Find the Unique Sweet Spot

Stand out by being uniqueHow do you get to the point where you can truly embrace the weirdness, or uniqueness if you prefer, that is you?  This is a real solid challenge.  We know it is because you and I can look around us and see people who have no clue even that they are unique, let alone what that uniqueness is.  It is demonstrated in the way they jump on the latest fad as if they were missing the bus.  They line up for hours to buy the very latest iPhone or gadget, gotta wear the latest fashion, toss down the most recent popular drink, or try the latest adventure.

When I was in college I applied for a job as a bartender at a local bar.  When I told the manager I had no formal training, he waved aside with his hand in the air, and simply told me

read Playboy every month and learn the featured drinks.  That’s what these guys are gonna come in and ask for if they don’t want a beer!

That’s a great example of how the majority of people simply will allow themselves to be led around, told what to like, what to drink, what to feel, and what to do.  But you and I don’t desire to be that way; if you did you would have quit reading this several minutes ago.  So how do we escape the trap of being like everyone else and be who we really are?  Even more to the point, how do we do it in such a way that we add value to others and make a living and a life doing it?

Unique Awareness

Being unique, being weird, requires a special awareness of yourself that most others don’t have.  It means you need to spend time identifying and understanding your gifts, unlocking your passion behind them, and reflecting how to best use those gifts to add value to others.  See, we are all born with gifts that were bestowed upon us to be used to provide something unique in this world; something that only we can do.  That gift is designed to be used for a special purpose.  There is at least one someone waiting for us to come along and share that gift with them to make a difference in the world.  Some of us will directly influence a small number of people, maybe even one.  Some, like Zig Ziglar, John Maxwell, or Tony Robbins may affect thousands or millions.  The point isn’t how many but how you will influence them.  So, identifying those gifts and learning to maximize them is the first step in preparing yourself to make that impact.  That’s your purpose.

Applying Your Purpose

Find your unique youOnce you have identified your gifts, it is imperative that you learn more about them and how to optimize them.  You also need to learn the various ways in which your gifts can be used.  The emphasis here needs to be on ways to use your gifts that benefit others.  God did not give you a gift to use only on yourself; he blessed you so you can be a blessing to others.  You must find that one way to use your gifts that allows you to provide maximum benefit.  It will based, at least partially, on background and life experiences.  We do not go through life randomly, even if we did not navigate it.  Every job, every experience, no matter how unrelated, prepared us for that one way that we will have the most influence.  Don’t de-value what you have done in the past just because it does not relate directly to what you want to do now.  It was preparation.  It was shaping you and molding you into what you are to become.

Now the real hard work begins.  You have to do the work of actually applying it.  You have to spend time EVERY DAY developing and honing those gifts. This is the start of a perpetual journey of growth.  It never stops until you have reached the point of not being able to learn anything anymore.  I mentioned in a previous post about Teddy Roosevelt that when he died they found under his pillow a self-improvement book he had been reading.  Teddy knew that your entire life is a growth journey to challenge yourself to become more than you were yesterday.

Be a 1%er

That sounds overwhelming, but you can break it down into an easily manageable system.  Focus simply on growing yourself by 1% a day.  Committing yourself to being a 1%er means that over time you grow exponentially one day building on the next and at the end one year you have grown yourself OVER 365%!  Remember that: become a 1%er.

No Weaknesses

And let’s make this a little easier:  STOP WORKING ON YOUR WEAKNESSES.  Conventional wisdom has always told us to identify our strengths and weaknesses and then work to improve our weaknesses.  It is non-productive to focus on our weaknesses because if we work hard we can at best become mediocre at them; while at the same time we neglect our strengths and won’t prepared to get the most out of them.  Focus instead on your strengths and your gifts.  Overcome your weaknesses by finding others whose have strength where you are weak and team up with them to meet your goals.

The I in Team

That leads to the last point of this, which is what John Maxwell always reminds us of

One is too small a number to accomplish anything!

We are meant to be dependent upon others and work together to achieve great things.  None of us is as smart as all of us.  So while building upon your gifts you should also be building your team.  Find people who have character you desire and are ready to buy into the vision of what you want to accomplish.  Walk the path together and share the journey and share the treasures.  Start it by being truly unique.

