Sales and Sales Management Blog

May 24, 2010

Guest Article: “Success Starts With You Being Different,” by Dan Waldschmidt


Success Starts With You Being Different
by Dan Waldschmidt

You can’t stand out when you look like everyone else.

You can’t inspire and challenge others when you are just as fearful as them to stand out and be noticed.  To put yourself in a position where people disagree with you.  To be criticized, abused, and disbelieved.

To make a difference, you first must be different…

Last Friday I spent the day being inspired at TEDx Greenville.  If you have never had the chance to go to a TED event, then you are truly missing out on an amazing opportunity to be wowed.

In the space of eights hours, there was Vaguen talking about the “Power of Ignorance”, a trumpet choir, a banjo performance, a concert pianist, Marshall Chapman singing rock ‘n roll, and Loretta Holloway singing cabaret. There was a rocket scientist talking about social media and 21 year old student telling the story of traveling across country performing random acts of kindness.   Ellen McGirt, from Fast Company, talked about “Showing Up” and Paul Anderegg demonstrated old-time clogging called “flatfooting”.  Five dudes with Ph.D.’s talked about everything from hydrogen to climate change to the morality of capitalism.  It was diverse and powerful.

And then there was Tradd Cotter, the wonderkind mushroom mountain scientist, and Tim March, the blue-haired performer whose act on broken glass was only bested by his inspiring words about us feeling like we “needed permission” to go do amazing things.  To me, these two were the most inspiring of all the amazing presenters.

Curiously, they were also the most different, which got my thinking…

It’s being different that we look to as a success.  Why?

Most of us have a hard time being different…

Standing tall on the trophy stage is pretty easy.  But standing up in the rest of the world requires a lot of effort.  You really have to be a mental ninja.

That probably explains why we all aren’t more successful.

And here’s an observation for you: It’s not entirely our fault for having this fear.  Everything we were ever taught since the beginning of baby-dom was about “fitting in”.

  • As we entered school, we we told to “get along with everyone” — even when we saw that bad people were taking advantage of those around us.  As long as they didn’t mess with us, we were “cool”.
  • When we went into public, we were told that is was embarrassing to “make a scene” — even though for us is seemed like we were standing up for something.  We were expressing ourselves.
  • At our first job interview, the HR team kept asking us if we were a “team player” — and then went on to explain our compensation that was based on individual achievement.

All these “fitting in” qualities produce high-quality mediocrity.  A “Grade A”, absolutely-guaranteed batch of status quo.

But they don’t produce success — the deeply inspiring breakthroughs that we dream about.

Success is the opposite of being like everyone else.

The reality is that most of us don’t like ourselves in our current state.  We wish we were less fearful, selfish, and more kind.  We know it about ourselves and hope you don’t find out soon enough.  So why would we like you who is trying so hard to be like me.  We were hoping that you would be different — and inspire us.

It may be hard to dye your hair blue and jump around on glass.  It may be hard to get laughed at all through school as you grow bucket after bucket of mushrooms in your parent’s garage.

But didn’t we know that success was hard in the first place?

Whether it’s changing your title on your business card from Receptionist to “Diva of First Impressions” or preparing a proposal to your client that is the exact opposite of what all your competitors have put together — you’ll find yourself conquering more when you put in the emotional investment to be different…

And several things to think about in your Success Quest:

  1. Being different won’t kill you…
  2. Being different will get you noticed…
  3. Being different won’t have people outwardly lauding you… (at first)
  4. Being different secretly makes people respect you…
  5. Being different probably won’t get you the incremental job promotions…
  6. Being different positions you best to be able to change the world…

It’s our obsessive compulsions that yield greatness, not our penchant for compromise.

It’s Thomas Edison trying one more time after the 983rd failed attempt to build a working light bulb. It’s Harland Sanders trying the 1,009th time to convince a restaurant to buy his famous chicken recipe.  It’s Oprah Winfrey sharing hope for the sexually abused in spite of her own scars.

It’s about you deciding that being your same self or like anyone you know is no longer acceptable.

It’s about being different.

And us starting that today.

Dan Waldschmidt is partner in a private equity technology accelerator and a former technology CEO. He got the usual entry-level job right of college, but then he changed the sales process, earned millions of dollars for the company, and became CEO by the time he was 25.  Dan is partner in a private equity technology accelerator and a former technology CEO.  He is an early-early-early adopter of game-changing technology.   He blogs regularly on his motivational selling blog Edge of Explosion.

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4 Comments »

  1. Being different is emotionally difficult work. But so very rewarding…. Thanks, Paul for sharing this with your community.

    Comment by Dan Waldschmidt — May 24, 2010 @ 8:46 am | Reply

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