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How to Start Your Journey to Be Different


It has been 9 years since I wrote the original book BE DiFFERENT or be dead; since then, at the request of my readers, I have written a number of ebooks taking a “deep dive” on several of the specific topics in my original work with particular emphasis on how to implement my ideas.

Being different; standing out from the crowd has amazing long lasting value. It attracts attention — people are generally used to blandness where everyone and everything blends in and conforms to accepted norms. And when attention is garnered, magic can happen if mixed with what is relevant to people and what they care about.

Being different in a relevant way is truly the way to achieve sustainable advantage in whatever theatre you are in — life, career or in an organization.

The most common question I’m asked is “How do I get started?”

A basic precept: accept that there are no silver bullets in the journey to be distinctive and unique; no one single action that will carve you out of the herd and confer upon you the specialness that will last forever. It’s a journey; a series of acts that collectively over time will slowly give you the centrifugal force needed to move you away from others who find comfort in compliance and plurality.

DiFFERENT in your life

If you want to be different in your life, your challenge is to pick something you value — your life brand — and separate yourself from everyone else.

It starts with an intimate understanding of who you are and what you value the most in your personal life.

— Are you a lover of animals?
— A passionate advocate of protecting the environment?
— A fiscally prudent aficionado who insists that budgets must be balanced?
— A grandparent who wants themselves to be indelibly etched into the memories of their grandkids?
— A world traveler who thinks about their foreign-place bucket list more than anything else?
— An immigration zealot who believes further influxes of people should be curtailed?

Being different in life doesn’t necessarily mean that you take an extreme or “pole” position on your life view; that you choose a contrarian 180-degree view to the commonly held perspective.

The pole position on any topic is often a difficult place to be as your personal ideals and beliefs can easily be seen to be extremely negative to many. The risk of being in this position is that, in your attempt or be different in a valued way, you are seen as a crusader of a minority cause which attracts only extremist attention.

And so you get people who advocate radical immigration or environmental policies viewed as a bit out of touch and insensitive by a large portion of the population. It’s not likely that if you chose to be different as a “save the environment at any expense” person you would be seen as someone special to look closely at — as a matter of fact you would only identify yourself with the left environmental herd.

Rather than picking a pole position, being different means that you address your passion in a way no one else does; your angle is like no other so it is noticed by those around you. Your different narrative is the result of having a broad and deep understanding of your life topic; you have studied and thought about it extensively and therefore have a unique perspective on the matter — your views on what it takes to be an amazing grandparent, for example, are based on years of practical experience creating memories for your treasures.

Decide what’s important to you. Create a compelling narrative that stands out because it is skillfully crafted from a deep understanding of your topic. Have a unique perspective. Don’t get sucked into the poles but avoid complying with the blandness of the herd.

DiFFERENT in your career

If you want to be different in your career, the first thing you have to do is have a career game plan that is highly tuned to execution in the short term.  Aspiring to be a sales executive — full stop! — doesn’t really provide a call to action that will move you relentlessly towards your goal. With this type of objective you can meander for years without knowing whether or not you are taking the actions that will (might) yield success.

Your game plan must be much more precise if it is to define the steps you need to take to move in the right direction. “I intend to be the sales VP of XYZ company in 36 months” is a declaration that is much more meaningful; it will open up the specific steps that you need to take to achieve your goal. It is targeted — the VP position in the XYZ organization — and it is time bound — a 36 month window. These three variables provide the focus necessary to create an action plan that can me measured and tweaked along the way.

The final element of your game plan is to decide on what your personal brandshould be — and it must be unique to make any difference.  Without defining how you are unique and incomparable in the crowd, your career path will be an uphill climb. “Why should you be given the opportunities for the VP sales position over everyone else who want the same opportunity?” is the question your brand must answer and if you can’t define your persona so that you separate yourself you won’t be able to answer the question.

Have a short term game plan that defines your distinctiveness and is granular enough to drive you to execute. Don’t get sucked in to lofty helium-filled goal setting.

Related: Turning Your Awesome Idea Into a Win

DiFFERENT in your job

If you want to be different in the role you have been assigned, challenge yourself every moment of every day to be different — you must look at everything in front of you through a BE DiFFERENT lens. “How can I do this differently?” must dominate your mindset and guide your actions, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Stopping to ask yourself this question is a great way to start applying the concept. It keeps the desire to be different first and foremost in your mind and deeds and will become automatic once you get into the rhythm.

This approach REALLY worked for me! Every project I did, every presentation I gave and every leadership act I took was premeditated; I designed everything I did to be different than the way the herd approached things. It’s not difficult to do; most people tend to adopt a common approach employed by the masses — a best practise or a principle espoused by academia or a subject matter expert.  And, people tend to do the minimum amount required to get the job done. Knowing this, I first, focused on the practise I thought others would use and then decide on another way to do it with overkill as my guide (

Ask your self the “different” question every moment of your day to embed it in your thinking and actions. Don’t get sucked into copying best practices or a herd mentality.

There’s no end point in this journey; it’s a process of doing stuff; learning from the actions you took and adjusting your way forward.

But it won’t happen unless you take steps NOW to start.

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