>The Herd Theory: When to Follow and When to Lead


My bestfriend and I used to spend countless happy hours at the water fountain on campus contemplating what we thought was our ‘herd theory.’ We marvelled at the seemingly endless capacity of our fellow medical colleagues to  just follow the herd and stick with the crowd.
There is a total reliance among university students on word of mouth. They follow in the footsteps of those who came before them: which ‘notes’ to study from, which private lessons to take, whether to skip class and not give a damn or attempt to bribe to bribe the person in charge of attendance. Do you know why they do it? They are not necessarily dumb or uncreative. They do it because they know it works.
There is no room for textbook reading, note-taking, or even deducing facts from information. There is no room to try to be different, or approach things differently. If you want success, you have to follow the herd.
This is by no means applicable only to medical students. This scenario is the basis for our whole ‘higher’ education system. And, of course, it goes beyond education. You are also expected to follow the herd as you move on with your life. If you want to be accepted by society, you have to live as they do, marry whom they approve of, and follow the career path laid out in front of you.
Don’t believe me? Just look at anyone who wants to get married to someone out of the norm. It is considered ok for Egyptian men to marry ‘foreigners’ as long as of course they are white. What if one decides to marry a far Easten/Asian, or a black woman? What about Egyptian gals?  Marriage Herd theories here allow them only to marry younger Egyptian men: marrying a guy from another culture–even if Muslim– is generally not acceptable, neither is marrying a younger guy.

I am not claiming this phenomenon to be purely Egyptian, au contraire. It is charateristic of the human condition: straying away from the pack is dangerous for the pack, therefore, it is frowned upon.

But honestly, who cares about the pack??? Following the herd sure is a lot easier than exploring the undiscovered paths out there in life. But you know what? It’s a lot less fun; and less rewarding. Happiness and achievements stem from putting yourself in challenging situations and conquering that challenge, and ,again, conquering INACTION.

So next time you want to stray away from the herd (make a wild career leap or  try out something new) by all means do so. The world is a better place because of those who innovate, not those who copy.


6 thoughts on “>The Herd Theory: When to Follow and When to Lead

  1. >Hi Amira,This is a great article. I guess we have quite a few things in common since I too am a medical student (Alex university, 5th year). It's like you were talking about me! The notes, the private lessons, what lectures to attend, what to skip, blah blah blah. I guess this is a vicious cycle that has been repeating itself for ages. Except for the part about bribing the guy in charge of attendance. I don't know anyone who does that. I get 6 days of absence a month and I use them well. Used up 2 so far this month.Sometimes it can feel exhausting to go against the tide. I do it a lot actually. I have a serious relationship with a girl colleague of mine who I intend to marry after graduation, but we are not engaged. We met when we were in our 2nd year and she was the best thing that happened to me. You would not BELIEVE the kind of fire both of us came under from EVERYONE! I never really realized how nosy, judgemental, self-righteous, arrogant and hypocritical Egyptians were until I found how people were so blatantly interfering in my own personal business (OK, that's a generalization. I'm sure there are exceptions, but I haven't been lucky enough to meet them). At first it was exhausting because I was too meek to put people in their place, but with time I became more confident and firm in defending myself (so people call me arrogant sometimes). I had never realized that not conforming to the ideals of society could be so tiring. Eventually we forced people to accept and respect us, but it was an uphill battle. At one point I got into a verbal fight with a university professor who was forbidding mixed gender groups from standing together (with books) on campus. That was fun :)It's not only that, but in general my opinions and writings (if you've seen them on my blog) have made my friends really angry. They attack me and call me things like "liberal" and "secular" (I know these are not insults, but in Egyptian and Muslim dialogue they have horribly negative connotations) and sometimes even "kafir" just because I have different views on religion. It's pathetic really.Call me petty, but it just makes me more stubborn because I hate being told what to do.Even because I enjoy writing, my friends sometimes told me it was a waste of time and totally useless, but I enjoy it and after some practice, I wrote 2 (paid) articles for the Guardian. I even have an entire (unpublished) English novel to my name. I think innovation in the end comes from those who dare to be different. Being a minority of one does not make you insane.I think I have strayed from the original point of your article, but you get my point :)It's obvious I love writing lol.I have never had the courage to leave college because I don't think I really enjoy medicine, and I regret it, but now that I am in my 5th year it'd be better to finish and balance writing with medicine.Did you know that Guevara was a doctor?This has been one very long ramble, so I will leave it at that :)good luck and keep blogging!

  2. >This is what we were trained on: do it the easy way, the proven way, the RIGHT way. everything else is not safe, and why is that? because if the professor even felt u really know what u're talking about, well usually u're screwed..and well, straying makes u lonely unless u're lucky enough to have company.. that's why those who go astray are usually not that happy.. ever tried reading in public for example? in campus? oh the looks u'll have!

  3. >@Baher: There is a long tradition of doctor/writers… like you and I 😉 Keep on writing!! I read your articles they are very good 🙂 I am glad you realised that early on. During my years as a med-student I tried to put a cap on it. Being at the top of my class, and getting 'imtiaz' was my top priority. Hope I can get to read your novel soon :))@m yeah, not too many people are lucky enough to find company. But I think that's where the internet comes in, now it's so easy to find a few like-minded individuals, it's great!

  4. >Great article Amira. Your name is Amira right?I was never a person to follow a herb (and my astrological sign is Aries, ironic). In my world they may think I don't fit, I'm lost or I am anti-social… let it be.I got some good friends to share what I feel and to ask for help. I surrounded by people that loves me for what I am. So let it be… being different is quite hard but worth it. 😉

  5. >Hi Telma. I'm an Aries too ;))Unfortunately, I'm straying from the pack on my own here!! It's quite lonely :(I have recently undergone drastic life changes that main-stream people think are stupid: I quit a dream job that people think is so great to have; I have stopped being fake; I decided to follow my dreams…Luckily, I have a person in my life who loves for what I am too (my amazingly patient husband):D

  6. >Hello Aries! :DThanks for replying again. you're not alone. Your articles are extremely important for me and everyone here sharing with you. Thanks.

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