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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, 2018

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

    The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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    The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

    Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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    Review Your Past Flow

    Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

    Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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    Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

    Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

    Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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    Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

    Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

    We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

    Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

      Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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