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Don’t be afraid to stand out

Have you ever felt like you were hiding in the shadows? And if only you could get out there and be recognized?

Does it feel like it’s too difficult?

The drive to blend in

Humans are social creatures. From the beginning of times we’ve been living in tribes.
Without the tribe, you’d have no one to watch your back, and it would likely result in violent death.
While some people think our times are times of selfishness and egocentrism, the truth is, without the infrastructure provided by society, most people would not survive.
We need others for survival. It was true then, it is true now.

If that doesn’t convince you, just look at babies. Without an adult taking care of them, babies would die. And while reliance on others decrease as we age, the limbic brain (responsible for our emotions) still associate being rejected, or outside of our tribe as dangerous or even imminent death.

No wonder we want to blend in. Even if it means hiding who we truly are.

The desire for more

Who doesn’t have big dreams of changing the world?
Being a hero, righting the wrongs, simply making a difference.
No one has ever made a difference by staying hidden.
You may be afraid to be seen, but the truth is you want to. You want to be recognized, you want to achieve your dreams, and you want to make an impact that you can be proud of.

Are you one of us?

Society and tribes have a strong biais towards wanting you to be a team player, sacrificing your desires for the needs of the group. Any hint of wanting to be different or change the way it is will be seen as a threat to the survival of the group.
So the tribe will exert social pressure to prevent you from trying to change the status quo, which prevents you from being all you can be.
If you want to create something different or make an impact on the world, it’s most likely that your tribe (family, colleagues, friends) will resist that. It can be by straight-up telling you you can’t, hitting you on the head, or simply finding flaws in your reasoning or plans in order to “protect you” from disappointment or failure.

Only the bold creates breakthroughs

While society doesn’t like outliers, it needs courageous people to step up, lead and be the change. When you act differently, there will be resistance, but once people realize there is no stopping you, then (and only then), you will start getting followers, being embraced and supported.

But first, you need to stand out, do what matters to you, commit to be the change, whether or not you’re supported. And you will.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
– Attributed to Mahatma Gandhi

How can you stand out today?

How to make me want to punch you in the face

I’m not a violent guy. Well, most of the times I’m not.

Sometimes, though, I seem to forget all my manners and I imagine I’m grabbing some deeply unhelpful rep called Randal, and shaking him until he gets rid of the crap he keeps in his ears.

But I don’t do it. Partly because I don’t feel like going to jail, and partly because somebody has yet to invent a way to do that by phone or email.

What puts me in this state of darkness? Glad you asked!

Please Kick The Shit Out Of Me!
photo credit: laverrue

The beginning of the story: do you care about the experience?

More specifically, do you care about the experience of your clients, customers, and whoever you’re doing something for?

You want to provide a service, that is useful and appreciated, so you care.

You probably remember a situation when a clerk, let’s call him Randal, was complaining, and you even felt like you were bothering him. You thought “Why are you doing this job if you hate it so much?”.

And you really, really, don’t want your customers to feel the way you did.

So yes, you care. And you try to make sure each experience is the best possible. You want to improve your service so your customers are happy.

But you can’t always know what goes on in your customer’s mind.

Where you ask for feedback

So you ask for feedback. I mean, you know your customer knows best what she wants in her encounter with you and your services.

And you’re not the only one asking for feedback, the big ones do it too.

Let’s say Randal Corp. is a big Internet service provider. They record the support calls so that the “customer support experience” can be improved. They even send an email after a call to the support asking for a small 30 seconds feedback. So small that the only thing they ask you to do is click on a simple radio button to express whether the customer rep was competent and helpful. They don’t give you the opportunity to ask why the h*** they don’t provide support via email!

And why? Because they don’t want to know. Because they don’t actually want to improve the experience, they just want to rank it, to normalize it, so that it’s appropriate, not so that it’s good, or better. Otherwise, why wouldn’t they give the opportunity to send forms via email? Or – God forbid – put them on the web so their customers don’t have to spend 15 minutes waiting on a call then wait a week for the forms to arrive?

Where you get feedback

I want to make things better. This is who am I at the core. And I’m pretty good at pointing out things that could be improved. But more importantly, I’m a (potential) customer willing to help.

This is a message for the Randal Corps of the world: Most of the time you ask for feedback. Often, I give it. Sometimes you answer. Most of the times you make me understand that my suggestions won’t go further than the Trash mailbox. If by chance, you not only listen, but hear me, and I ask you to keep me posted on the elements that prevent me from buying from Randal Corp., why do I never hear from you ever again?

You say you care about your “customers”, but don’t understand it is always one at a time!

Where I want to matter

I want to be cared for. When you tell me you care, because you want feedback, I trust you, and I give. Then you do whatever you want with my gifts and forget about me. Why don’t you go until the end?

What I learn from your actions is that you want to use me and dispose of me.

Then I just want to punch you in the face, because, seriously, it’d be so easy to do it right.

Where you do it right

If you are passionate about the experience, and if you listen, I mean really listen to me, make me feel that I care, I’ll be devoted to you, I’ll help you grow and serve your clients better than ever, I’ll bring you new customers, and a wealth of ideas and services I want to buy from you.

