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Every Great Legacy Begins With the Willingness to Be Different

Every Great Legacy Begins With the Willingness to Be Different

Growing up I didn’t want to be different. I did everything I could to get people not to notice me. But I was born with a talent that made me stand apart not just from the other kids, but from the girls, too.

For as long as I can remember, I was playing a sport of some kind. From soccer, to tennis, to basketball, to softball. For a brief time, I ran the 800 in junior high. I even coached several of those same sports for my boys or a group of high school girls. Unlike many girls today, I never entered a single dance studio or took a tumbling class.

The most nonathletic thing I ever did was play the accordion (don’t laugh) for two years beginning when I was five years old. Oh, yeah, and the flute in 5th grade. That didn’t last long when I was practicing (what else but) my softball swing and part of the flute flew off and hit my dresser—just what you want to tell your parents about your rented musical instrument. I dabbled in the Girl Scouts for a year, but got tired of wearing green, and I never did have very many patches to put on my sash. In 7th grade, I was a “Rainbow Girl” but grew tired of the “properness” of this secret society.

I was (and to some degree still am) most comfortable doing what I do best.

Otherwise, I spent most of my time with a glove, a pair of cleats, or a ball of some kind. Most recesses were spent playing kickball or tether ball. For years, my stepmom would waste time by putting those pink foam curlers in my hair the night before school pictures and encouraging me to wear dresses to school. What she didn’t know is that I secretly took an extra set of clothes to school to change into—you just can’t play kickball wearing a blue corduroy jumper and black dress shoes.

What I didn’t realize in my attempt to hide among all of the other kids in school was that I actually stood out.

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Because I was good. Because I was different, without even knowing it.

Regardless of how hard I tried to be invisible, I was unable to hide. People still saw me.

But this article isn’t about the clothes I wore in 5th grade or the number of teams I was on while a kid; it’s really about something bigger.

It’s about the legacy we create because we are different. It’s about the rules we think we need to follow to ensure that any potential we have within remains hidden. It’s about the way we are who we were born to be.

If you were to look at all of the great visionaries of the past century, you will find one common quality among them: they all stood out. They all were unique in their own way. They took risks. They failed. They were criticized. They refused to quit. They tried again. They succeeded. They made history.

We all are born with talents unlike anyone else and only our experiences shape those talents into something we either share with the world or we pretend don’t exist. Either way, the real you will eventually come to the surface. It always does.

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Some people set out to change the world at a very early age while others end up doing so almost by accident.

Creating a legacy doesn’t begin with writing history in such a way that we notice it immediately. It isn’t found in some great new invention or a way to feed the hungry. Most often, it begins with something much smaller.

It begins with a single thought. A single idea. A single vision. A single word.

All of those things comes together to start the conversation, to initiate change.

Our willingness to not only notice the world, but react to it in such a way that burying our talents no longer is an option is how we change everything. Our willingness to allow ourselves to be seen and heard is the position we take—not because it is required by others, but because it was bestowed upon us to share.

For far too long, we have permitted ourselves to be hermits and recluses in order to excuse our lack of action and our believed shortcomings. We have done this world and everyone in it a huge injustice and disservice and the only way to rectify it is to be who we were born to be.

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Some were born to swing and never share a single note attached to a melody. Some were born to dance and never grace us while they float on stage. Some were born to play and never make a single team. Some were born to create and never put those ideas to paper or disclose them to anyone else. Some were born to lead, yet sit quietly in the shadows. Some were born to design, to write, to build, but never do.

Instead, they remain where no one can see them, ignoring our need to have their talents shared with us.

Greatness is found in the willingness to be different every time. No one remembers the legacy that looks like every other one. Your legacy cannot be written if it is locked away behind everything you were born to be.

We all have something unique about us and until we find it and share it, we cheat the world.

Need help finding your greatness?

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What do I LOVE to do?
  2. Where am I most comfortable?
  3. How am I different?
  4. How can I share my gifts with others?

Once you realize and accept you have a gift, no matter how small, you will find moments when it naturally steps out of the shadows as it shows people who you really are. It’s easy to pretend it doesn’t matter and pretend it won’t impact anyone.

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Our legacies are created not after we are gone, but in the life we lived along the way. It is told in the stories, pictures and memories that leave imprints on the lives it touched and become something that is impossible to erase.

Be different. Because you are. The sooner we embrace our gifts instead of fighting against them the better we are for the world and the people in it.

True greatness lies there—and it always will.

Featured photo credit: Lindy Baker via unsplash.com

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Michelle A. Homme

Author, Speaker, Quote Writer, Empowerment Coach

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

Career advancement is an enticement that today’s companies use to lure job candidates. But to truly uncover growth opportunities within a company, it’s up to you to take the initiative to move up.

You can’t rely on recruiter promises that your company will largely hire from within. Even assurances you heard from your direct supervisor during the interviewing process may not pan out. But if you begin a job knowing that you’re ultimately responsible for getting yourself noticed, you will be starting one step ahead.

Accomplished entrepreneur and LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman said,

“If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.”

It’s important to recognize that taking charge of your own career advancement, and then mapping out the steps you need to succeed, is key to moving forward on your trajectory.

Make a Point of Positioning Yourself as a Rising Star

As an employee looking for growth opportunities within your current company, you have many avenues to position yourself as a rising star.

As an insider, you’re able to glean insights on company strategies and apply your expertise where it’s most needed. Scout out any skills gaps, then make a point to acquire and apply them. And, when you have creative ideas to offer, make it your mission to gain the ear of those in the organization who can put your ideas to the test.

