It's a risk to be unique. With every successful unique story, there are 100 who fell in their uniqueness.
Being Unique. Just Like Everyone Else.
by Randy Gage
Message from RG: I’m lounging under a palm tree on a much-needed vacation for a few weeks. So to fill your insatiable need for brilliant and helpful self-development info each morning, I’ve asked some of my clever friends to sit in for me during my absence. Today’s guest blogger is Bruce Turkel.
In our last post we talked about the myth of being the best and the insidious way it holds you back from getting what you want. But as detrimental as that myth is, the search for competency is not the only obstacle in your path. The other myth that holds you back is the myth of uniqueness. That is, the never-ending search for a distinctive and wholly individual identity.
Everywhere you turn, people are telling you to be unique. “No two snowflakes are alike,” they’ll tell you. “No two fingerprints are similar. Be unique.” They say it with a back of the hand attitude that makes being unique sound simple and easy. But do you know what an exacting term “uniqueness” actually is? The dictionary defines the word simply as “being the only one.” In fact, unless you place a modifier such as “fairly” in front of “unique,” the word is absolute – it leaves no room for variety or compromise. You can’t be a little unique anymore than you can be a little excellent, a little perfect or a little pregnant. Those descriptors are unconditional. You’re either unique or you’re not.
Now think about not only how hard that is to accomplish but how few successful people actually pass the strict dictionary definition of “unique.” Truth is we all stand on the shoulders of giants and even the most successful among us built their successes on what came before.
Let me make this as clear as I can — standing out and being noticed does not require uniqueness, certainly not in the fingerprint or snowflake category. Instead, it requires that you be fairly unique so that your audiences can see and respect your differences.
By the way, before you think I’m just being easy on you and giving you an easy way out from the nearly impossible task of defining your uniqueness, know this: success doesn’t usually come to the truly unique because their potential audiences don’t have the sophistication to understand what they’re being offered.
From Jimi Hendrix to Christopher Columbus, history is riddled with stories of the truly unique who were ignored, shunned, and denied until some act of fate finally broke their ideas – and them – into the mainstream. Even the businessman of the century, Steve Jobs, was fired by Apple before he made his stunning comeback.
Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. A penniless Van Gogh committed suicide. And Hendrix died of a drug overdose. The evidence is pretty clear that forging a truly unique and individual path is neither the way to success or happiness. And that’s without even counting how many unfortunate characters never got their big break and labored on into obscurity.
The need to be unique is a presumptuous, egotistical myth. But it’s not a key to success. Instead, create an identity that tells the world NOT who you are but what you mean to them. Position yourself through the eyes of your potential audience and watch how they relate to you. If your tribe feels that who you are makes them better, thinner, richer, happier or whatever, they’ll pay — and pay big — to be around you. Who’s done that? Lots of people you know, including Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres. You feel good watching them because they help you feel good about yourself. Closer to home, our mutual friend Randy Gage is a perfect example of this strategy of success.
In the end it comes down to Oscar Wilde’s great quote, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
Bruce Turkel is the branding expert who makes his clients’ products and services more valuable. Bruce works with Discovery Channel, Metropolitan Health Networks, and Miami. He’s spoken at MIT, Harvard, TEDx, and hundreds of conferences. He’s been on NPR, CNN, and FOX and featured in The New York Times and Fast Company Magazine. He has published three books on branding including Building Brand Value. You can read Bruce’s weekly blog at: http://turkeltalks.com/
Thank you for bringing in Bruce. Interesting point about 'uniqueness'. In my humble opinion, unique means be truly who we are and transparent. It is this 'not about me' issue.
You are so right about position ourselves through the eyes of the audience. Are we talking their languages? Understanding their challenges? I totally agree that when people can see that we can makes them better, we have a client or customer.
I appreciate you both, Randy & Bruce :)
Viola The Business Mum
Great post with great insights!!
I,m working on create the identity you spoke of
Thank you ver much Bruce
Intriguing perspective! A VERY thought provoking post, thank you Bruce. For example:
I love the idea of getting the focus off of "ME, Amazing Unique Me!" and onto "How can I serve?" This post leads me to ask myself, "What is it about me that my tribe (a word I'm embarrassed to use, but oh well) appreciates? How is it that I add value to them? Hmmm.....I haven't a clue! However, I know all questions have answers, if only we will ask them, so I'm asking the universe, "what is my particular value to the folks I know?" and "How can I capitalize on that?"
For that matter, What's my particular value to me? What do I prize most about myself? Since I am not unique, might it be that what I like most about me is also what others like most about me?
Thanks for raising the questions.
This reminds me of Apple's most famous and profound advertising when the iMac was launched.. "Here's to the crazy ones.. The misfits..The troublemakers.. The round pegs in the square hole.." And as Mandela said in his inauguration speech, " Your playing small doesn't serve the world.." We all need to simply be OURSELVES as God created us all uniquely. We are all here for a purpose and it's our destiny to find it and live it. Jimi lived his as did Janis, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Steve Jobs, and countless others. And often living our purpose we CHANGE by stepping from what's comfortable into unknown territory.. Risky IS the new safe!
Very true comments... Being Yourself and Authentic is very important... and Your Distinction between the two is great... I think many will walk away with an AHA... Moment... Thanks for sharing...
Thanks Bruce,both of your posts are very useful to me.
I know this problem- never ending look for something special and unique in myself, and when I have found it, then don't know how to use it to earn money. If the product or idea is created, based on needs of people, only one question is important: where are people who need it and how to let them know , that this product could make their lives better.
You deserve a lot more comments here.
We can see now the human nature of addiction to a particular person, or a point of view.
But ... winners don't do anything to get a star or diploma, because they just do it.
Anyway- you have got a star from me.