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William Zinsser’s 3 Tips for Being Unique
According to scientists, we’re 99% the same, genetically.
Yes, the same.
Not similar, not close, not related. Exactly the same. And that’s actually a good thing.
Imagine a world where we were all very different. What would it be like? Well …
Pharmaceutical companies would have to invent a different drug to cure the same disease for every person in the world. No one would read Stepcase Lifehack or any other personal development and productivity blog because useful tips about being successful for one person won’t work for someone else. Research institutes would collapse overnight. What would our children look like?
You get the point.
But take a look around you. What do you see? Do you see how similar we are or do you see our differences?
We’ve been trained and wired to notice the 1% that makes us different and this is the same 1% that separates ordinary people from extraordinary people. Those who showcase their 1% are the ones who become great.
Think of every remarkable person you know. Were they unique or just like the rest of us?
Despite advantages to being similar, professional and personal success does not come from being generic. You have to be yourself.
Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to pick the brain of William Zinsser in the form of an in-person interview. For those who are not familiar with the name, William Zinsser is the author of the bestseller On Writing Well, the writer of an award-winning blog on American Scholar and a teacher that has inspired many to write for themselves. He was still teaching a memoir writing class up until last year in New York.
Did I mention he’s currently 90 years old and also an accomplished jazz pianist?
He has quite an extraordinary life and I did this interview for the Modeling Success Series on my blog. The focus of this series is to get into the heads of successful people and to learn their way of thinking, doing and feeling so that we can model it to become successful as well.
We talked about many facets of success and one of the important takeaways for me was to be yourself and to enjoy it. We are all born unique. Unfortunately for most of us, formal education has conditioned us to hide the 1% that makes us unique and by the time we are out of school, working and starting our families, we are running on autopilot. We forgot where we put that 1%.
Here are Mr. Zinsser’s three excellent tips for generating uniqueness — and ultimately — being unique:
Challenge Your Life
What beliefs and assumptions do you have? Ask yourself if they are valid. Most of our beliefs came from our parents, our education and our friends and we’ve taken them on automatically. Many of the assumptions about life that served you well when you were younger might actually be holding you back from moving on to the next level in your life. You can choose what you believe. Start this by asking yourself “What If”.
Be Proud of Who You Are
We live our life pleasing others. That’s why we buy nice things or do things we really don’t want to do. We have placed the way we look at ourselves in the hands of others. This is both foolish and irrational. If you want to be unique, stop pleasing others and start doing the things that make you happy. Don’t be afraid to be a rebel. You need to believe in your own limitless possibility. Do something for yourself today. Don’t be afraid to have a sense of ego.
Experience New Things
Your life experiences sets you apart from everyone else. Even if you have an identical twin, your view of the world will be different because you have experienced different things. The more you broaden your horizons by doing things you’ve never done before, the more combinations you can create from your experiences. This directly leads to your uniqueness.
Do you know anyone that is unique? What are they doing? Do they always do what is easy for them? Probably not. I can bet they are stretching beyond their comfort zone and doing interesting things.
How are you stretching yourself? Do something different right now. Go to Pandora or YouTube and listen to a musician you’ve never heard of. The next time you choose a book to read, read a genre that you rarely read. Travel to different places and try different foods.
You’ve read this far because you want to be unique and that’s great.
Just remember: Knowing what to do won’t get you there. Only action will. Take the advice of William Zinsser and do work that showcases your uniqueness.
What are ways that you generate uniqueness?
(Editor’s note: For more wisdom from William Zinsser, read the original article of the William Zinsser Interview which contains audio snippets of the actual interview.)
(Photo credit: Sharpened Pencil Standing Out via Shutterstock)
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