The problem is, there’s such pervasive pressure to remain average, that most people lose touch with what makes them exceptional.
HERE’S THE SECRET: It’s not about seeking rarity – it’s about squashing the barriers against finding it.
Here’s a list of suggestions to help you, your brand and your organization stay rare:
1. Do it all with daring originality. Rare isn’t the absence of fear; rare is the absence of hesitation to move into that fear. That’s what I’ve learned as a writer: When you’re up against the fear, that’s exactly the time to move into it. Because that’s where genius lives.
For that reason, I constantly ask myself the following question as I’m working: “What do I risk in presenting this material?” If the answer is, “Not much,” I don’t write it. But if the answer is, “I might piss of somebody powerful,” then I absolutely write it.
That’s how I keep my material honest, personal and relatable. And in your own career, you might consider creating a policy, filter or standard operating procedure for attending to your fear.
Perhaps a ritual that greets fear with a welcoming heart, but also leverages it into something beautiful? Without such a practice, your creative flame gets smothered under the ashes of average.
In short: Resist the undertow of normal, pursue a perilous and uncertain course and welcome the difficulties that will propel you beyond ordinary. Even if they scare you. What type of marvelous intelligence is at work in your fear?
2. Clock out later than anybody. Everyone has a chunk of the great mystery in them. But unless they’re willing to put in a little overtime, they may never get the chance to share it with others.
I’m reminded of a classic episode of the Simpsons where Homer attends his twenty-year high school reunion. Not surprisingly, he wins the award for the graduate who gained the most weight.
“How’d you do it?” the principal asks as he presents the trophy. To which Homer replies, “By discovering a meal between breakfast and brunch.”
I know that’s a ridiculous premise – but that’s what rare people do: They break free from the jail of circumstance. They work their tails off to discover that extra meal. Then, from that place of abundance and enoughness, they’re able to give full scope to their colorful imagination. And maybe gain fifty pounds.
Plus, they know it’s not about finding time, it’s not even about making time – it’s about stealing time. Shoplifting whatever you can from the crowded day to focus on whatever makes your heart sing. Even if you only dedicate fifteen minutes a day. That’s still ninety extra hours a year.
Remember: What’s rare is the way you invest your life. What new meal will you discover?
3. Be somewhat predictable. Rarity means everything you do reminds people that they have not wasted the attention they’ve given you. The trick is: Humans are inclined to ignore the commonplace and remain alert to the unexpected. It’s the anthropological mechanism of self-preservation that’s safeguarded our species for millions of years.
This attribute can work to a rare person’s advantage insofar as attention in concerned: You stand out – you get noticed. Perfect. But when the unexpected is taken to the extreme, rare can turn into scare. “You can’t be offbeat in all ways, because then we won’t understand you and we’ll reject you,” writes author Seth Godin.
The secret, he says, is to make sure that some of the elements you present are perfectly aligned with what people are used to. Otherwise you’ll be perceived as a threat. Your challenge is to decide how much predictability you’re going to bring to the marketplace – and then remain consistent with its delivery.
Never forget: Brands are expectations. What has the public grown to expect from you?
4. Choose not to follow the appointed path. I’ve been taking the road less traveled pretty much my whole life. As such, anyone I meet who does the same is rare in my book.
Here’s why: Taking the road less traveled is simultaneously invigorating and intimidating. On one hand, you’re thrilled by the prospect of adventure. On the other, the uncertainty is so overwhelming that you crap your undies.
That’s the special brand of fear comes with the territory of rare. And your challenge is to accept that the voices in your head aren’t going to go away. In fact, they’re probably going to multiply.
But don’t worry – this is a good thing. Fear is the precursor of rare. And the louder those voices scream, the surer you can be that you’re following your heart. If you want rarity take root with extraordinary force, never forget: Anything of any value in life begins with the leap.
So take it. And remain radiant amidst the filth of the world. Are you standing on the foundation of your rarity, or sacrificing your life being everybody else’s dream machine?
5. Work without a net. In my favorite book about creativity, Ignore Everybody, Hugh McLeod advises, “The sovereignty you have over your work will inspire far more people than the actual content ever will.”
That’s the mark of a rare person: Someone who’s free enough to make the music she wants to hear – not the music the market wants to buy. The trick is determining the unique balance. After all, you still need to pay the mortgage.
But at the same time, you also need to define your own private creative domain. That’s what songwriter – and my hero – Chris Whitley accomplished during his career. He was a musician whose life at every level gave evidence of undisputed singularity. And according to his obituary in Acoustic Guitar:
“Chris was rare because he walked away from riches and avoided the carefully crafted record company image to maintain the integrity of his music. That allowed him to remain fearless when it came to following his musical instinct and it’s reflected in over a dozen elegantly forceful studio albums.”
The questions you might ask are: What are you willing to walk away from to stay rare? What are you willing to say no to for the sake of your own autonomy? And what covenant do you have to make with yourself to preserve your freedom? Answer those, and your life will become a living testament to what’s possible when you give yourself permission.
Remember: There are no cover bands in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Are you the maestro of your own melody or the echo of someone else’s song?
6. Choose your commitment device. My generation is frequently typecast as being commitment-averse. The consensus is that we’re impatient, have a mediocre work ethic, don’t offer loyalty easily and are quick to quit and pursue something better.
Is that description accurate? I don’t know and I don’t care. What matters is that my commitment is unquestionable and that everyone who knows me, knows it.
That’s rare no matter what generation you come from. After all, the baseline posture of most people is not to believe you. We live in a low-trust culture and the world demands proof of your commitment. Without it, you will never be taken seriously – no matter how rare you are.
Ultimately, what you’re committed to matters less than how you wear that commitment. That’s the real rarity. And that’s exactly why I got the tattoo of the nametag on my chest. Sure, it was painful. But while the needle hurt my chest for an hour, not being taken seriously would hurt my business for a lifetime.
I wonder which commitment device you will choose. Or which one will choose you. How will you communicate to the people who matter most that you’re fully committed?
LOOK: You can’t block who you are.
And even if you could, apologizing for the best within you is the highest form of moral treason.
Stop stripping away your rarity.
Put an end to all this self-editing. All these unconscious acts of omission.
Otherwise you’ll wear yourself out trying to be something you’re not.
Instead, access your most elegant instrument. Figure out what you’re good at and do only that. And always retain burning contempt for imitation and mediocrity. Humanity will be better for your life.
You already carry something with you that’s just yours.
It’s your unique vision of the world. Your special blend of magic.
Fail to bring that with you, and risk becoming yesterday’s news.
But lay it naked for the world to see, and an unending rainfall of rarity will surround you.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How will you stay rare?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
Now booking for 2011!
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