It’s not luck or serendipity.
Successful people generally do not fall into a bucket of poop and consistently come out smelling like a rose; it might occur occasionally but that’s about it.
People who are consistently on the top of their game and who outrun everyone else have a deliberate game plan to do it; a game plan that is focused on creating and unleashing the energy they need to consistently bring their “A” game.
They have their plan mapped out in their head and they play it out every day in the field; their plan is a natural expression of who they are and they execute it involuntarily.
The energy source for each individual varies according to their specific makeup; my energy and drive has always come from constantly looking for opportunities to BE DiFFERENT from others in everything I did.
My intent was not to necessarily to be better than someone else — relying on a comparative like “better” is a slippery slope because it relies on the judgement of the person observing what you did — but to do things with my own personal twist that would surprise whomever was witnessing my actions with the result that they would notice me in a crowd of my peers and colleagues.
My BE DiFFERENT action plan became second nature to me; I lived it every moment of very day.
These steps were the essence of my approach…
Ask yourself how the task at hand can be done differently
Before undertaking a project or responding to a request from your boss, consciously ask yourself “How can I do this differently from how others might approach it?” Generally, the crowd approaches tasks the same way; they apply common, textbook problem solving approaches to provide the answer to the problem they have been asked to solve. They consult the experts; see how they recommend performing the task and they attempt to do it in the prescribed way. My mindset was always to balk at the normal way a task might be accomplished and look for a “different box” style of achieving the desired result. It’s not the easiest way to attack the challenge you’ve been given, but it’s the right way.
Look for little things
Being different isn’t necessarily about making a quantum leap between the common prescribed method and how you decide to tackle a job. In virtually every task I was given, it usually came down to a number of little differentiators between my work and how others performed their task. Rarely did I surprise my boss with a silver bullet.
Some “little thing” examples include:
- providing more rigorous analysis than what was required
- producing a report with more visuals than numbers
- personalizing my findings to reflect the special attitudes of my internal client
- getting buy-in from a broader set of cross functional stakeholders than was expected
- utilizing a project management structure that included high currency individuals from the departments depending on the results
- having a celebration when a project was successfully completed; buying dinner
- publicly recognizing the high achievers to the organization so they had the limelight
Resist the temptation to copy best practises
When someone says to me “My solution is based on sales best practises”, my eyes glaze over and I feel like taking a nap. I’m not looking for a solution-of-the-herd mentality; what I want to see is a result that is the expression of the person’s individuality . I want to see creativity with a healthy dose of risk taking — a best practice solution is probably less risky but offers little in terms of an innovative mind set and will NEVER surprise anyone. So, follow best practices at your own peril. It will secure your position in the herd and help you blend in with everyone else — a mindset for success will never come a copycat mentality.
One of the simplest ways to exercise your BE DiFFERENT energy is to consider doing the opposite to the way you expect others to go. If you expect the crowd to do a quick and dirty evaluation of a particular course of action, “go deep” and evaluate it from several alternative perspectives. If you expect others will present their plan as the product of their individual efforts, choreograph your presentation to include stakeholders who will be the beneficiaries of the plan. The point is, always be asking yourself “What if I did a 180 and go against the flow?”
Keep the pressure on yourself
It’s really easy to lose momentum on anything these days when you are pressured with conflicting priorities, more demands of your time than hours available and the increasing expectations of leadership — it’s easy to lose your way.
I had a ritual that I performed every day to keep my energy source alive and well even though chaos surrounded me. My mantra was “FEEL DiFFERENT” and I repeated it to myself every morning. I know it sounds corny but it’s essential to discover some gimmick that will keep your thinking straight when things over which you have little or no control constantly toss you about and try to force you from your game plan.
The right mindset for success is probably different from one person to the next.
For me, it is based on the energy I get from trying to BE DiFFERENT from everyone else.
To be honest, some days it works better than others but over my 30+ career and my personal life it has served me well.
In fact, I have four amazing grandchildren who I am sure see their Papa as a bit crazy and different; I hope they never lose that perspective.
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