And remember, UNIQUE and UNITE both begin with UNI, meaning one.  By developing your uniqueness and finding unique others, you can UNITE together to have a singular impact on this world.

A journey like that is worth starting today!

Follow your passion, not your pension – Denis Waitley

Action Plan

  1. Start identifying your unique gifts.  There are lots of tools to help you here.  Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and DISC are a good start, but look to other less scientific tools as well, such as Stand-Out by Marcus Buckingham and StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath.  I am also a big fan of the Fascination Advantage Test by Sally Hogshead. I have tried them all and find these three to highly accurate and consistent.  You may have to purchase a book for the access code to some of these, but it is well worth it.
  2. Think back to ways you have used those gifts in the past.  Which times did you find yourself getting the greatest results?  The greatest joy?  When did you get lost in the moment while using your gifts?  This will help you identify how you should use them.
  3. Plan and schedule your daily growth of those gifts.  Remember the 1%.

YOU Overboard

Is it possible to be too much you?  Is it possible to embrace your uniqueness – your weirdness – to such an extent to where your repel instead of attact?

Extreme Unique Personalities

unique look on Jesus in GodspellIn High School, I had a friend who was definitely unique and definitely embraced his weirdness.  His appearance even caught your attention.  He had brillo-like hair, similar to the actor who played Jesus in the movie Godspell.  When he got on a roll, his eyes had this wide-open, almost wild look to them.  He was funny and made a point to do crazy things.  Campaigning for class president in our senior year, he drove his moped into the gym and around the floor and then parked it next to the stage so he could take the podium for his campaign speech.  The audience loved it and he was overwhelmingly elected class president.

Too extreme?

Depends on your circumstance.

In an audience of high school seniors, it was perfect.   Not so popular with the basketball coach since he just drove a vehicle around on his freshly refinished hardwood basketball court.

Art Grindle and his unique way of selling carsIn the Central Florida area, there used to be car dealer named Art Grindle.  He would air commercials on local television showing some of the cars he had on sale, he would show a poster with the price of the car on it, get excited, and the scream “I’ll cut the price in half!” while he enthusiastically tore the poster down the middle.  Sometimes he would jump up on the car or car roof and do the same thing.  He made that mistake one time with a convertible.  You guessed it, fell right through the roof!  The driver bailed out and ran and Art just stood there sticking out of the roof and exclaimed “Look!  There’s a hole in the roof!  I’ll cut the price in half!

Too weird? 

Well, in used car circles some use the mantra of “anything that moves metal”.  Art was eventually elected to our state senate and served there for ten years.  In preparation for that, he toned down his on-air antics a bit.  Whether that helped him or hurt him is hard to say.

When Unique is Too Unique

I think you gauge whether your weirdness is too much based on several factors.

  • Your audience
  • Your purpose
  • The circumstance

I have seen many who choose to be unique or just plain weird and take it to the extreme.  They go for the polar opposite for no other reason than to stand out and be seen as weird or extreme.  This is self-serving; it typically has no other viable purpose than to attract attention.  When the focus is on you instead of on what you do and perhaps the different way in which you do it, then it’s not serving your purpose of making you stand out from the crowd; instead it makes you a pariah.

I am in no way suggesting manipulating people by forcing behavior.  Of course, I think going to the extreme just to go to the extreme is a little manipulative as well.

The idea here is to simply recognize how you ARE different and instead of hiding it celebrating it.  You still have to provide something of value to your client and you still have to perform when the time comes.

What do you think?  Is it possible to be too weird?  How do you know when you’ve gone too far?


The Business of Being Unique

unique rabbitThere is an old kid’s joke:

Q:  How do you catch an unique rabbit?

A:  Unique up on him!

Silly, but perhaps it has some value for us.  For small businesses, entrepreneurs, and solopreneurs, there is a big emphasis on finding your niche – the market that is almost exclusively yours.  The principle behind it is that if you try to market to everyone or try to be everything to everyone, you end up being nothing to anyone.  In the highly competitive marketplace today, especially with the explosion of entrepreneurs, it becomes important to target what you do to a specific group of people.  That group becomes your tribe or niche that can be yours and you can dominate that market much more effectively IF you know how to talk to them so that your message resonates with them and presents a sense of urgency.

