Sunday, October 13, 2013

How To Stand Out

My recent blog, "You Do NOT Need To Be Like Everyone Else" prompted a few people to ask me to go farther with the concept of not being seen as a commodity.  While they agreed that being unique was a good idea, they wanted me to talk in more depth about how one can stand out from the crowd, without alienating too many by being viewed as weird.  This was a fair request, as the post had a good point, but no steps on what should be done.

First of all, you cannot please everyone.  If you worry about those who will be turned off by who you are, then you are constantly going to be working to please everyone.  It wont work.  There will always be those who seek to be critical.  You cannot be all things to all people, and worrying too much about how you are being judged can become a full-time obsession.

The answer being authentic to yourself.  If you try to play a role, you can never be the true you.  This is harder than it sounds as we learn to conform early in life. To use politics as an example, I know people who pretend to be either more liberal or more conservative than they really are fit in with the crowd they associate.  They are disconnected between their words and actions in regards to their souls. Those who are putting on an act are never fully comfortable.  They never are real.

One can be different and stand out without being on the fringe or pushing others way.  To be unique you do not have to be weird.  Joe Calloway's classic book, "Becoming a Category of One", does a wonderful job of showing how you can differentiate from the competition in a world full of sameness.  While the book is written from a corporate point of view, it translates well to individuals.  It is not about slogans or buzzwords.  A logo is not your brand. And edgy or silly are not necessarily the answer (unless it is authentic) in finding your point of differentiation.  

Sometimes a differentiation is not really even that different.  How you position yourself and the words you use are often enough to make yourself "pop".  Did you know that there is no difference between a hurricane and a typhoon?  They are simply called different things in various parts of the world (a "tropical cyclone" is also the same).  What is it that you do that you can rename and claim for yourself?

Many people struggle with finding the pieces of their uniqueness that helps them shine.  Too many end up hosting a life long "skit" by differentiating with the wrong things.  Others just fit in to the sea of normal and then admire others who climb out of the box.

Here are five tips to finding your unique traits.

1.  Observe others.  We often think that everyone else has all the answers, but many struggle with finding their own way.  When you can be clear about what you admire in those who stand out from the crowd you can better understand your own quest to be unique. Do not copy them, but see what it is they do to be unique.

2.  Get clear about your goals.  Being different for the sake of being different is useless.  What are you trying to accomplish in your personal and professional life that makes it important for you to shine.  If you know where you are going it makes it easier to make decisions.

3.  Identify what makes you unique or what you can re-position.  We all have things in our experiences and personalities that we can draw upon to differentiate.  Nobody has lived the same life, etc...  Get clear about what makes you special (and we all have these things).  

4.  Ask yourself "do others claim the same thing?"  It is common for people (and companies) to claim something as theirs, only to have it be overly common. (Banks all claim their differentiation is that they are a "relationship bank".... but if they all are, it is not unique).  If everyone can say the same thing it is not unique.

5.  Do not hide.  Let yourself, and your uniqueness, become known in your community. There is risk involved when you put yourself out there into the world, but all great rewards involve risk.  The only way to discover if you will stand out is to be participating in the crowd.

One last point, being unique does not mean (in most cases) being shocking or hurtful.  There are example of people who stand out by intentionally offending others.  If you are looking to impact those from a more traditional background by being in their face, and you know your actions are intended to cause them discomfort, you may just be a jerk.  Rarely is being mean-spirited a positive way to make an impression.  While not everyone will like you for being you, throwing your differentiation in their face is not what I am suggesting (there are exceptions to this, but these are rare).  Your uniqueness will serve you best when it purposed for the greater good.

Have A Great Day

thom singer

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