But that brings up a question: do you want a relationship with me, or do you just want me to buy stuff from you?

Be passionate about your customers experience, and you’ll get loyal fans. Be a Randal, pretend to care and don’t follow through, and not only your customers will not care about you, they’ll jump ship as soon as something looks better on the other side.

If you’re not passionate about your customers, are you serving anyone but yourself?

No Randals were harmed in the making of this post (though I certainly thought about it).

The Quest for Perfection

Hall of Imperfect Pixels
photo credit: Lance Shields

The quest for perfection is admirable, at least in theory, but have you ever wondered what it would really change if you were “perfect”?

The movie Equilibrium shows Libria, a future world without war, without anger, without conflicts. Can you imagine that? Looks like a perfect world.

A world of perfection

Lots of people spend their lives trying to be better, to attain perfection. Some don’t want to show their weaknesses and spend a considerable amount of energy trying to appear perfect, never say the wrong word, nor take too many risks. Being perfect is, in practice, equivalent to making no mistakes. And what’s the easiest way to never make any mistake? Always follow the rules scrupulously, never lead, never challenge anything, be invisible, don’t feel anything.

Follow the rules

When you follow the rules without thinking about them, you just “do your job”, and as you bury your compassion and anger, someday you don’t feel them anymore.

In Libria, after the population was decimated by the Third World War, the world realized that war, hatred, adultery, murder and all the sins of humankind had roots in the capacity to feel, so they decided to suppress it with mandatory drugs. Without the capacity to feel, every human being can be civilized, obeying the rules and wishes of the powers that be.

Following the rules in order to attain perfection means to relinquish our emotions and the connections with ourselves.

Creativity and perfection

Art makes us feel, makes us question what is, and envision what could be. The whole creative process is an insult to perfectionism (aka the inner critic). That’s why art is illegal in Libria, as its only presence makes us question the status quo, the laws and the concept of perfection.

A life of rules and perfection

Some people might be able to live their lives blindly following orders (and even add and follow rules of their own), hoping to be perfect. But not everybody can, and if you’re still reading, I’m sure you can’t. But even if you could, would you really want to? There is a moment in time when rules have to be questioned, and you have to detach yourself from them, if only to reconsider whether you want to follow other people’s rules or make your own. Being a simple cog in a big machine isn’t very fun, or fulfilling.


If you spend your energy trying to be perfect, all you’re gonna do is try to control yourself and your environment, draining your energy and creating a huge load of stress. Those who always want to be perfect, even though they deny it, tend to also want everything around them to be perfect, and they complain when it’s not. Have you ever heard someone (or yourself), complaining about something they have absolutely no control on? Like the weather? It is completely pointless, but the complaint itself shows a need to assert control over these events.

When you let go of control, and accept to feel again what it is to be human, everything changes.

Our natural state is one of creative imperfection

For a baby, the concept of rules doesn’t exist, a baby just want to discover the world, how they can interact and create things that matter and make them feel good. Along the way we learn what rules are, and how to follow them; but most of the time, it is for the sake of society, and of those in control, very rarely for our own gain.

If we stopped trying to be so perfect all the time, we could regain that innocence, that desire to be curious and creative. A perfect human is an imperfect machine. Why would you want to be something you’re not?

Forget perfection

The important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men.
George Eliot

Perfection only exists as a fulfillment and strict application of rules. No rules, no perfection. In order to touch perfection, one has to exert extreme control over their actions as to never risk disobeying orders (or what are implicit orders, like following the crowd). Not only is it boring, but it is also a sure way to destroy creativity, put your intuition in a cage and send fun in exile in a galaxy far, far away (where it stays untouched and lonely).

But on the other hand, if you set a goal to be as imperfect as you could be, now you can be real, you can ask questions, wonder what could be, and finally show your genius to the world. You might want to rebel against the system, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. As in Equilibrium, a war against the system might just be what you need to change the status quo. And if there is anything that doesn’t feel right for you in the world, why wouldn’t you want to change it?

You can start right now, if you ask yourself this simple question: how can you imperfect today?

Step out of your boring life

© iStockPhoto - PeskyMonkey

© iStockPhoto - PeskyMonkey

Get a job without a challenge, fill your life with enough habits, never confront what frightens you and devise good excuses for everything you do. It’s pretty easy, lots of people do it.

Someone’s boring me. I think it’s me.

Dylan Thomas

Step out of your boring life

If you got used to a boring life, puting your desires for adventure in a box and trying very hard to keep it closed, you’ve probably already started to want everyone to do the same. You’ve become disconnected from what really mattered to you, doing things because you’re used to, or because the external rewards seem appropriate. You might run after money, fame, sex, without ever getting really satisfied because you abandoned a part of yourself. Where are your dreams?

Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity

If you’re at the point where you don’t know what you like or what you really want, the solution isn’t to not do anything, patiently waiting for the answer to come to you. It won’t. Ever.

You have to try new, different things, as much as you can. It is only through experience that you will reconnect yourself to your dreams and your unconventional, or more accurately, unexpressed, desires of adventure.

