As a society do we really promote uniqueness?
We read in books about entrepreneurship, marketing, and sales that if we are going into business for ourselves or selling the products or services of an already established company that we must zone in and communicate our unique selling proposition (USP). A USP is, quite simply, what makes us unique and separates us from the masses of others operating in our niches. It is indeed important.
But as a society do we really promote uniqueness?
This past weekend I caught myself in the act of squashing some of the uniqueness, the individualism, out of my 14-year-old son. Yes, that sounds dramatic.
Let me explain.
My son Parker is naturally curious. He likes to know how things work. While we were at our cabin this weekend, for the first time he suggested he cut the grass as a way to earn some money. His friend Cameron had joined him and volunteered to help. Cameron had cut grass before, so as soon as the mower was fired up he was off to the races. Parker, on the other hand, stood above the mower and analyzed how the cord spun the motor to produce the spark, where the gas went in, how the machine mulched the grass, how varying degrees of pressure applied to the top handle would propel the back wheels, and so on. He took ten minutes to do what Cameron did in one minute.
Finally, I called him over and asked, “Parker, why can’t you be focused like Cameron?” As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I could see some of Parker’s enthusiasm drain out of him. His shoulders slumped, and his smile evaporated as he went back to speed up like Cameron. The two boys finished the lawn together and went off on their bikes for the rest of the day, while I felt like a schmuck.
Later that evening I apologized to Parker and told him that his curiosity is what makes him unique and that he should never lose sight of it.
Henry Ford was once quoted as saying the following:
All Fords are exactly alike, but no two men are just alike. Every new life is a new thing under the sun; there has never been anything just like it before, never will be again. A young man ought to get that idea about himself; he should look for the single spark of individuality that makes him different from other folks, and develop that for all he is worth. Society and schools may try to iron it out of him; their tendency is to put it all in the same mold, but I say don’t let that spark be lost; it is your only real claim to importance.
This great advice is worthy of contemplation.
As entrepreneurs, sales professionals, and people who take our lives and careers seriously, we need to define and protect what makes us unique. We need to have the courage to stand up for this aspect of ourselves. Paraphrasing Ford, “Develop that difference for all you are worth.” As you progress in your career, this USP will separate you from the masses and enable you to rise above them and excel.
There are no rewards in conformity.
Photo by sean hobson