Over the last few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time waiting. Waiting for public transport, medical specialists of one kind or another, and phone calls. It all becomes a sea of featureless, monotonous grey waiting. Except now and again, a singularly bright person stands out. They choose to embrace difference and drawing on their individuality, get out there and make an impact. And I can tell you that when you are waiting in greyness, it doesn’t take much effort to make an impact.
- The woman who cares for sick people by washing hospital floors.
- The old man who works as a crossing guard so he can protect children. He does this in memory of his son who died in a hit and run several decades ago.
- The child who wants to make soup for homeless people when he grows up.
Like each of these people, you are one of a kind. It doesn’t matter whether you believe a god(dess) or evolution created you, there is only one person with your unique gifts and experiences. The world would be a very different place if you did not exist.
Your Point of Difference
In marketing terms, a point of difference is the way that one product/service/business differs from another. It becomes a feature that separates customers into Team Hungry Jacks and Team McDonalds. Or Team Coke v Team Pepsi.
Or as a high school student, the jock, rebel, or cool kid (to name a very few).
Or at work the organiser, team player, or timekeeper (also a very few).
Knowing how you are different helps you communicate your value, and most commonly you will do this in job interviews to demonstrate that you meet your potential employer’s needs.
Your Unique Selling Proposition
Your unique selling proposition (USP) is a short statement directed at your ideal customer. Its attractiveness and easy recall (theoretically) gets you past the first barrier to a sale.
These days you will most commonly see them as taglines or headers on websites. You might find it interesting to know that marketing gurus advise you to leverage the personality of your industry, business and self in your proposition.
And I have to say that “getting out of bed one leg at a time” was possibly more effective than “writer • philosopher • dog magnet.”
Coming back to the job interview example, your USP serves the same function on your resume, and acts as a shorthand that keeps you focused on your interview responses.
So much of the greyness of waiting is the inhumanity of the process. One who waits is pretty much the same as every other. Nowhere does it become more evident that you are merely a problem/number.
So few people today practice good manners, so consider the value of the “magic words” you learned as a child. Please and thank you really do make an enormous difference to other people. As does asking them how they are, and listening to the answer.
Similarly, understanding the difference between Accountability and Responsibility. No one likes to be passed around like a hot potato, so why not take responsibility for fixing problems that you are not accountable for? And if it is your fault, own it, and fix it!
Learn to Embrace Difference
As I mentioned earlier, there is no one like you. No one else has the same combination of education and experience that makes you uniquely qualified to offer your insights and advice to other people. Not that they will always be interested or listen, but that is their loss, not yours.
Being different can be difficult, and like any other skill worth having, it takes practice to develop comfort and facility in its application. Like learning to play the guitar; you need to develop flexibility in your hands and wrists, and toughen the tips of your fingers to deal the pain of the strings.
Start with small daily decisions that help you understand and appreciate the things that make you special. Try expressing your individuality in your clothing choices or by refusing invitations to events you don’t want to attend (you might like to rehearse responses). Make time to be by yourself so you can make decisions based on what you want rather than the exigencies of the moment (you could consider journaling as a way to figure out what you really think).
Do it Now
Don’t allow your desire for invisibility or conformity rule your life. Be brave, and choose to be who you are.