To me, Thoreau was not interesting at all, Emerson however, said some things that sounded familiar to me, and that i possibly agreed with.
"What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude."
Which, to me, he is saying exactly what i think as well. We all, as individuals, must take pride in teh fact that we ARE individual, embrace it, and expand upon it rather than following the crowd. One must not be afraid to make mistakes, to expand upon what they hear, to indulge themselves in a small, unexplained tidbit. By following society, one is just another part of society. A number, rather than a name. As Emerson states, if one individualizes themselves, they will be remembered singly, rather than part of a conformative whole.
"But do your thing, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. A man must consider what a blindman’s-buff is this game of conformity. If I know your sect I anticipate your argument."
By doing the unexpected, you surprise people, give them what they aren't looking for, make them think of things in new ways, with new direction. However, become a number, and you are grouped with them, you are expected to do as your "crowd" does.
W.K. Clifford, a gentleman i learned about in philosophy, reminds me of Emerson in a sense, because of his beliefs. Clifford believes that beliefs guide people to their actions, and to him, if someone tells you something, and you don't "have time" to investigate what they say, and you just accept their beliefs, then you don't have time to believe. One must take things, investigate them, and adapt them and accept or reject them as their own. What works for one person may not work for another, and Emerson, saying this, is in a sense defying authority(conformative society) by trying to convince people to become inviduals.
I believe that everyone is given the little extra kick needed to become an individual, however, societies conformative ways often place fear into the minds of people, cancelling out the curiousity of becoming an individual. If one can rebel a little, bite the hand that feeds them, and pull out that INDIVIDUAL strength, people can turn into a name and not a number, and share ideas as their own, not as part of a group effort. People can be remembered rather than forgotten and accepted as a conformative groupie.