When Steve Jobs said, ‘Don’t do something better, do it differently,’ he changed the corporate world forever. He not only said that but he demonstrated too. When everyone was coming up with several models of personal computers, he brought just one. When everyone was competing on price, he concentrated on design. People queued for miles at every iPhone release even when they were and are the most expensive phone in the market.
He changed the rules.
He didn’t try to be better than his competition; instead, he concentrated on being different by focusing on different things.
I wondered if the same rule can be used in the ‘creative sector.’ Can a writer write differently? Can a painter paint in a different way? Can a singer sing in a completely different way.
As soon as I started asking these questions the answer stared at my face.
Of course, they can.
That is the only way the creative people thrive, by doing things differently.
The creativity doesn’t come with competition, but with imagination.
There is always going to be someone smarter than you, but there may not be someone who is more imaginative.” -Byron Wien
Yet we spend our lives in order to become better than others. We berate ourselves for not being able to write like the writers we admire. We scold our efforts, criticize our own work, and give up in desperation because we think we are not good enough.
Frank Kafka was an exceptional writer, his work expressed the absurdity of modern society in a unique way, yet plagued by self-doubt he asked his friend, Max Brod, to destroy all of his manuscripts after his death. Thanks to his friend’s foresight, who preserved his work by publishing it, there is a whole cult of admirers appropriately named “Kafkaesque.”
Kafka didn’t realize in his life that he had the advantage of being different. Something he instinctively had by being himself. He was a physically week child of a dominating father. He suffered the impersonal nature of bureaucracy and capitalism first hand to win the admiration of his father but ended up mocking the world devoid of meaning or purpose. There lied his uniqueness.
What Kafka had defiantly, Malcolm Gladwell cultivated. He wrote sociology, psychology, and social psychology books like thrillers. No doubt he is a great writer but he knows the advantage of being different.
Now the question is how to be different.
The answer is not what you expect.
Here is a story that illustrates it best.
Mohamed Ali, was a great athlete. A heavyweight champion, holder of several records for close to four decades and topper of many rankings by Sports Illustrated and the BBC. But the real reason Ali occupies such a unique place in people’s hearts and minds is that he created his own category — he was the original social-activist athlete.
Ali wasn’t afraid to use his voice at a time when others in his position usually deferred to their managers.
Ali was the first athlete to take a very public stand for civil rights and social justice — refusing to be drafted into the U.S. military in the mid-1960s, citing both his religion (he converted to Islam) and his objection to the Vietnam War.
Ali’s status as champion kept him — and these issues — in the spotlight during the five years he fought his draft conviction, eventually winning an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971.
Even though he was stripped of his titles and banned from the sport he loved during the prolonged legal battle, Ali was often dead center in the ring of public opinion, for good and for bad. His return to the ring was relatively seamless as a result. That’s why Ali transcended boxing and became a category king, the person to whom all other “combat athletes” are compared.by Christopher Lochhead and Heather Clancy
Ali was not only different but a whole league in himself.
And he was able to achieve that status because he was always himself. He never had a shred of doubt of his own talent or believes.
And that is the essence of being different.
Each one is already unique, yet we strive to be like someone else.
All we need is to have the courage to be ourselves and we will discover we stand out anyway.