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/