Uniqueness Is Overrated: Authenticity vs Unique Overload

I remember the excitement of Krispey Kreme coming to my town a few years ago.  As a sales guy, I love to bring treats to my customers, and nothing sounded more “treaty” than a dozen of the finest warm donuts my corporate American Express card could by.  I was going to make a splash with my customers.  Pulling up to the drive through, waiting nearly 20 minutes for donuts, I could hardly contain myself.  As I finally picked up 8 dozen (one for each planned stop of the day), I was ready to deliver some tasty smiles to go along with my unique treat.  As the story goes, I wasn’t the only sales rep being unique that morning.  Several of my offices had piles of Krispey Kreme boxes stacked in a corner.
Unique

Unique (Photo credit: Goldmund100)

My “get unique quick” scheme didn’t work so well.
 Today. nothing has really changed.  A few years ago, someone began using the hashtag on twitter as a means to organize and monitor trends.  Facebook is following suit with hashtaging.  Everywhere you look online is hashtags. The problem is once hashtaging reaches a critical mass, it will cease to be useful.  Several hundred, maybe even several thousand references to Iphone 6 (#iphone6) can draw attention and add value to the reader, several million is just plain stupid.  If everyone is hashtaging, then no one is hashtaging.
Uniqueness has a tipping point where it becomes boring and no longer unique.

Where do we go from here?  Here’s a quick guide to help you stay authentic in an attempt to be unique (I argue that many times the attempt at uniqueness is enough if you are authentic).

1.  There are no shortcuts to being Unique.  Delivering Starbucks to the office is not unique.  There are 10 Starbucks within a few minute’s drive of my house.  Feel free to bring the coffee though.  It’s still nice.
2.  Unique is rare, don’t fuss over being unique 100% of the time.  A free Starbucks, while not unique, is still welcome.  As a nice gesture to a good customer,  a tool  to warm up a tough gatekeeper, or a pick-me-up on a rough day for your girlfriend. An authentic gesture is just as valuable as a unique one.
3.  Be infrequent in your uniqueness.  regular uniqueness is inauthentic and exhausting.
4.  Do your homework. You won’t hit a home run with every interaction you make.  Understand your audience, however, will vastly increase the impact of what your attempting.  Finding time to uncover a passion of a client, or sentiment for a girlfriend, will dramatically increase your odds for the “breathtaking” moment.
5.  Know WHY you are doing what you are doing.  Being authentic and having the appropriate motives is much more important than being “different” or unique.

Go be yourself.  You are unique in being yourself.  You are not the lightning thief, don’t worry about catching lightning in a bottle.

What is your unique “thing” you bring?
Rocco

The Extraordinary Standing Ovation

The performance was amazing.  The symphony touched the souls of every person in the concert hall.  Upon every note, the audience breathed in the experience and mastery.  Upon the final note of audible greatness, the sold out crowd stands in wonderment and gives a great and glorious ovation.  Paying for the ticket and sitting for the show was enough.  Maybe a polite clap at the end of the show would express gratitude for the effort.  A standing ovation is not
typical. In fact, it should be rare.  A typical standing ovation is like tipping the waitress for delivering the wrong dish, delivering it cold,  and spilling it on you while charging you to remake it, then coming back and doing it again.

The Philly Phanatic

The Philly Phanatic (Photo credit: Kyle Slattery)

The standing ovation is reserved for the extraordinary.

While by definition, extraordinary is not an everyday case.  It is, however, something you will see if you are looking. People are silently extraordinary everyday around you.  “Standing ovation” worthy performances are given every day at your local Starbucks.  The cashier at Trader Jo’s, has performed worthy of a standing ovation many times.  My children, hungry and tired, performed at a high level at church while the priest spent too much time discussing things they don’t understand.  Robert D. Smith, in his new book 20000 Days and Counting talks about giving people standing ovations.  He points out that the last time most adults received even an applause was when they graduated High School.  You are here, reading this post, and many others like it because you are extraordinary.  Be intentional and sincere in giving 1 standing ovation per day.  Tell the barista how much you appreciate her extra effort to make your latte extra hot.  Tell her boss, how good she is.  Tell the Trader Jo’s cashier how good the salad he taught you how to make tasted.  Surprise your kids with a tasty treat for a job well done.  A standing ovation doesn’t have to cost you anything except intention.  It’s a great investment in others and will provide profound returns.

