The Secret to Becoming a Standout

This is a guest post by my new podcast co-host, Michele Cushatt. She is a communicator and storyteller whose speaking experiences include Women of Faith, Focus on the Family, and Compassion International. You can read her blog and follow her on Twitter. Michele will also be speaking at this year’s Platform Conference, November 9-11 in Colorado Springs. For ticket information, please visit our website.

For three months each year, three of my six children are the same age. The youngest are twins, a boy and a girl. The next is a girl, nine months older. This means every March, April and May, I’m mother to triplets. Have mercy.

It has its benefits—raising children so close in age. They wake up and go to bed at the same time, enjoy similar games and toys, watch the same movies. But there’s a definite downside to their close proximity: individuality often gets swallowed up by uniformity.

For example, the other day my boy skipped through the kitchen on his way out the back door. “I want to play outside!” he announced with a huge smile.

Until he noticed his sisters snuggled up reading books on the family-room couch.

“You wanna come out with me?” he asked.

They didn’t look up, barely mumbled a response. “Nah, that doesn’t sound like fun.” At which point my boy’s face fell, he abandoned his dream of outside play, and he collapsed next to his sisters on the couch.

I see this pattern almost daily. But the bigger surprise is how often I see it outside the confines of my home.

Envying Other People’s Success

In this world of bloggers, business leaders, and message-delivers, it’s far too easy to succumb to similar temptations. A blogger stumbles across someone with a highly trafficked, killer site and tries to duplicate his success with a redesign and eerily similar content.

A wannabe speaker hears a powerful presentation and immediately abandons her message and style in an attempt to generate the speaker’s success.

Every day—on the web, at conferences and over dinner conversations—I see individuals swallowed up in the sway of outside influence. In all the chatter and noise, they fall out of love with their own voice.

I understand the tug and pull all too well.

For years I dreamed of being a writer. I’d read a great book or blog post and think, “I want to write like that!” So I’d hunker down at my laptop and do my best to write equally glorious words.

The problem? It didn’t sound at all like me. And my audience knew it.

Even this week, as the new podcast launched, a part of me felt the tug to conform. I admire Michael’s talent, respect his skill. And his audience subscribes and reads and listens because they like him. Not me. Should I change my voice, my message?

This business of developing and delivering our messages is far more difficult than we realized when we started, isn’t it? We know where we want to go. We can see the end result. But the path between here and there sits in fog. So we search out the well-worn paths of other’s success and jump on, hoping it will lead us to our own.

But it doesn’t work that way.

Resisting the Tug of Impersonation

In the chatter of a market filled with messengers, you and I mustn’t give way to the tug of impersonation. Your message is too important for that. Instead, we must commit to authentic representation. You—you!—have too much to offer.

Want to stand out? Here’s the three-part secret:

  1. Know who you are. This is no small task. It requires time, energy, and courage to connect with who you are at your core—your dreams, personality traits, talents and passions. It requires hanging out in the quiet spaces, outside the noise of the market, to connect with the less-than-public, less-than-packaged you.

    Try this: Shut down the laptop. Power off the phone. Ignore your email and analytics and social media accounts for a day. In its place, take inventory of who you are and write it down. Honor yourself and your message enough to become well acquainted with both. Only then can you expertly deliver it to the world.

  2. Know who you are not. Earlier this week I listened to an interview with Dr. Henry Cloud. He was discussing his book, Boundaries For Leaders, and in the course of conversation he said words I will not soon forget: “The first thing you need to know is who you are not. Be not conformed.”

    Although I may co-host Michael’s podcast, I am not him. I am not a technology wizard (this fact cannot be overstated). I am not a once-a-day blogger or web theme designer. And my writing style will always be far more narrative than how-to. But my differences don’t make me less-than. They make me me. Which leads me to the third aspect of the secret.…

  3. Believe you are enough. When working in a world with such talent and opportunity, it’s easy to focus on what we lack. Like you, there are moments I wish I had different gifts and talents. But to standout, you and I need to spend less time wishing we were different and more time believing we have just what it takes. It is the quirky, unique, and uncommon that makes both a product and person stand out.

Don’t dishonor the uniqueness of you. You’re far too valuable than that. Instead, deliver the one product absolutely no one else can replicate.

You.

Question: What would be possible for you and your message if you focused on authentic representation instead of impersonation?

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