Valiant shows of commitment and enterprise make managers perk up and take notice, keeping you ahead of both internal and external competitors.

Employ these other useful tips to let your rising star qualities shine:

1. Promote Your Successes to Your Higher-Ups

When your boss casually asks how you’re doing, use this valuable moment to position yourself as indispensable: “I’m floating on clouds because three clients have already commented on how well they like my redesign of the company website.”

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Tell your supervisors about any and all successes. Securing a new contract or signing a new customer should be a cause for celebration. Be sure to let your bosses know.

2. Cultivate Excellent Listening Skills

Listen well, and ask great questions. Realize that people love to talk about themselves.

But if you’re a superb listener, others will confide in you, and you’ll learn from what they share. You may even find out something valuable about your own prospects in the company.

If others view you as even-minded and thoughtful, they’ll respect your ideas and, in turn, listen to what you have to say.

Check out these important listening skills: 13 Powerful Listening Skills to Improve Your Life at Work and at Home

3. Go to All Office Networking Events

Never skip the office Christmas party, your coworker’s retirement party, or any office birthday parties, wedding showers, or congratulatory parties for colleagues.

If others see you as a team player, it will help you rise in your company. These on-site parties will also help you mingle with co-workers whom you might not ordinarily have the chance to see. For special points, help organize one or two of these get-togethers.

Take the Extra Step to Show Your Value to the Company

Managers and HR staff know that it can be less risky – and a lot less costly — to promote from within. As internal staff, you likely have a good grasp of the authority structure and talent pool in the company, and know how to best navigate these networks in achieving both the company’s goals and your own.

The late Nobel-Prize winning economist, Gary Becker, coined the term “firm-specific,” which describes the unique skills required to excel in an individual organization. You, as a current employee, have likely tapped into these specific skills, while external hires may take a year or more to master their nuances.

Know that your experience within the company already provides value, then find ways to add even more value, using these tips:

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4. Show Initiative

Commit yourself to whatever task you’re given, and make a point of going above and beyond.

Position yourself so that you’re ready to take on any growth opportunities that present themselves. If you believe you have skills that have gone untapped, find a manager who will give you a chance to prove your worth.

Accept any stretch assignment that showcases your readiness for advancement. Stay late, and arrive early. Half of getting the best assignments is sticking around long enough to receive them.

5. Set Yourself Apart by Staying up on Everything There Is to Know About Your Company and Its Competitors

Subscribe to and read the online trade journals. Become an active member in your industry’s network of professionals. Go to industry conferences, and learn your competitors’ strategies.

Be the on-the-ground eyes and ears for your organization to stay on top of industry trends.

6. Go to Every Company Meeting Prepared and Ready to Learn

A lot of workers feel meetings are an utter waste of time. They’re not, though, because they provide face-time with higher-ups and those in a position to give you the growth opportunities you need.

Go with the intention of absorbing information and using it to your advantage — including the goals and work styles of your superiors. Respect the agenda, listen more than you speak, and never beleaguer a point.

Accelerate Your Career Growth Opportunities

A recent study found that the five predictors of employees with executive potential were: the right motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. These qualities help you stand out, but it’s also important to establish a track record of success and to not appear to be over-reaching in your drive to move up in your company.

Try to see yourself from your boss’s position and evaluate your promote-ability.

Do you display a passion and commitment toward meeting the collective goals of the company? Do you have a motivating influence with team members and show insight and excellence in all your work?

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These qualities will place you front and center when growth opportunities arise.

Use these strategic tips to escalate your opportunities for growth:

7. Find a Mentor

With mentorship programs fast disappearing, this isn’t always easy. But you need to look for someone in the company who has been promoted several times and who also cares about your progress.

Maybe it’s the person who recommended you for the job. Or maybe it’s your direct supervisor. It could even be someone across the hall or in a completely different department.

Talk to her or him about growth opportunities within your company. Maybe she or he can recommend you for a promotion.

Not sure how to find the right mentor? Here’s How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed.

8. Map out Your Own Growth Opportunity Chart

After you’ve worked at the company for a few months, work out a realistic growth chart for your own development. This should be a reasonable, practical chart — not a pie-in-the-sky wish list of demands.

What’s reasonable? Do you think being promoted within two years is reasonable? What about raises? Try to inform your own growth chart with what you’ve heard about other workers’ raises and promotions.

Once you’ve rigorously charted a realistic path for your personal development within the company, try to talk to your mentor about it.

Keep refining your chart until it seems to work with your skills and proven talents. Then, arrange a time to discuss it with your boss.

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You may want to time the discussion around the time of your performance review. Then your boss can weigh in with what he feels is reasonable, too.

9. Set Your Professional Bar High

Research shows that more than two-thirds of workers are just putting in their time. But through your active engagement in the organization and commitment to giving your best, you can provide the contrast against others giving lackluster performances.

Cultivate the hard skills that keep you on the cutting edge of your profession, while also refining your soft skills. These are the attributes that make you better at embracing diverse perspectives, engendering trust, and harnessing the power of synergy.

Even if you have an unquestionably left-brain career — a financial analyst or biotechnical engineer, for example — you’re always better off when you can form kind, courteous, quality relationships with colleagues.

Let integrity be the cornerstone of all your interactions with clients and co-workers.

The Bottom Line

Growth opportunities are available for those willing to purposely and adeptly manage their own professional growth. As the old adage says,

“Half of life is showing up.”

The other half is sticking around so that when your boss is looking for someone to take on a more significant role, you are among the first who come to mind.

Remember, your career is your business!

More About Continuous Growth

Featured photo credit: Zach Lucero via unsplash.com

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