This Business of Being Unique
I have recently started reading Jen Sincero’s book “You are a Badass: How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life”. It is a very motivational book that makes you think about what life you want to live.
In the chapter “The Big Snooze” Sincero mentions that “oftentimes, taking great leaps of faith is labeled as irresponsible, or selfish, or insane (until you succeed of course, then you’re brilliant). This is because watching someone else totally go for it can be incredibly upsetting to the person who’s spent a lifetime building a solid case for why they themselves can’t”
This passage of the book made a big impression on me, and it made me think of not only leaps of faith (taking risks), but also about being truly who you are. Being unique.
I remember when I was 16 years old I went to go see an up and coming Brazilian Punk Rock band called Tequila Baby (if you like the Ramones you should check them out). They had just cut their first demo and booked a gig on a Tuesday, in a small beach town, at an even smaller bar. The place was completely empty except for my cousin and I. Given that we were big Ramones fans we got into their set and head banged the entire time. Because we supported them they hung out with us after the show.
I can clearly recall sitting on a side walk across from the bar with the lead singer and giving him advice: “You know what you guys need to do? You need to come up with a double entendre ballad just like popular band xyz so that you can get some more airplay. That will get you where you want to be.”
That my friends, was the worst advice I have ever given. It haunts me to this day that I had someone that I saw promise in (even if he could care less who I was) and my advice to him was to conform to what is popular. To not follow his heart. To adjust who HE was to fit a particular mold. Makes me sick to this very day.
The reason it bothers me so much (if I could go back in time I would slap myself silly) is that my whole life I have been running away from that very notion. I really tried hard to be myself, to be unique. Now you may be wondering: “how difficult is it to be yourself Andre? You are you! Just be you!” It is way harder than anyone wants to admit.
I have an exercise for you. I want you to go a week counting how many times someone tells you to adjust what you are doing and do something else. Anything counts. If someone asks you to turn the volume of the TV up, to change the song on the radio, to go to a different restaurant than the one you suggested, someone giving you advice on your golf swing, or to complete an assignment a different way, or to do things a little bit differently at work. I want you to count every time this happens. I’m curious as to how surprised you will be by the number of times this will happen to you everyday.
I understand that these are not examples of people trying to change who you are. However, this shows the amount of input someone receives on how to conduct themselves or what to do on a daily basis. Now add to this ALL other inputs. Advertising: You would be better off if you had this. Fashion Industry: You are better off if you look or dress like this. Internet Studies: Coffee is good for the heart! Coffee causes Cancer! Coffee improves your sex life (IM SERIOUS!). Peer Pressure: You are not cool unless you do this. Politics: Gun Control. 2nd amendment rights.
I’m exhausted just typing this stuff.
My point is that you will go through life with people, society, who knows what else, trying to impose on you what they think you should be or how you should act. I consciously fought through this my entire life. That is why I used to wear jeans, converse shoes and a black t-shirt in sunny Rio de Janeiro. It is why I decided to go to school in the US when EVERYONE I knew told me I was abandoning my country of origin. It is why I choose to sing out loud in the office (moderately), and it is why I put my foot in my mouth from time to time.
But, man its hard. Whenever I try to be myself, to be truly unique I hear that voice in the back of my mind: “Is this really what you want? You will be made fun of. You can’t pull that off.” The instinct to conform is overwhelming. It is happening right now as I write this relatively inconsequential post: "Will people read it? Why bother? How will this be received? I should probably leave the articles to people who know what they are talking about.”
I then try hard to remember that the truly unique, the ones that were innovators, did things despite what other people thought. They were brave enough to just be. To create. To do. They did it for themselves because they thought it was the right thing to do. They sought their own approval and they carved their own path. Jobs, Beatles, Stern, Stella, Gladwell, Gandhi, Gates, Zuckerberg, Branson, Ramones, the list goes on and on. Artists, business people, politicians, public speakers, leaders. All of them took the unique approach. They listened to who they were and acted on it. And they changed the world.
So today, as you work, as you study, as you go about your day. Stay in tune with who you are. Focus on what makes you tick. Focus on what YOU want to do. If you always do what everyone else does, you will end up getting what everyone else gets. Don’t you want more?
“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.” ― Dr. Seuss
Andre Wyse Mello
Andre Wyse Mello is a business coach and an avid proponent that people should be who they are. He has been in leadership and marketing for over 16 years. To connect with Andre please visit wysecoaching.com.