in life

We’re Not So Different, You and I

Let’s face it, this is Lady Gaga’s world, we’re just living in it.

We’re a part of the hipster generation, the collective group who spend a ton of time getting ready to make it look like they didn’t spend any time getting ready. All for the sake of being “different”.

That mantra is a reflection of the way we live and work. We have a strong desire to be different. Most of us were brought up to follow a set path – go to school – get a job – start a family – retire and grow old. And while we aren’t the first generation to break away from the beaten path, we are the first to do so in droves. We’re hungry for the road lest traveled – we demand to be unique.

But today I’m not talking about the beauty in being different. I’m not going to preach the value of “being yourself” – you’ve heard that tired old advice before.

Dare to be Similar

Instead, I’m talking about the importance of being the same. The essence of celebrating how we’re similar, and instead of fixating on what makes us unique, tapping into what brings us together and how we can use that power to do great things.

I read a post recently by Jennifer Gresham that “dares us to be similar” – and I couldn’t agree more. Instead of focusing on reinventing the wheel, we should be focusing on how making things better, how to improve experiences for our clients and customers not necessarily be presenting them with a totally innovative and new idea, but taking their ideas and finely crafting them into the very best they can be.

Gresham uses the example of Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow” – which, as she states, most took at face value:

People took Godin’s Purple Cow at face value. They thought purple was the important part.

Godin urges us to be remarkable, not necessarily different.  If you can take the same old thing, polish it up, and make it shine, do that.

End the angst over being different.  Stop shucking the oysters of your talent in search of the elusive black pearl.

Amen, Jennifer. Focus on being remarkable at what you do and stop focusing on being different – because – odds are it’s been done before. There’s power in numbers and we should celebrate the things we are doing collectively, and tap into the potential of working together to do even better. The more you try to be different, the more you push yourself away, the more you close the door to a huge potential of collaboration and, in turn, innovation.

Tapping into our collective same-ness

Would we get anywhere if we all acted as sheep and walked down the same path? Of course not. But we’ve become entirely over-fixated on what makes us different, so much so, that we’ve forgotten what makes us similar.

One of my favorite things to do is to sit down with other entrepreneurs, designers, marketers, and freelancers who are walking down a similar path as myself. We discuss our challenges, our obstacles, ideas and accomplishments. It’s these conversations, learning that other people are facing similar things as myself, that sparks action and solutions. It fuels a fire that says “I am not alone” and it leads to, yep, you guessed it, new, innovative ideas.

So, you see, there is beauty in our similarities. Ironically, it’s what makes us the same that can ultimately open your eyes to what makes you different.

So, as Gresham says, “dare to be similar”, and go do something great.

(Photo c/o mrcrontab)

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  1. Such a good post. It’s awesome when people do something completely new that hasn’t been done before, but so many people try to do it alone, like you’re some kind of joke if you like pop music instead of obscure indy bands. Finding common ground, making friends, supporting one another – that’s what makes all the unique things we do in life worthwhile.

    • Agreed! And nice tie-in to my Gaga pop-music analogy. Liking music not because you like it, but simply because it’s different from what everyone else likes, is pointless. Just go with what you like, and connect with others that feel the same – but keep an open mind to new and innovative ideas. Cheers!

  2. I think this is my favorite part: “Focus on being remarkable at what you do and stop focusing on being different – because – odds are it’s been done before.” So very, very true, and it reminds me of another blog post I read recently that touched on some of the same topics:

    I think both you and Shenee are right – instead of trying to figure out how different we can be just for the sake of being different (which comes off gimmicky), we should recognize the similarities and just celebrate all of our own stories. I’m getting ready to revamp my blog with a new tagline & focus, and I’ll admit that a few times in the process I was like “But…this is similar to what other people are doing!” However, there’s not really any point in NOT doing something that I’m excited about, just because it’s similar to what others have done. Like you said, it means there’s a community and group momentum.

  3. Exactly. It’s all been done before, or at least, most of it has. Simply be being yourself (aka not TRYING to be something you’re not) – you put your unique touch on whatever it is you do.

  4. Wow, i’ve been reading you for a while Matt and this post really made me think. I enjoyed the Hipster reference because that’s what we are: we all want to be hip- and in loving BPR, and indie music we develop a condescending attitude that prohibits us from truly making connections- because we want to be the only one doing the cool thing.

    • Exactly – it’s that attitude that so many folks (especially in my generation) possess that holds us back from doing great things. Instead of purely focus on what makes you different, start thinking about the common denominators between you and the person next to you and use those similarities to collaborate.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. That’s true. I think you can do whatever you do better if you focus on it. If you’re more worried about being unique in what you’re trying to do, you’re using extra effort that isn’t necessary. I’ve been trying to focus my efforts more now and I’m noticing myself getting more done and doing things better.

  6. Man this reminded me of Robin Sharma’s ( ) talks once – we do have a strong desire to be different but we are so socially constructed based on what others have to say about us. At the end of the day it DOES NOT matter what other people think of you. What DOES matter is what YOU think of yourself. Why waste so much energy, while trying to claim that we are unique, we only fool ourselves because at times our uniqueness is also being defined by others (I hope I make sense lol?). Authentic leadership and real personal control and uniqueness is all about rising above social approval – to self approval.