Being Different Beats Being Better

We spend the majority of our adolescent lives trying desperately not to be different. No one has ever been picked on for being too normal or not being different enough. We would beg our parents to buy us the same clothes your friends wore. We’d want the same backpack and the same bike everyone else had. With the rise of the cell phone and later the smartphone, on hands and knees, we begged and pleaded for our parents to buy us the best quality smart phones and now the iPhone. Did we truly want these things? Yes, but not just because they were cutting edge and nifty. We desired them because the people around us had them. We didn’t want to be the last to get these devices. We didn’t want to be different. Thankfully, as we mature we begin to realize the fallacy that is trying to be normal. We start to become individuals and learn to appreciate that being different is often seen as beautiful. However, while we begin to celebrate being different on a personal level, it does not always translate into our business or professional lives. We unconsciously and naturally seek out the normal, and if we want to be different—truly different in a way that creates an advantage—we have to work for it. The truth of the matter is, anyone can be different. In fact, we all are very different. Even identical twins with the same DNA will often have starkly different personalities. As a business, the real challenge lies in being different in a way that is relevant, valuable to your audience, and creates an advantage. In crowded markets, being different, not better, is the key to standing out from the herd. If you’re constantly looking at what peers are doing, trying to beat them at their game, you’ll end up being just like everyone else. “How long will it take our competitors to duplicate our advantage? ” You really need to explore this question and the possible solutions your competitors could utilize to play catch-up or duplicate what you’ve done. Look no further than Google vs Bing to see this in action. No company out there is going to just give up because your USP is so much better; most will pivot or adapt in some way. Never underestimate your competitor’s ability to be agile, specifically when overcoming a competitive disadvantage. If your competitor can’t beat you by making a better product or service internally, they can always choose to buy someone who can. Sarcasm aside, this does a great job of illustrating the ability of companies—especially those with deep pockets—to be agile, and demonstrates that they often have an uncanny ability to overcome your company’s competitive advantage. In seven months, Starbucks went from a minor player in these markets to having all the tools they need to dominate tea and pastries. Have you tried their raspberry pound cake? It’s phenomenal.
Why does this matter? Ok, we get it. We need to be different, and in a way that is relevant, valuable, defensible, and sustainable. But I’m not the CEO, or even the CMO. I cannot effect change on a company level; why does this matter to me? I’m a firm believer that you effect change no matter what the name plate on your desk may say. Sure, you may not be able to call an all-staff meeting today and completely change the direction of your company tomorrow, but you can effect change on the parts of the business you do touch. No matter your title or area of responsibility, you need to know your company’s, client’s, or even a specific piece of content’s USP, and you need to ensure it is applied liberally to all areas of your work. It’s easy to stay focused on the negative aspects of being different. Thinking of the negatives about your situation is the natural response. However, dwelling on the negative is usually harmful to your mental health and well-being. Instead, try to see the positives of being different and focus on these things; you’ll notice a drastic difference in your outlook on life. If you have a dream in your heart, the only way to turn it into a reality is to be a little different. If you want something in your life to change, then you have to change the way you approach it – you have to think a little differently, act a little differently, and just BE a little differently. If you keep doing and thinking what everyone else does, then you’re going to continue getting what everyone else has. What’s worse, by trying to be like someone else you’re denying the reality of, and the gift that is, who you really are. “Always be a first-rate version of yourself instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” In order to build that dream that is uniquely yours, you need to give yourself permission to be yourself and not be afraid to let your true colors shine through …… even if they’re completely different than those of everyone around you. When you do that, you open yourself to all the magic and wonder that the Universe has available, just waiting for you to reach and draw forth into your reality.
Never underestimate your competitor’s ability to be agile, specifically when overcoming a competitive disadvantage.
Beyond the fear: So how do we do that? How do we just “be different” and kick-start this transformation? We can start by allowing ourselves to be who we are rather than trying to make ourselves fit into that box labelled “What everyone else thinks we should be.” We do it by taking deliberate, conscious steps to try new things and embrace new ways of doing things, even when they scare us or when we’re not sure that we can do them. “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” – Obviously, if everything in you is screaming “NO!” then trust your instincts and don’t… but if there’s anything in you that thinks that a particular “something new” that you’ve been contemplating sounds exciting, inspiring, fun, or otherwise positive, then work past your fear and give it a go; it might just be the best thing you ever do for yourself!
Trusting the whispers and taking the risk: There’s always an element of risk in making life changes, in crafting a vision and building a dream. It requires looking past everything you’ve been taught, ignoring what everyone else does and or tells you to do, and trusting that little whisper within that tells you it’s time to expand and grow. And it requires a certain amount of bravery and daring to do that.You have to move out of your comfort zone, stretching yourself in ways that may seem uncomfortable or even frightening at first. You have to be willing to trust in yourself and in that tiny voice inside of you that whispers your truth to you, no matter how far you’ve strayed off course. And you have to risk being seen, attracting attention, and facing the inevitable critics. It is said by Shakespeare “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” Most people will not take this risk, because complacency is easier and far more comfortable that pushing past our self-imposed limits. And there is safety in being just another one of the flock, after all. But you are a uniquely talented individual with a wealth of experience, insight, and strengths. The dream that you have in your heart right now is the precious, completely unique gift that you came here to give to this world. It’s time to bring that gift out of hiding and share it with the world. It’s time to let yourself shine and embrace the idea of being different.
( The author is a teacher at Government High School Brakpora Anantnag. Views are his own)

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