I grew up afraid of being different. I think we all did.
Think about this for a second… Do you need an example? Ok – fine. Think back and remember someone popular in your high school. Didn’t you want to be just like him? Want her clothes? His personality? Her boyfriend? You might have even tried to mimic them a little bit. Don’t feel guilty though – not unless you still look at that person’s Facebook profile every day and study it for hours. For some reason, a very vivid image comes to mind… One day, I went to pick up my sister at the bus stop and EVERY GIRL (but her) got off the bus with the EXACT SAME Abercrombie bag.
Our children grow into adults that don’t know any better. But this comes with great reason. In our world, it is brutally uncomfortable to be different. Mass media, and the resulting social pressures, make it that way. For example, if a women is not a size 2, with a huge chest, then she is automatically seen as fat. Oh, and it’s really socially unacceptable if a guy is seen talking to anything BUT the aforementioned physical anomaly. There are a hundred million other social “rules” that you must follow. Most of us live our lives trying to rigidly conform to a nearly impossible standard and it’s no wonder everyone is so stressed out all of the time. It’s like there is a voice in everyone’s head screaming “If you aren’t going with the crowd, there is something wrong with you!” But while this “sheep mentality” scares the 99 out of 100 that are too faint of heart to challenge the status quo in life, it gives all of YOU (the 1 in a 100) the opportunity to BE different. Believe me, success, in whatever facet of life you look for, is achieved through being different. Of course – I have tons of examples…
- The Corporate World: Do you honestly think that in this world of cut-throats, you are going to get ahead by working your ass off? No! Everyone does that. In fact, in most companies, usually the people who do less, but more creatively rise. Ever wonder why it seems like your boss does nothing? Oooh.. touchy touchy. In a perfect world, you could theoretically rise to the top of the corporate structure by putting your head down work hard, blend in and let your work do all the talking. But this world is NOT perfect, and hard work will just get you, more hard work…. and, if you’re lucky, possibly a 2-5% raise per year. Work smarter, not harder. And learn to play the game…. which just so happens to be… never mind I’m not going there.
- Entrepreneurship: I actually am not going to sit at my nice little laptop over here and preach that you must find a completely different business idea to be successful. In fact, if that were the way we worked, most of us would never start businesses. What I am going to tell you, is that if you want to start a business, find something that is working and improve it or something that people need and get it to them.
You all know who Netflix is right? It’s not like the video rental industry wasn’t over saturated when they came into town. No… in fact, it was overflowing. Blockbusters on every corner. But they came up with a simpler, and better way to do it. And you see the result.
- Marketing: In getting ready to write this article, one of my research points was to find the most effective campaigns. Of course, I jumped immediately to finding some of the best Superbowl commercials of all time and I looked for similarities. I found that they were all successful for the SHOCK factor. All of the great ones either stunned you or made you laugh so hard that you wet your pants. But what is this shock factor? It’s the “I’m different than anything you have ever seen before element!” Commercials and marketing campaigns that challenge normalcy are extremely effective. So effective, that I am sure that most people watch the Superbowl just to see the new commercials.The best marketing campaigns all do something to make you remember them. What are some of the ones you remember? And why? (By the way, if you have some extra time, I have included some of my favorites at the end of the post.)
- Building Friendships: Many people judge their success by the quality of the friendships they cultivate. Think for a second what you see in the best friendships you have now. Why do you see value? Is it because your best friends provide you with something that is different than what you get from every other acquaintance? Most people create phenomenal friendships and relationships with those that are unique. One of the keys to forming the best friendships is to learn and take pride in how you are different from everyone else. You will quickly find people are attracted to this confidence. Do you have a friend that you value for their differences?
- Winning People Over: This is one of my favorites. I am always attempting to observe new aspects of human behavior. I find it interesting that most people become so absorbed in their boring daily routine, that it is extremely easy to win someone over by simply “disrupting” routine in a positive way.
For example: want a free upgrade on a car rental, ask the agent how they are doing today, and be willing to listen. Need a stronger drink at the bar? Try actually having a real conversation with the bartender. Want to get a meeting with an executive? Figure out how to create a spark for his assistant. I once got out of a 70 dollar parking ticket by asking the ticket examiner for a handshake. It was so outside of what she expected that I was able to easily make her “see my side.” I have gotten more free products and discounts than you could ever imagine at stores just by being friendly and asking for them. It might be uncomfortable, but next time you need to win someone over, strive to be, a little different.
- Investing: The common mantra of investing is to do the opposite of what everyone else in the market is doing. If the economy is in a slump, the move is to buy. You don’t get rich doing what every other person is doing. You have to take the risk of being different, but then the rewards are much higher.
Here’s an example. Amidst the auto crisis (GM, Ford, and Chrysler), all of their stocks were in the toilet. However, I decided to buy some stock in Ford based on their international sales figures. I bought 50 shares at 2 dollars a share. Everyone I trust advised against it, but I did it anyway. And I made 500 dollars.
- Dating: Are you truly proud of your differences? Or are you worried that you are not good looking enough, or wealthy enough? Stop it. Guys, I have a ton of girlfriends… and you know what they are all saying? “Why are all guys the same!?” Embrace what is different about you and be confident about it. A note to the single ladies: I have it on good authority that most guys are simply looking for a woman that is unique and confident in herself. I could write for hours on how to meet the ladies… maybe I will some time. Any requests?
Conclusions:Don’t go out and try to follow all of the examples I have given you. I want you to go out and develop a keen awareness of your surroundings. Observe what others around you are doing, and try to do the opposite (within reason.) Dare to be different.
By the way, the following are not necessarily representative of my opinion or those of the staff of the Sam Diener Blog.
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