In my last post I shared some perspectives on the challenge of positioning, on getting noticed and standing out within a world where so many new things are coming into existence and where so much noise is calling on our attention. One of the perspectives I shared was the concept of socialability and the elements of being sticky, shareable and edgy as an approach to getting more of what we do into everyday conversation, into our social networks, and even into the media.
In this current post I’d like to continue to share some thoughts around this concept of standing out and in particular I’d like to explore this from the perspective of our inner fortitude. Whilst I generally write within the context of customer experiences I believe this notion of standing out applies throughout our lives.
To clarify that by standing out I’m not referring to a situation in which we become a person of rock-star status dealing with groupies, tinker tape parades and paparazzi … but rather I’m referring to a context of personal achievement and satisfaction. Standing out for one person might be completely different to what it is for someone else – the connecting thread between these differences is for each person there will be a sense of contentment and through this speak a voice that inspires and enriches the lives of others.
So why the need to stand out? Why not just plod along, keep your head down and do your work? Why not just earn your pay, come home and do it all again tomorrow?
My response to this is that I believe there is a restless spirit in each of us, an essence that seeks to do better, that wants to achieve that which is important to us. If you are into Maslow’s work then this is the self-actualising level of his famous pyramid (illustration below). And it could be just relevant to a professional career context as it can to a hobby, sport, family life and / or Volunteer pursuit.
(Dan Price – Maslow’s Pyramid)
If this restlessness of spirit is a protagonist in this story then I believe we each have an antagonist that provides a continuous challenge. For some it is a fear we need to work through, for others a series of personal priorities that they need to juggle.
If standing out is important to you I hope the following thoughts provide you with some ideas to help you on your quest of standing out.
The metaphoric couch
With a quest of wanting things to be better we can sit on the couch and wish and wait … and whilst this might be a comfortable strategy it will rarely yield results. As I mentioned in my last post to stand out requires action. Waiting only fuels the antagonist in our story. Just listen to the message with songs such as Harry Chapin’s classic ‘Cats in the Cradle’ or Mike and The Mechanic’s ‘The Living Years’ which speaks of how by not taking action time will continuously dissolve any potential opportunities.
If we do choose to get busy then we need to be mindful of the trap where we are just using this busyness as a distraction – what I call sitting on the metaphorical couch. By this I’m referring to those actions we undertake as a disguise for procrastination … the kind of actions we can use to say to others ‘hey look I’m busy’ but in reality we are just procrastinating and are avoiding doing the tough stuff. In the words of the singer songwriter Alanis Morrisette “It’s easy not to, so much easier not to!
We need to get into the game … whatever the game is. It’s like the sporting scout who spots the promising rugby league player or the scout who frequents the stand-up comedy bars on the lookout for the next comic genius … to stand out we need to be out there doing the yards in the sporting arena or cutting our comic teeth on the stage. Sitting and wishing might avoid the bruises but it’s the bruises that lead to the bigger goal. And bruises are always easier to deal with when you win the game.
The inner game of talent, resilience and purpose
People are increasingly attracted to other people who have a clear purpose. There is often an air of confidence around someone who is committed to purpose and we can’t help but be drawn to this especially if it is one of social, ethical and/or environmental good.
I think of the incredible work undertaken by people like Fred Hollows and his mission of restoring sight to Australian Aboriginal Peoples. Of groups like RUOk? which achieved close to a 70% brand awareness within the Australian population within just a few years of its launch.I believe this was because of RUOk? having such a strong and resounding purpose around checking in with your family and mates.
Closer to home I’ve a friend whose brother works as a nurse in a small hospital and who in his spare time is committed to helping the less fortunate of his community. Beyond this community he is unknown … in his community he stands out through his purpose.
I’m not sure if some of our leaders like Ghandi and Mother Teresa ever wanted to be cast atop of the world stage … but I do believe they were fully committed to a purpose that mattered and through this the standing out came as a consequence.
There’s no doubting that it can be a tough gig on the journey to standing out. As the legendary rock band AC/DC once wrote – it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll. To keep off that real or metaphorical couch we need a toughness to push through the many things which can paralyse us.
