Why struggle to fit in when you were born to stand out?
Every week that passes I try to look back to see what improvements I made to my life (if any), either directly or indirectly. This past week I can easily say that the one great thing I did for myself was to make up my mind to change my general outlook of life (not an easy thing to do though). This came about after attending the 1st Marketer’s Night this year held on 25th April, 2013. If you missed it then you missed it. If you are on twitter however, you can look for the harshtag #MarketersNightTz to get a hint of what transpired there, and what you really missed.
To sum it up though, Dr. Wale Akinyemi, the keynote speaker for the night, delivered a powerful message on Differentiation by Creativity. Though he was addressing corporates, the message cut across every area of our lives, regardless of position or stature in society. What he simply meant was that where as many of us feel odd when we realize we are different from those we would so like to be like, that uniqueness, the very uniqueness you hate, is your greatest strength.
To give you an example of this theory’s application, if there are five (5) airlines flying from Tanzania to London, besides the usual safety, time keeping, etc selling points, what would make passengers want to use Airline X and not the other four airlines? There has to be something unique, something different, something the other four airlines do not have, an experience that will forever be etched in your mind as a passenger, thus making you a loyal client to that airline. The most interesting thing is that it may even be the most expensive airline out of all the five, but when you look at this unique selling point, the thought of how expensive the airline is becomes secondary.
This scenario might seem hypothetical to you but in reality, there is such an airline in the world. I am referring to The Virgin Atlantic, which is part of the Virgin Group, owned by one of the greatest risk takers and creative human beings living in our time, Richard Branson. He is unique alright, and everything he does is unique. For instance, being the man behind such a mega conglomerate, you would expect to see him in his boardroom in a tie and suit every other day. Guess what! The man works in shorts and t-shirts, barefoot half the time walking on the beach somewhere, always surrounded by family, friends and a few domesticated animals. I guess, no, I believe this random, un-constrained way of thinking and doing things is what has made his airline different. When everyone else is going right, he always decides to do the opposite. He always takes the road least traveled and his decisions have proved to take him to great heights, case in point, Virgin Atlantic… no pun intended. I mean, even the name itself is quite creative you'll admit: Virgin....
His Airline is best known for the unique service of offering massages at 35000 feet above sea level. Now, where have you ever heard of that? Imagine you are a frequent traveller, always on the move from one country to another and having to pass through different time zones every other time, which leaves your body tired and exhausted. Wouldn’t you like to use your time wisely on the plane and get yourself that massage that would allow you to arrive at your destination, not even a single bit jet-lagged, but fully relaxed and ready to take on the meetings lined up for you in that country? That’s what Virgin Atlantic offers you, among many other unique services experienced in-flight. The airline offers you Virgin services ie. services you'll never find elsewhere.
Dr. Akinyemi’s message was very clear; if you want to achieve different results from what you have been achieving before, then you must think differently. As an organization, if you want to remain marketable in your industry, you must provide something that is not being provided by others. Unfortunately in this region there is a lot of copy and paste going on, which makes it really hard to differentiate between one service provider and another. Take the GSM providers for instance, when one comes up with a promotion for free sms, the other goes and takes the same promotion and slightly modifies it and sends it out to the market as “their” promotion. Now, where is the uniqueness in that? Somebody or somebodies somewhere are not using the virgin part of their brain.
Similarly, as individuals, we apply this “copy and paste” principle a lot. For instance, just because your friend bought a car does not mean that you have to do the same thing too! You don’t know where he or she got the money from, and you don’t know why he or she bought it in the first place. Worse still, they could have gotten it as a gift, meaning, they spent nil money on it, but because you don’t know this, and because of “peer pressure” you decide you will do whatever it takes to get a car too, even though it may not be a priority for you at the time. Crazy, isn’t it? Unfortunately a lot of youth, in fact not just youth, but even middle-aged persons have fallen into this trap. This reminds me of a quote I once read that said “we buy things we do not need, with money we do not have, just to please people we don’t even like or care about…” If that’s not foolishness, then I don’t know what is.
To quote what Dr. Akinyemi said, do not be afraid to be different. That difference is your strength, which in turn helps you create your unique selling point thus making you stand out from the rest of the crowd. Besides, why are you struggling so much to fit into the crowd, when you were born to be different? When you were born to stand out from the crowd?
This week my challenge to us all is to be different. Wherever you are, in whatever you say, be different. Think different. Do things differently. Dare to reason differently from your peers or even superiors. For heaven's sake, be so different that if you have to sneeze, then the sneeze will be different!!
For once, allow yourself to stand out from the crowd and let everyone acknowledge your uniqueness. However, it has to start with you! Yes, until you decide to acknowledge and embrace your uniqueness, nobody else will.
May your uniqueness inspire you and your week.
PS: Article published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 5th May, 2013, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words"