The more you are like your peers; the more average you are. The more you conform to what everyone else asks of you, the more you lose your individuality, your creativity, and your potential for success. We all want to fit in, to be accepted, to be “one of the gang.” Everywhere around you are your peers, most of whom are average people. They want to make you more like them by offering their acceptance. Further, they indicate to you that everyone else is already more like them, and that you too should be like them to be accepted.
But their sales pitch does not tell you some very insidious results of conformism: If you are like everyone else, you are sacrificing your individuality, your goals, and your uniqueness.
Want to be successful? Then you should emulate successful people.
Take Steve Jobs of Apple. Starting Apple Computer in his garage, he and his business partner built it into a unique leader in its industry. Steve Jobs was born in 1955 to two University of Wisconsin graduate students who gave up their unnamed son up for adoption. As an infant, Jobs was adopted by Clara and Paul Jobs. Clara was an accountant, and his adopted father was a Coast Guard veteran and machinist.
As a child, Steve Jobs was frustrated by formal schooling. When he enrolled at Homestead High School in 1971, he was introduced to his future business partner, Steve Wozniak. It is reported that both Wozniak and Jobs loved electronics, and digital chips. “Very few people, especially back then, had any idea what (digital) chips were, or how they worked, and what they could do. We both had pretty much sort of an independent attitude about things in the world.”
In other words, they were unique. They were not conformists. They used their natural born intelligence, creativity, and individuality. They ignored their peers, they focused on their natural abilities and interests and in the process created Apple Computer, the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. They did not limit their thinking, they expanded it.
But was it all clear sailing? No, indeed not.
He co-founded Apple Computer when he was 21, and by the time he was 23 he was a millionaire. Then at age 30 he was fired by Apple Computer, the company he founded.
Did he give up? Did he do what his peers suggested and admit defeat?
No, he engineered what may be the greatest comeback in modern business history. He stayed true to his individuality, to his uniqueness. He built on what made him different; he founded the movie studio, Pixar.
And what happened to Apple when he was fired? It lost market share, it lost what made it unique, and finally it lost money. The year before Steve Jobs reassumed management control of Apple, it had lost $1-billion on revenues of $7.1-billion.
Initially re-hired as “Interim CEO,” in September 1997, Jobs proceeded to rebuild the company. In one year he turned a $1-billion loss into a multi-million dollar profit. And it grew from there.
Truth be known, most people are average. They want to fit in. To be like everyone else. To be accepted. But does being different mean you are shunned? Or is it better to surround yourself with other unique individuals? Is it better to build on your individual strengths and abilities? Yes, it is.
What are yours? Every human being has strengths and abilities. What are you good at? What are your special abilities? What makes you different? What do you enjoy doing?
How about Chip Foose who created “Foose Designs,” an automotive design studio? Born in Santa Barbara, he began working in his father’s company, “Project Design.” By age 12, he already had five years experience under his belt and had painted his first car, a Porsche 356.
He entered the Art Center, where he majored in automotive product design, and graduated in 1990 with honors. By November 1997, he was inducted into the Hot Rod “Hall of Fame.” He has followed his dream. He built his life on what he loves. He is unique. He built his talent to become a leader in his industry. He and his wife Lynne have built Foose Design, a company that designs and builds automotive masterpieces.
The world is filled with hundreds of examples of unique human beings who did not succumb to the curse of the average.
What is your passion? What are your desires? What are your natural talents? Build on them. Expand your individuality. Be unlike your peers, be different, be unique, become what it is that you desire.
Does what you desire need to be something huge where you build a company or an industry? No. It can be as simple as being the most personable and competent clerk in your company. And it is what makes you different.
Set the pace, don’t follow it.
Richard M. Knappen is president of Chessmen Career Movers, an outplacement, career management, and consulting firm that is one of the oldest and largest locally-owned companies of its type in Southern California.