CHAPTER 1BE YOURSELF: THE HIGH COST OF CONFORMITY, AND HOW TO AVOID IT

I was biking with my friends Eric and Adam, both far more skilled and experienced mountain bikers than I, on terrain that was slightly beyond my own skill. I thought I could do it.

I was wrong.

I suffered a pretty dramatic crash, falling down a ravine, flipping over a few times, and hitting my (helmeted) head on a tree. Eventually, I ended up in the emergency room – but not before riding another hour.

Everything turned out fine, but continuing after my crash was a poor decision. Not only was I riding injured, but, because I was tight with fear, I fell many more times.

Why didn't I stop? I wish I could say it was bravery but, the truth is, it was nothing of the kind. I kept riding, quite simply, because Eric and Adam kept riding.

There are a host of tangled reasons, of course: I didn't want to disrupt their ride or feel like a wimp who couldn't handle a few falls, or give up on something that I started. But the real reason I continued? Because they did.

It turns out that I'm not alone. The research shows that, even as adults, we tend to conform to the behaviors of those around us. If your colleagues take sick days, then you'll start taking them too. If your colleagues are messy, you'll become more messy, too.

Which is not such a big deal, really. Until it is.

Take the Volkswagen diesel scandal, for example. Volkswagen installed software in diesel cars to manipulate emissions tests and illegally sidestep ...

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