Why you are not unique
By focusing less on what makes us different and more on what makes us the same, we can make strides in business and personal development
Driving to a client meeting the other day, I heard a rather touching piece on NH Public Radio about how leaders of various religious institutions in Cambridge, Mass., were – unbeknownst to each other – giving sermons about the same topic: We’re not as unique as we like to think we are.
To that point, reflect for a moment on what you are seeing and hearing when you turn on the news, read a newspaper or scroll through popular social media outlets: An overabundance of information demonstrating that Group A is “right” while Group B is “wrong” or “different,” and therefore not worthy of being heard, protected or served.
This is something that resonates with me for many reasons. Mostly, however, because I have witnessed very similar type of thinking in the business community. Particularly when I was leading my own organization.
I have vivid recollections of being in situations where my business acumen was questioned based on things like my industry (how can a fitness professional possibly know about things like cost-benefit analysis and ROIs?), the size of my organization (see, I’m bigger and things are vastly different for me), my annual revenue (how much you make says a lot about you) and a litany of other questionable reasons that aren’t worth the space in this article.
These people believed that they were somehow unique, that their day-to-day challenges and successes were completely different than mine. They were professionals who possessed a type of business snobbery, if you will, which influenced their ability to be active learners.
Sophisticated businesspeople have, at all times, honored and replicated what has worked. As they say, don’t reinvent the wheel. But truly successful people recognize that while you must maintain historically significant or tried-and-true procedures and formulas, you simultaneously innovate and disrupt to identify newer and better opportunities.
Successful disruption and innovation comes from recognizing that you are not unique and that there is great benefit to exploring what other and different industries and backgrounds are doing, thinking and saying. It’s that tired old expression, “Think outside the box.” It’s about going to the most unlikely sources for inspiration, advice and conversation.
Finally, it’s about taking a hard look at yourself and, if necessary, admitting that you have surrounded yourself with people who look exactly like you.
At the risk of sounding hypocritical, let me be clear: I know that we are, in many wonderful and beautiful ways, unique. We come in different sizes, shapes and colors. We speak in different languages, sell unique goods and services and have diverse methodologies. This is not the type of unique that I am calling attention to.
Rather, like the NHPR piece I mentioned at the beginning, by focusing less on what makes us different and more on what makes us the same, we can reach marvelous heights in both business and personal development.