What I see happen a lot with small businesses is aptly described by Marketing Coach Robert Middleton as trying to run their small business as if it was a big business.  Trying to compete with the marketing and organization.  It can’t be done.  You don’t have their budget or their resources.

The Unique Solution

be unique - stand outSo stop trying to be a big business.  Instead take advantage of what you have as a small business.  Part of what you have is the unique culture of your organization.  Whether you are a solopreneur or have 50 employees, there are things that are unique about you and your organization.  Maybe even a little bit weird.  Instead of trying to hide that, celebrate it.  Emphasize it!  Go out of your way to point it out to your customers and friends.  Integrate it into everything you write and say about your business.  There are distinct advantages to doing this:

  • You stand out from the crowd.  In the competitive marketplace, you can’t afford to fit in or be one grape in the bunch.  You need to be the lone banana.
  • You become more appealing to your niche.  They don’t want cookie-cutter, they want someone with character who will be as devoted to them so they can become devoted to you.  They want special!
  • You will connect better with people, customers and friends alike.  There is a whole generation out there that values authenticity.  The more you and your organization embrace who you really are, the more people will relate to you and trust you.

So how do you catch a unique market?  

Unique up on it! 

Action Plan

  • What is it about you or your company that is unique?  What makes you a little weird?
  • In what ways is that appealing to your target market?  What are some possible dangers?
  • How can you leverage that to connect better with your clients?
  • How can you integrate it into every communication with people inside and outside your company?

Strange and She Likes It

My daughter Liza, young teen that she is, loves to occasionally sing the lyrics to a song that was made popular on one of the kid channels on TV.

Come to think of it, she sings the whole song.

Come to think of it, she is ALWAYS singing some song, but more on that later.  The song she sings was sung by an artist named Skye Sweetnam.  You can see the video here:

Skye Sweetnam Video

The chorus goes like this

I’m strange
And I like it
That’s just the way I am
I can’t change
I can’t hide it
That’s just the way I am
Might as well get over it
But don’t try to understand
I’m strange
And I like it
That’s just the way I am

This may not be your style of music; certainly isn’t mine.

Celebrating Unique

being unique can be great
Dogs don’t worry about being unique, they just embrace who they are.

What I like about it, however, is the celebration of being who they are.  If you interpret it into adult-speak, the song basically says that yes I have idiosyncrasies, yes I do dumb things sometimes, yes I say silly things but all of that is what makes me unique and I gladly embrace it.  I think it is a great message for kids to learn, particularly since there is so much incredible pressure among their peers to be like everyone else.

Striving to Find My Unique Me

I know I felt it when in Junior High School (what we now call Middle School) and High School to an extent.  I went to a Junior High School where the vast majority of my peers were from families in higher income brackets than hours.  Polo branded shirts and Levi branded jeans were the “standard” and if you didn’t dress like that you were an outcast.  We could not afford those and my parents have always been thrifty so I wore Sears Kings Road jeans.  You can guess how that went over with my peers.  I hovered around the edge of several different peer groups and tried to fit in but never really got there.  I finally decided to quit trying and that’s what started to make the difference.

Once I reached high school, I started to embrace what was unique about me.  Naturally, I went a bit overboard for a while but I managed to stand out in high school and even show some leadership.  It was also there that I was allowed to grow more of the skills that set me apart.  While I had athletic skills, I chose to spend more time with speech and drama, particularly speech and was a competitive speaker all through high school and into college.  It helped me discover and hone the special talents, personality, and style that made me unique.  By setting myself apart and showing confidence in that person, I experienced more respect and popularity and SUCCESS than I ever did trying to be like everyone else.

The Girl Just Can’t Help It

I mentioned my daughter is always singing.  That’s no exaggeration.  Pretty much there is a song in her heart and on her lips every moment of every day.  While it sometimes wears thin, I would never dream of stopping her.  It is her essence; it is part of what makes Liza uniquely Liza; along with her total acceptance of anyone regardless of race, intelligence, capability, or popularity.  I hope she continues to embrace that to find her true success.

Action Plan

  1. What about you?  What makes you uniquely you?  Are you embracing that or have you hidden that in order to fit in?  How’s that working out for you?
  2. What can you do today to bring out more of YOU in what you do?