Why It’s Impossible to Be Different (And What We Can Do About It)
Sameness. Background noise. Irrelevant. Ignored. These words slap me in the face and terrify me as an entrepreneur. Like the “emo” kids and “goths” of yesteryear, we're all trying to be different, but we all look the same.
Let me explain.
Want to listen? There's an audio version below
Trying to Be Human
Just a few hours ago, I emailed my list about doing something unique. I included a short sentence about vacuuming the tile in my kitchen, and that was my attempt to be human and share something that didn't necessarily add to the value of the email.
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Now, almost three hours later, I'm hitting refresh on my ActiveCampaign report to see how many opens, clicks and replies my email got.
One of the other things I did today was start reading Permission Marketing by Seth Godin. I enjoy most of what Seth has to say, so I had no problems with buying his book. Yeah, I bought it months ago, but the dust cover has been doing its job. Reading Godin's book along with Writing Riches by Ray Edwards is a part of my strategy to help me become a better marketer.
But is being a better marketer really the goal?
My first response is yes, absolutely. Maybe that's how you'd answer that question too.
But, I think the better answer is, “No, I want to become a better connector and better influencer.” Marketing is a business device that allows us to connect with new people. Unfortunately, marketing often doesn't include connecting with new people in NEW ways.
And that brings us up to speed with the dilemma I think most of us face – How do we “be different” when there's really nothing new under the sun?
It's Impossible to Be Different
If you're over the age of twenty-five, and I know most of you are, you might remember those kids who dressed all in black, painted their fingernails black, wore black lipstick and died their hair, well, black. I started noticing that fad when I was in high school. When asked why they dressed that way, they'd say,
I want to be different. I'm so tired of everyone wearing Abercrombie & Fitch and being so… fake. I don't want to wear a label.
Well, their attempt to be unique backfired because they all looked the same. Line up an “emo” kid with a “goth” kid and you couldn't tell them apart. The boys looked like girls; the girls looked like that creepy chick from The Ring, and none of them stood out. Which is funny, because they didn't want to dress like everyone else.
Anyway, let's fast forward fifteen years and what are we doing? How are we, as business owners, entrepreneurs, bloggers, artists, whatever… how are we any different from those kids who all wore all black so they could stand out?
We take our influences from the likes of Gary V. We want to build audiences like Jeff Goins or create passive income like Pat Flynn. We want platforms like Michael Hyatt or to be minimalists like Leo Babauta. Or, don't forget the trend of wanting only to work for four hours a week like Tim Ferriss, or the more recent trend to dis the four-hour concept because we “secretly” know “it isn't possible.”
We're all so desperate to say
This is mine. I made this. See how unique I am…
that we forget to truly, actually be unique and make something that is entirely our own.
I am 100% guilty of this. I admit to wanting to blog like Mike. I admit to wanting to style my site like Pat's. And, I wish I had the guts and the courage to speak my mind, unfiltered, like Gary.
I'll admit; I'm afraid of what people might think.
How to Be Different
Writing this post scares me. I don't know if it will get published. And, if it does, I don't know if it will go live in its current, stream-of-consciousness, format.
But, I'm reminded of two coaching calls I've had recently. One with my friend John, the other with Brenda, which I had for my podcast. I also think back to when I was first building my website, and I'd incessantly switch between my WordPress dashboard and the websites of the guys I mentioned above so I could get my theme to look like theirs.
I'm reminded of the fact that every time I've tried to be like someone else, I failed.
What I told John and what I shared with Brenda is that it's our crap that makes us unique. It's those life events that embarrass us or make us feel insecure that are the ones that will allow us to connect with the people who will change our lives.
The divorce that has left you damaged, broken or hurting. That picture you took where your chins, hips or muffin top made you self-conscious. Or, for me, that story about how you got fired from your job that left you feeling hurt, embarrassed, and like you let your family down.
The moments that shake us to our core are the ones that make us unique.
The events that embarrass us and make us feel ashamed are the same events that bond us to our friends. The only possibility of being different is being who we are when we think no one is looking.
- Those goofy selfies we take and delete.
- Those blog posts we write with passion but never publish.
- The book we want to write but are afraid we don't have the ability to see it through.
These are the things that make us different.
Bold, unapologetic, in your face, 24/7 hustle has already been done, thanks to Gary. “Find your world-view and write it” has already been done, thanks to Jeff. Open, transparent, and experimental, has been done, thanks to Pat.
What can we do?
The only thing we can do, and, oddly enough it's the same thing that will make us stand out and be successful, is to be ourselves. No one can do you like you can do you.
We need to stop trying to think about doing something completely different. That'll never work.
Instead, we should focus on being the truest, goofiest, most honest versions of ourselves as possible.
Over to you: What's something about you that quirky, weird, or possibly embarrassing? Let's see who has the balls to share. I'll go first…