Frank Zappa is quoted as saying, "Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible." In many ways, he exemplified the spirit of that sentiment, at least in his public life. He was an unconventional artist who diverged from the norm and left his indelible mark on the music industry by stretching the envelope to the measure of his talent. Some people considered him weird, others thought of him as eccentric, and still, others decided he was a deviant. Perhaps Mr. Zappa would have been happy to accept all those descriptions, or even to embellish them to his liking.

Deviation from the norm

But what is it about deviation from the norm that makes progress possible? What is the norm, anyway? And how can we tell if what we accomplish is in fact progress? These are excellent questions to ask when we feel a need to review our life, have the sense we are unhappy or unsatisfied with the state of our affairs and want to revise the way we do things in order to garner more success and fulfillment. I think "Mean Girls" can teach us about ourselves.

The norm

The norm is a nebulous concept when trying to define it in non-statistical terms. What is normal for you might not seem normal to others, and what is normal for others might not seem normal to you. In a strange manner, what is considered normal by most people are the characteristics and attributes that are considered normal to most people.

In other words, the norm becomes self-defined, and as such is not a very useful concept other than to affirm it is what it is. I also want to share some things you are allowed to do to grow as a person.

To exemplify the point, we can state that “blue is blue,” but that statement does not tell us anything about the rainbow. If blue is the norm and all other colors are deemed deviants, are we not belittling the beauty and majesty of a rainbow?

If we want to experience the richness of life, we have to allow all the colors of the rainbow to take their rightful place.


As for progress, it is both an action and a result. We go through life doing things, and sometimes we keep doing the same things over and over again, often in the very same way we have always done them, and thus generate more or less the exact same results.

Is this progress? No. It is a pattern of repetition that creates a routine if it doesn’t actually plunge us into a rut.

Other times, we might feel the urge to try something new or to do something old in a new way, and by virtue of this departure from the norm, we begin to generate new results. Is this progress? Yes. We are in new territory, exploring the unknown and discovering new possibilities. We are experiencing more of the richness of life than we previously had.


Frank Zappa hit on a very fundamental principle of personal growth that is also echoed in the adage, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” To rephrase, if you want to get something new, you’ve got to do something new.

Doing what you’ve always done essentially keeps you in your comfort zone. You need to step out of that comfort zone in order to experience something new and generate new results. There are also five daily habits of successful people.

Being normal indeed creates a comfort zone that can cause your personal growth to stagnate. Is that what you want for yourself? Likely not! So, express yourself in ways that are considered a deviation from the norm, and soon enough you’ll find that progress is normal for you.