Share how you are celebrating those around you. Are you intentional or is this a natural gift you have?
Rocco De Leo

How the Road to Awesome Took a Detour to Jerk

As a busy dad of 5, including a newborn, I am pulled in multiple directions.  My time is no longer my own.  I am on the road driving from client to client during the day.  I read (audiobooks) and  keep up with my favorite podcasts in the car.  My purpose in life is to succeed at helping others succeed.  As Jon Acuff says,  my Awesome is to help others find their Awesome.  I do it at work as well as in writing. First things first however, I need to keep up with the latest articles and tweets on awesomeness.  Twitter is a great place to keep up to date on your favorite topics.  If you missed it, I wrote an article on how I use Twitter.  In my infinite wisdom, I recently found the 3 perfect opportunities to completely suck at being awesome while learning how to be awesome.

The Jerk

The Jerk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Elevators are not for twitter.  Seriously!  I was literally tripping over an old lady in a wheelchair the other day as we were both exiting the elevator at a doctor’s office. My excuse: I was reading an article on my iPhone about how to be nice.  You may have seen my Re-tweet.  Epic Fail!
2.  Feeding the baby is not twitter time:  If you have ever had a baby, you know when the biological stuff is happening.  My little girl makes quite the “splash” when her system is a-go.  Unfortunately, this usually happens as I’m deciding whether to RT a tweet or via@personwhotweeted regarding a great article about being a blogging dad or parenting advice.  Of course my 3 week old appreciates this so much that she’s willing to sit in her “splash zone” for 3 or 4 more tweets.
3. Red lights should be twitter-free zones.  I say red light to make it sound not so bad.  Actually, the red lights I am referring to are the red brake lights that startle me as I scroll through my twitter feed. I recently discovered Pocket, the “read later” app.  I’ve never been twitter-elite enough to read the articles while driving, but I can tell a perfect “pocket-able” article with re-tweet potential with the best of them. No bueno!
In my great effort to be awesome, I have become a jerk. All is not lost however.  Here is a list of  5 things to consider when recovering from an acute case of jerk-itis associated with hypocrisy.
1.  Remember that today is a new day.  Don’t be so hard yourself that you give up being awesome.  Besides God, no one loves you more than you.  Sometimes, that causes you to get caught up in yourself.  Recognize it, and push forward.
2.  Take a YOU holiday.  Spend one day hyper-focusing on others.  If this doesn’t come natural to you, give yourself notes as reminders.  Be interested in those you interact with on a normal basis, but step your game up a bit.  Ask the barista at Starbucks about her weekend.  Compliment the bank teller on his tie.  Thank the police officer pulling you over for texting and driving for keeping the streets safe.  Be intentional.
3.  Take a “self-help” break.  I may be mislabeling “self-help”.  Jon Acuffs book Start was phenomenal.  It’s more than simply self help.  Brene’ Brown’s Daring Greatly was life changing.  5-stars abound.  Maybe, as Jon Acuff shares, its time to go to your own Central Park.  A place to “chill-out”.  As a reader, a fun fiction book, can take me out of myself and the pressure to be Awesome.
4.  Pray and Trust in Lord: As a practicing Catholic, my relationship with Christ is key to my happiness.  It’s also key to my awesomeness.  I  find myself praying for guidance and grace on a Sunday morning, and trying to create it myself by Sunday night.  No can do! Pray and trust in the Lord.
5.  Find perspective:  It always amazes me to reflect upon where I’ve come from.  I recently went for a long 10-mile run with very disappointing results.  I felt sluggish and heavy.  I realized that I have gained 25 pounds in 6 months.  That’s how long I haven’t weighed myself.  It snuck up on me and I had no idea I had gained so much.  On the other hand, I look at positives in my life that sneak up on me.  My relationship with my kids since I became a full time full custody dad 5 years ago has grown. Reflecting upon the communication at bedtime or dinner from when I got custody to the normal and relative respect and efficiency I see now provides tremendous perspective on days I feel like screaming.

Awesomeness isn’t easy.  If it were, it wouldn’t be so awesome.  Try too hard or try too little, you will make mistakes.  Try just enough, well you’ll still make mistakes.  Keep on keeping on is the key.  Share some of your irony  on your own road to awesome.  I would love to hear from you.

Rocco De Leo