I use the word resilience to capture this essence of ‘toughness’ and believe it can apply to a variety of contexts.
For example, the dogmatic commitment of people like Marco Olmo who started running at 26 but had to wait until his 50s before winning a title. Now in his late 60’s he has become a legend of extreme running having competed in events within a range of testing environments and distances.
Or the sole parent who despite endless periods of ‘just getting by’ still demonstrates a remarkable patience with their kids? And there is the leader who despite suffering fatigue from endless change programs within their organisation does not offer a sense of resignation but remains resolute in motivating staff and seeking to make things better.
Christina Guidotti (www.christinaguidotti.com.au) captures this essence of resilience as a person’s conviction and how important this is in making the most of what we have.
You might have heard of the need for 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery. This idea was popularised by Malcolm Galdwell in his book Outliers. In this book he used a case study of the Beatles who became one of the greatest bands in history not just through sheer talent but because they were able to hone this talent through performing all night shows in Hamburg.
Whilst there have been come contrasting views to this 10,000 hours including Josh Kaufman’s book ‘The First 20 hours … how to Learn Anything… FAST!’ (Josh was also the bestselling author of The Personal MBA … so knows a few things about standing out) I still believe it is another perspective on resilience.
A common challenge for which we need resilience is when needing to avoid the lure of comparison. Matt Church (Founder of Thought Leaders Global) said that the game of comparison can ‘wipe you’. And I believe this can be so true and a common cause of negative and wasted energy.
There will always be those who are better off, those who receive the silver spoon, those who have less restrictions on their time and who seem to have an easier path … but so what! At the same time there will also be those who are worse off and yet have still achieve so much. I’m reminded that in these moments of comparison we still have the power to exercise our ability to choose and to either get on with the game or stay paralysed by comparison.
The key message within the word resilience is that of commitment to action, a behaviour that continues to take the steps on the path to a higher goal, to playing the bigger game.
Talent is the capacity we have to achieve something. We may already realise this within ourselves or we may need others such as a mentor or coach us to help us realise this talent.
In the Disney Classic ‘The Lion King’ Simba (the young lion) is invited to gaze into the pool by his friend Rafiki … looking into the pool he only sees himself but then Mufasa the Lion King merges into view and Simba is told “Look inside yourself Simba. You are more than what you have become”.
We often hear the phrases of continuous learning and life-long and life-wide learning. There is also the wonderful phrase of Kaizen which promotes the journey of continuous improvement (or what I refer to little steps) on our journey of learning. I work with the phrase of Kaizen by challenging myself to try one new ‘thing’ each time I present or facilitate a training session … and I even take this into a personal context. As an example with the latter, I might set myself the challenge of seeking to strike up a conversation with one new person each day for a week.
I believe a key element with talent is that it is never finalised – you can never be the best you can be … there is always room to be better. And in this way talent becomes a journey and not a destination.
Our Niche … to help us stand out
To become niched we need to almost live and breathe our position of purpose. But we also need to reach out and begin a relationship with our market. For to be niched is not just about getting good at what we are good at … it also needs to be relevant to a particular audience (market). I can be as niched as I like but if I do this in isolation of a market who would value my niche I might just as well yield to those temptations of sitting down on the couch.
We can develop relevance by getting involved in the community in which we want to stand out – get to know their needs, pain points, challenges, desires. We can serve this community and through this find out more. If the opportunity is there, we might even hire staff hire from that community – get to know their voices and what matters through conversation.
It is often not as hard as you might think to remain relevant whilst becoming niched in that we can almost always find a link. As Leonardo da Vinci once said ‘everything in the universe connects to everything else’. Or in the words of the naturalist John Muir ‘when you pick up a strand of the universe you will find all the other strands connected to it’. Find your niche and in the process find the strands that will link it to market.
The final message I’d like to share is that if you can get to the point where you feel satisfied within yourself that you have indeed managed to stand out … in whichever way you aspired to … then it’s damn kewl. And as I’ve been mentioning throughout this post it is also good for the rest of us and helps to enrich our world.