Your fingerprints are unique. No one else in the world has the exact same composition of grooves and swirls. The key to knowing how to stand out in a crowd is knowing what else makes you unique. What makes you, you? Understanding this is the first step toward standing out in a positive, confident, and inspiring way.
What makes you unique?
If I had to choose one adjective to describe the most unique people I’ve met, it would be “curious”. All of my unique friends have an intense curiosity about the world far beyond their chosen field. They are generalists in their appetite for knowledge.
I once went camping with a famous photographer and we spent our time around the campfire talking about electricity, jet propulsion systems, and beekeeping. (He did most of the talking!) What I realized was calling this person a “photographer” wasn’t accurate. Sure, he is well known and certainly knows his way around a camera, but he was far, far more. He is a well-rounded, intelligent, curious individual who was more than someone who could press the shutter button. And frankly, this is partly why he is so successful as a photographer. He is being hired not only for his photographs, but for who he is as a person.
Standing out from the crowd isn’t showing off
Let’s talk confident not cocky. Few people enjoy a showoff. A quiet power laced with emotional intelligence is how leaders are made. And leaders, as we all know, stand out from the crowd. Knowing yourself, believing in yourself, and being confident are traits that not only empower you. They are addictive to those around you. We’ve all been at a party or industry event when someone walks in and takes over the room. You may or may not know the person, but you want to just because of how they carry themselves and how they interact with others. Introvert or extrovert, no matter.
What other traits help you stand out?
Authenticity, honesty, humor, and kindness. We live in a time where being popular alone can lead to financial success. Consequently, we are often being fed a diet of less-than-honest content in an attempt to get us on board with whatever is being sold. Standing out in a world crowded by attention seekers is in great part about you being you. Modern humans crave authenticity, regardless of imperfections, and in fact, those same imperfections when confronted head-on with honor, humor, and honesty are often what allows us to fully show who we actually are. You might not please everyone, but you will certainly be remembered.
Perhaps the last-but-not-least ingredient for standing out is patience. Author Joan Didion did not become famous while working as a copywriter. Director Kathryn Bigelow did not win an Oscar for her first film. And Lady Gaga did not become a superstar the first time she stepped up to the microphone. All of these creatives, and many others like them, took years to become the unique individuals we see today. Practice, failure, tenacity, and taking the time to fully understand who they are and what specifically they wish to share with the world is the work of a lifetime.
As they say, “If it were easy everyone would be doing it.” There is truth in this statement. Being unique and standing out in a crowd is often about both learning and stripping away. Who are you? What do you believe? And how do these beliefs make you feel? Answer these questions, move aside the rest, and you are well on your way.
I think creative people have a responsibility to society. I believe our job is to be as creative as possible because the other sectors of society are depending on us. We can break rules, be eccentric, and take huge, creative risks, because that is our role. We are here to show others an alternative path. We are here to inspire. And we are here to provide creative intention and purpose. When we practice, refine our skills, and prepare ourselves for the known and unknown we are laying the foundation for standing out.