Envision a place where people are all the same. Everyone wears the same clothes. They like the same things. They do the same activities. They own the same houses. They eat the same food. They drive the same cars. Wouldn’t you go insane? While cloning may be beneficial in finding medical solutions, it’s not the way to personal fulfillment.
Stepping away from the crowd is how we widen our perspectives. What happens to a plant in a small pot? It can’t branch out in its limited surroundings. Similarly, when you put a gold fish in a larger bowl, it grows. So I tried it for myself. Each time I placed my pet in a larger container, he’d sprout until one day I realized that he wasn’t a gold fish at all but a beautiful koi. When he was given the environment to expand, he flourished into his purpose for being.
When we have room for self-expression, we grow. Being different is what makes each of us special. We bring value to those around us through our unique abilities, ideas and contributions.
LEADERS STAND OUT
I understand the desire to lay low and be unseen. I’ve been there. Being safe takes less effort and less thought. Safe people prefer not to make waves for fear of what they may find. But, what it that’s a much better world than the one you’re living in? I’d take the risk but not everyone is comfortable doing this. I understand.
When you’re in a comfort zone, you’re safe but you’re also not growing. Businesses around the world spend multi-millions of dollars branding themselves just so they can be different. Diversity is what brings value to the market place. If we’re to succeed as entrepreneurs, we also need to stand out in this noise-filled competitive cyber world. Blending in is not how Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs or Bill Gates reached their summits of success.
CHANGE YOUR WAY OF THINKING
To flourish in any aspect of life, you have to change old thought patterns. It means getting rid of beliefs that don’t serve you. A belief is simply a repeated thought. You can alter that belief by changing your thoughts.
I was raised in a household where the fear of never enough prevailed. It’s taken my entire adult life to destroy thoughts of limitation. Once I understood how my thoughts of scarcity were bringing me more of the same, I changed them and life took a turn for abundance.
BEING DIFFERENT IS HOW WE EVOLVE
There’s Infinite Intelligence behind all creation. Human evolution is the result of a “conscious” cell, molecule or gene “willing” to be different. Change is how we evolve as a species and the only way to grow.
Some years ago I had an experience that taught me the value of being different and not fitting in. At the time, however, the experience was one of anguish and pain.
Some weeks into a new position as account executive at a large non-profit, I was asked to take on additional responsibilities and work on a program supplying medicines to volunteer doctors abroad. The new team I was working with got along well and everyone produced with purpose. We felt good about the aid we were giving.
One afternoon, I received a call from the warehouse manager informing that several bottles of anesthesia in one box were missing labels. I asked him to put the box aside until I got there. When I confirmed his findings, I instructed him not to ship these and to discard them.
Upon my return to the office the energy had shifted. I had a lot of eyes staring at me as if I had let the team down. Under the circumstances, I could not risk shipping potentially harmful materials. There was no way of knowing what these bottles contained, their potency or how these liquids should be used.
The next day when I arrived, to my dismay, there was a police officer waiting for me at the front door. Holding on to my shoulder he “escorted” me to my desk, asked me to clear all my things and leave in 5 minutes.
I was in complete shock, especially as the organization meant so much to me and I believed in the values of the Founder, who had mentored me. My knees buckled and I could hardly speak. When I managed to get some words out, he asked me to be quiet and leave.
As I entered the elevator and turned around, I saw one of the members of the board looking at me along with the rest of the office staff. I pleaded with him to tell me what was happening and the only words out of his mouth were: “you don’t fit in.”
Years later I ran into this man. He was attending a talk I was giving as the Founder and Chairman of my own non-profit. I recognized him, sitting inconspicuously in the back of the room. He had tears in his eyes.
I rarely talk about this experience. But I share it today as an example of what can happen when you dare to be different. Without this experience I would have never founded Volunteers on Call, Inc. I was blessed with the opportunity to lead and mentor service teams to Kenya, Rwanda, Costa Rica, Peru, Thailand, Haiti, the Caribbean and the U.S. Gulf Coast. I made lifelong friends along the way. It’s a part of my life that I will always cherish.
Dare to be different. Dare to challenge the system. Dare to stand up for what you believe. Dare to dream the life you want. Stop trying to fit in. You may be depriving yourself and others of countless blessings.
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Photo courtesy of Federica Diliberto on Unsplash