‘I’m Different And That’s Bad:’ The Lie That Stops You From Being a Brand
3 Practices to Get Weird
By Emily Soccorsy + Justin Foster
Being different is no bueno.
Of course, you don’t consciously think that! But that’s what your mind is often trained to think — especially if you are over 35. Most of us who fall into the “over 35” category came of age in the era of fitting in — reinforced during our formative career years. Wear the right outfits, say the right things, don’t speak up too often or share too many of your own ideas were the hallmarks of this mentality. And whatever you do, don’t talk about your beliefs at work, we believed.
These biases are so hardwired into you that you fail to realize how they are keeping you — and your brand — from fully becoming all it can be. If you are a senior leader or a small business owner, this “fitting in” bias is affecting your brand more than you realize. The biggest risk is that the natural state of your brand is BORING. Being boring is a business’ largest hidden expense.
Here are some additional risks of buying into being like everyone else:
- Fitting in is keeping you from standing out. The whole point of branding is differentiation. Not crass, self-aggrandizing differentiation but truly owning what makes you different. If you buy into the “fitting in” bias, you are just another oat in the bowl of oatmeal. And no matter how much you bust your ass, your work isn’t seen nor appreciated by your peers, your employees or your customers.
- You’re losing value. Nothing dilutes value like insecurity. The ego loves insecurity and feeds on it. So when you have a “fitting in” bias you tend to only see your value through the lens of how others perceive you. It is likely that you are far more valuable, more powerful and have more impact than you realize. But if you don’t own your power, value and potential, you are opera singer who is awesome at singing in the car but who will never make it to the stage.
- Stagnation without representation. Fitting in robs you of your right to explore your true identity as a brand, thus stealing your sovereignty. You essentially surrender to an identity crisis and leave your brand to be defined by others, which nobody is interested in doing of their own volition. No one is waiting in bated anticipation for you to define your brand for them. Without exploring your own differentiators, your brand stagnates, blending into all the shades of beige already available.
Instead of running these risks, why not do something different today and begin the becoming of your brand?
Here are 3 practices to start the process:
- Accept that you are different. There is absolutely nothing about fitting in that puts you at a competitive advantage in marketing or branding. The good stuff is on the inside. Find what makes you weird. Love what makes you funky. Own your own awesomeness. Practice: Make a list of the five things that make you (personally) feel different. Some of these things might trigger fear, but behind them is the true treasure of insight and differentiation. This list will contain most of the essential ingredients for becoming a brand.
- Tune in and speak from the heart. Get rid of the filtering mentality that stops you from sharing what you really think and feel. Begin in your inner circle. Cut the crap and the surface talk. Craft messages born of your own beliefs. Then watch what happens. Practice: To speak from the heart, you must first listen to your heart. Take 5 minutes a day (we use our iPhone timers to set the time), take three deep breaths and ask yourself, “Where am I at today?” Tune into the feelings that rise. Breathe. When you’re done, take some brief notes on how you felt. A 2012 study from the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging found that people who meditate regularly improve their decision-making, ability to process information, form memories and improve attention.
- Start a conversation. Open up your mind and heart to allow others to engage in a more than passing manner. It’s almost impossible to fit in when you make an unusual or unexpected observation, which is exactly what we want. Practice: Observe something meaningful in the moment that speaks to you deeply and then share that observation with someone — a stranger, a barista, a colleague you don’t usually engage on that level. Observe how they react. Most people crave real, meaningful interaction. They will see you in an entirely different light if you’re the catalyst for a fulfilling conversation.
We want to hear from you about what you experience when you try these practices. Drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you can’t do this on your own and need some coaching, consider our Root Session.