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William Zinsser’s 3 Tips for Being Unique

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.

    Here’s why:

    Imagine a world where we were all very different. What would it be like? Well …

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    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.

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    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%.

    Until now.

    Here are Mr. Zinsser’s three excellent tips for generating uniqueness — and ultimately — being unique:

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    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.

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    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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    Robert Chen

    Executive Coach

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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