Your difference is all you need to prosper

Dare to do the seemingly unusual and do it
Dare to do the seemingly unusual and do it well. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

As a young girl, my left hand was frequently struck at mealtimes. It is bad luck to use my left hand, I was told. My mother and grandmother believed that left handedness spelled doom for me. My people believed it to be a sign of weakness because normal, strong people were right-handed. I later discovered that I was a very creative individual. My left handedness is a strength after all.

I was raised not to speak loudly. Women, and especially young ones didn't speak loudly. More so in the presence of men because it was considered too forward and even rude. When I later joined the workforce, I quickly learned that a diminished voice communicated a lack of confidence, poor communication on my part and even a sign of rudeness in some cases. More interestingly, now as an executive coach, I am not only asked but I get paid to speak loudly.

When I plunged into entrepreneurship in 2002, a former employer I excitedly told about my new venture looked at me and sadly said; Oooh, Seraphine! I wish you'd consulted me before you resigned from your job! Advertising is a very crowded field! I would have advised you differently!

Six months later I pleasantly realised he had been as right as he had been wrong. Advertising is indeed a very crowded field. So crowded is the field with customers that nearly 14 years later today, I still wonder why I didn't start the business earlier than I did! Now; I am thankful. I love and will forever be grateful to my mother, my entire family, my teachers, peers, and all the great people from whose instruction I have had the privilege of learning over the years for their instruction.

You and I have plenty in common. We have been conditioned to believe that being different is wrong. The trouble I want to suggest that you have with that is that the notion assumes that what most people do, what most people have and the way most people are, is the right way.


If that were anywhere near true, most people would be wildly productive, successful and wondrously happy every single day!

Look around you... That is not the case. There is no strength in numbers in this regard. The majority do not win here. There are very few productive people. There are even fewer successful people... And let's not even get into the fewer number of truly content and happy people.

The thing about those few people is not luck, it is not good fortune or being born with silver spoons in their mouths. It's not magic either.

Most of us have been raised to appreciate life very basically. Our five senses form our full arsenal of how we attack the ever-changing, increasingly competitive life we lead today. Look; we can see with our eyes, hear with our ears, touch with our hands, smell with our noses and taste with our tongues. But so can all the other animals in some form or another!

If these basic senses were adequate to envision, chart and create greatness, even chicken and pigs could create brilliant futures for themselves. Our basic senses were given to us only... Only for the purpose of surviving in our physical environment.

Who wants to merely survive? The reason you and I are superior beings is because we are intelligent. This is difference.

The reason some of us reap more out of their personal and professional lives is because they embrace, engage and reap from their intelligence. The same intelligence we all inherently posses in equal measure. No one gets an unfair share. This is difference.

The people who make the most of their lives are the ones who dare to do the seemingly unusual, abnormal, uncomfortable and even unexciting things. They consciously and continually take the decision to form the habit of doing the things that average people do not like to do. This is difference.

They are very few. They seem to have carefully selected the members of their privileged club. The lucky people! The chosen few! These seemingly "chosen few" are people willing, able and ready to go against the grain, to rock the boats of normalcy, to stick out like sore thumbs and look crazy to the rest of the world to become the best.This is difference.

And then we envy, admire and even emulate them when we finally come to the realization that difference... is good!

Tell me; what is your difference? What is the edge you have over others? What is your unique personal and professional proposition?

So you are a good person, you are a qualified professional, you are a hard worker, you're dedicated, reliable and certainly over-deliver on your mandate year-in, year-out yet you're constantly left at the back end of things. Your colleagues and other contemporaries quickly rise through the ranks. Soon you find yourself still holding the same position and earning the same salary while working your fingers to the bone five, six, even seven years down the line. The organization isn't the problem and no, your boss doesn't hate you.

The thing is; Many can do what you do, believe me. You do not want to be among the many. The many are also slobs. They wake up in the morning, hopefully take a shower, slather on some Vaseline, throw on something from their wardrobe and head on down the the office. While they are there no one can tell they exist until they submit some finished project.

There's nothing fundamentally wrong with that. It's just common, normal, usual and comfortable. Nothing different. So nothing different happens for you. If this speaks to you, Here are some deceptively simple yet weighty considerations you may want to make;

Be warned that they may be uncomfortable. If that happens, it means you need to quite thinking of breaking through the glass ceiling and start breaking out of your comfort zone.

Can others see the dirt under your nails, the hairs sticking out of your nose or the wax in your ears? You're in need of grooming assistance.

Do others ask if you too experienced the power blackout last night? They mean that you're wearing rumpled clothes. You need wardrobe management.

Do they stand at a further than normal distance from you?

Hmmm... They won't tell you but it is my duty to. If you don't spray them with saliva as you speak, your breathe may not be fresh or you have unpleasant body odor.

Can they hear you chewing and see the food particles in your mouth during lunch? Your dining etiquette could use some improvement.

Do they seem to misunderstand your emails? You need help to effectively write out your brilliant ideas.

Wondering why you're rarely invited to high-profile company events? You need to look high-profile and brush up on your social skills.

While you're at it, you may want to learn what all the cutlery and glassware on the tables are for... And how to use them appropriately.

Do presenters frequently call you out during meetings? You need to understand how you're communicating non-verbally.

Do others get more credit for your input? You need to learn how to position and market your.

Did you have to be escorted home before the last office party ended? Well, let's just say that there's a difference between drinking at your local bar and at your company event.

You need to develop the difference shared by the chosen few if your circumstances are to change.

Start today. Develop a comprehensive executive presence!