 West

“Always look beyond.”

I make an effort to surround myself with the best and the brightest. I’m gravitated to those that are willing to push themselves. If you’re willing to push yourself, then I’m willing to push myself to take risks with you - to give you every opportunity to succeed here. It’s important to me that we remain an environment all about collaborating and supporting one another. But I also like to see competitiveness in the people here. I’m extremely competitive, and I know that this trait is one of my biggest assets. I refuse to settle for anything ordinary or just “OK.” I like to push the boundaries. It’s much more fun to look beyond. I think that’s why after more than 15 years with this company, I still feel inspired and driven every day. I feel we are all very fortunate to work for such a dynamic, and in many ways, odd company. It looks dysfunctional and mysterious and magical, but there is beauty in what all of these great minds can produce.

What is one thing you do in the office every day?
I walk around the office every day and say hello to everyone. Most days it’s just a “Hey, how are you? What’s going on?”- not necessarily a conversation. But I believe there is tremendous value in this one simple thing.