Understanding the Superpowers of 21st Century Vanguards
Life has given me the gift of travel and variety. By the time I reached my mid-30s I lived across three continents and visited 30+ countries. I had worked at a renowned consulting firm, built a fashion business, operated a software startup and invested in young technology companies — all this in cities as varied as Austin, Barcelona, Lima and Kenya.
This journey exposed me to a wide diversity of people and personalities, spread across demographic lines.
As I went through this journey I began to notice something peculiar amongst the people I mingled with.
Beyond cultural contexts, age, socio-economic status or whatever other categories we tend to group people into — some people leave you wanting more of them.
There seemed to be a common thread amongst this type of person —
Talking to them makes your image of the world a little clearer and you open up more than you normally would with others.
Without having to explain much, they seem to “get” you and their openness gives you the liberty to reflect on yourself without censure or self consciousness.
If anyone has made you feel this way they likely belong to a group of people I call ‘Modern Vanguards’.
They are amongst us and rarely try to attract attention towards themselves.
The easiest way to spot one is by the lifestyles they’ve created. Modern Vanguards live their dreams effortlessly while exuding a sense of calm and knowingness. Authenticity and openness to the world are other signals of such people.
Authenticity and openness to the world are other signals of such people. I have also found that they are driven by growth, exploration and service to humanity.
Such people have done the hard work (and continue to do so) to understand their world without the lens of society. According to them, everything is subjective and rich in context, so they go beyond simple judgements of right and wrong.
Their worldview largely differs from mainstream thought which keeps them ahead of trends and naturally make them society’s pacesetters.
Famed psychologist Abraham Maslow — creator of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs — comes closest to describing Modern Vanguards in his definition of a “self actualized person”:
“Self-actualized people…live more in the real world of nature than in the man-made mass of concepts, abstractions, expectations, beliefs and stereotypes that most people confuse with the world.” — Abraham Maslow
You may now ask — what does it take to become a Modern Vanguard?
I have put together a non-exhaustive list of principles. And If you have more, feel free to write to me and I’ll add them below!
Engaging with the world
- In conversation, give others time and respect. Understand them without any preconceived notions or judgments and don’t forget — it’s about them, not you
- Your successes likely came from a constellation of factors beyond your control. Remembering this and being humble will help you connect with everyone better.
- Etiquette is the bridge between you and the world. Take the time to understand the norms of the people you’re with so they’re more receptive towards you.
- In situations where people are being pushy, rude or loud, maintain a posture of kindness and soft elegance — always maintaining integrity in the face of the opposite.
- Maintain good moral intuition: stay close to your inner compass of what is right and wrong
Connecting with yourself
- Value yourself. Be conscious of your inner critic and take the time to give yourself some love.
- Look good and feel good — your outward appearance shapes how you feel about yourself. Look like how you want to feel.
- Keep a pulse on your emotions. Know when you are perceiving reality through the lens of emotions and understand that in this state you’re lacking the clarity to see things as they are.
- Know and accept who you are. Your level of self confidence skyrockets the moment you stop looking to the world for validation.
- Experiences expand your horizons and shape your life. Value these over spending on material things. Time spent with loved ones, exploring a new place or learning a new craft will benefit you for the rest of your life, over short term dopamine hits from shopping.
- Pay attention and be aware of your surroundings. The time and presence you give to the world around you renews your sense of awe and appreciation for things that quickly become stale to others.
- Travel freely, explore hobbies, read widely and dive into passions. All this gives richness to life and makes one well-rounded.
- Cultivate equanimity. Understand that life is a mixed bag of ups and downs. Accepting your circumstances as they are makes your state of wellbeing immune to the inevitables ebbs and flows of life.
- Have a sense of purpose and actively look at yourself as part of the human collective. Having a mission beyond yourself unlocks meaning and fulfillment.
- Have a genuine desire to reach the truth on people and nature. The never-ending journey towards this opens up possibilities and new horizons.
- Consistently tap into your inner creativity. Use your sense of imagination and stay experimental with everything you do.