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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 December 2, 2019

    10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

    10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

    Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

    In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

    These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

    1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

    Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

    But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

    Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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    2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

    You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

    The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

    3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

    If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

    Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

    If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

    4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

    Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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    To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

    In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

    5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

    We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

    If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

    Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

    “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

    6. Give for the Joy of Giving

    When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

    One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

    So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

    7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

    Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

    Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

    8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

    When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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    So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

    9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

    Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

    It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

    It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

    10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

    There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

    But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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    Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

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    Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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