You’re not what you do

Change jobs, houses, or hobbies if you want to, do anything that will change your life. You are not your job,  your money, or your relationships. Be who you want to be, do what you want to do, share all that you can. Call a friend and propose a 1-day trip to do something you’ve never done. If you’re used to do something, do the opposite. If you’ve always went on vacation in 5-star hotels and with organized trips, go to another country, in a cheap hostel, or try CouchSurfing. Don’t get bored and you won’t be boring.

Do what you are

But if you know what you really like and are not doing it: what are you waiting for? If you want to play an instrument, take a class; if you want to discover a new country, book a plane ticket. If you feel it’s important, you owe it to yourself to do what’s necessary to accomplish it. However uncertain the result might be. What’s important is the journey, not the destination. If you’re still too anxious, find a way to reduce your stress, address your worries, but be clear in your mind that you have to go through.

It is time for a change

A finished person is a boring person.

Anna Quindlen

It is way too easy, too convenient, to keep doing what we’ve been doing, complaining about how it’s not what we wanted. If you feel you can’t make things better, think outside your box, doubt yourself, learn a new skill. Do anything but what you’ve been doing. Excitement is just around the corner. Don’t keep it waiting.

What are you gonna try today to make your life more exciting?

What if you had to do what you love in order to earn money?



It’s a beautiful summer day, the sun is shining, the clouds are hiding somewhere on the other side of the Earth, you can smell the delicate smell of roses nearby and your only desire is to go out and have fun. Nothing unusual, just taking a little walk alone and working on your paper sculptures (they are so gorgeous you suspect your old neighbor inadvertently transported one into his living room), but..

You have to make money

Of course, you have to work. Those damn reports won’t compile themselves, will they? So, you’re struggling, not able to decide with a clear conscience to do one thing or the other. You can’t enjoy the day because you should be working. But you can’t focus on your work either, because, really, you should be enjoying yourself. Who asked for these reports anyway? Will they ever read them? What are you doing? Don’t even think about forgetting all of it and simply relaxing.

Make enough money, and then, you can have fun.

This phrase is so common, so ingrained into our brains since we’re little kids, we need to make money before we can have fun. Whether it’s on a summer day, or in your life. Finish the reports, then you can chill out. Work for dozens of years, then you may enjoy life (if you still can).

But here, I want to propose another paradigm.

What if you had to do what you love in order to earn money?

I can already hear the comments “I hate my job but it makes me money so I can travel/buy stuff/feed my kids/eat pizzas with my friends while watching American Idol”. Err.. really?

Ok. But let me ask you a question… How long are you gonna live that way?

Forget about your current situation for a minute, and ask yourself what happens when you’re doing something that you hate (or at least not love to a certain, high, degree).

  • You wake up without energy, dreading the time to go to work
  • You think about what you’d like to do instead
  • You do the minimum that’ll get you what you need (not get fired, enough money, some consideration, maybe even a promotion)
  • You tell yourself it’s not that bad, there are lots of things you kinda like in your job
  • You live for the paycheck, if it wasn’t there every month or so, you’d be happy not being here
  • You complain more than often about how much your job sucks

Not too pretty, I know.

Now, what happens if you love what you do all day?

  • You wake up energized, ready to go seize the day, wondering what opportunities will come knocking at your door
  • You feel like there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing
  • You give the best of yourself in order to accomplish the unthinkable (to people who hate their job)
  • You tell yourself you’re lucky to be doing something that you love without feeling any ounce of guilt
  • You live for your passion, if you weren’t paid, you’d still be doing the same thing (albeit, with less time and energy)
  • You don’t understand why people complain about their work

If you compare the two, the difference is obvious. If you hate what you do, you’ll struggle, if you love it, you’ll thrive. So yes, you can make some money doing something that you hate, you can even get good at it and earn enough to live comfortably (in a materialistic way). But if you love what you do, your potential will be much higher. Whatever level of success you’re achieving doing something you hate would be ten times higher doing something you love, with the same perceived level of effort. Don’t you find it easier to spend time and energy on something you like?

You might be thinking that there’s no way you’d be able to make money with what you love, after all, paper sculptures are not a hot topic on eBay (or are they?).

But what if you had to? Maybe you don’t see a way because you haven’t invested enough into what was only a hobby. After all, you spent a couple (or a dozen) years to obtain a degree in your field, then perfected your skills for even more time. So there’s no comparison.

But if you really, really, had to earn a living doing something you love… You’d find a way. You’d invest whatever time and energy necessary and you’d make it. Because you’d care enough. You’d research the competition, learn about marketing, try to sell your creations on Etsy, talk about it to your friends and colleagues, and slowly build a business. There’s no magic bullet here, but imagine how you’d feel once you’d managed to achieve that.

Isn’t it worth just a little then, to develop your passion? Spend a little more time, invest in what you love. Whether it’s paper sculptures, music, writing, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you start right now and continue everyday, until what you have to do next is clear. Then do it. And most important of all: don’t forget to enjoy.