Do you know what makes you so special?
Chances are, you don’t. In fact, what makes most of us special is also what we most fear revealing or even realizing about ourselves. We spend much of our formative years trying to learn to fit in and not be noticed. Being noticed in school or at home often meant being punished.
Avoiding punishment is not a recipe for success…unless you are living in a fascist regime, which in America or Western Europe we are not.
Looking at what makes us unique may even make us feel a little bit embarrassed about ourselves. But it is actually valuable to look. Differentiating ourselves in the market, or ‘branding’, depends on combining our uniqueness with our skills in a way that stands out.
But standing out, as stated earlier, can be problematic! We’re not supposed to do that, your ego might scream out to “STOP”! However, noticing, distinguishing and allowing yourself to play out your most unique qualities is the best predictor of whether or not you will reach your professional and personal goals.
”Whatever is your greatest fear is exactly what will cause you to fail. If you don’t have the will to drive past your fear, your business…your dream cannot survive,” says U.S. Navy Seal and Training Consultant, Clark Stuart.
It is also said ‘Behind your greatest fear is your greatest gift’. For example, someone may say, “Oh I would never be a singer, I have a terrible voice.” In fact, this would tell me that their voice is their greatest talent. But after exploring maybe we would find they are not a singer, but a storyteller or jam poet or even a professional sound maker like Bobby McFerrin.
If in business, you are afraid of making a fool of yourself by selling badly, being too pushy, or indeed, selling at all, you will not likely ever earn the money you need and desire. Unless at some point you are willing to go ballistic and look foolish, or in other words, ‘put yourself out there’ with your product or service, you cannot surpass your income limits.
What makes you stand out is also your innovation. Muhammad Ali was special and innovative in that he combined boxing with God. Before he came along, we had not seen that particular innovation before. In a rare interview in England, Muhammad Ali shares his spiritual beliefs with the audience. He has total conviction about God. He also has total conviction about winning and being the best. This conviction and willingness to speak out loud about it was his specialty.
New business models like Upwork and Fiverr are channeling the art of matchmaking into business by connecting people with highly specialized skills and the people who need these skills, a.k.a. clients.
For example, I have a former client who loves dragons, cats and puppets. Her linear business is graphic design. On websites and through word of mouth, she has been able to get hired for jobs involving these things. Why was she hired for these jobs? She made it clear she has these ‘quirks’ or things she is passionate about. She also wrote a book about cats, called ‘Chicken Kitten‘, which she illustrated, of course!
Now, she has a brilliant calling card to show what she is capable of and also show her specialty. By the way, are you noticing that ‘specialty’ and specialist’ both have the root word of ‘special’? Yes, you’re welcome for pointing out the obvious! (one of my not-so-unique talents ;-).
What I’m saying here is to remind you, but also to remind me. What I used to fear most as a self-conscious and shy child is my own sound. When I was around people I tried not to make a sound, not even with my breathing. Well you can probably guess that behind the fear of being heard was also a great desire and perhaps a gift for expression.
After years of committed effort and energy toward reaching the goal of being self-expressed my life pretty much evolves around expression now. It is one value that is evident in how I raise my kids as well. My sons and I are confident in expressing ourselves, whether it’s onstage at the school talent show, or in front of an audience of professionals at a conference, or in the privacy of our home working out an issue with each other or doing a filming project or a collage. Last December, we even appeared in a play together!
I have seen many parents who are afraid to be honest with their kids, so the kids don’t necessarily learn how to express honestly or be with others who are expressive. But, how else will kids learn emotional durability and strength, if they don’t experience it in their childhood? In this way, parents can pass on their fears to their children and continue the cycle of suppressing one’s specialness.
Emory University School of Medicine published findings from a study showing that kids inherit their parent’s fears. Experiments showed that a traumatic event could affect the DNA in sperm and alter the brains and behavior of subsequent generations. Changes in brain structure were also found.
“The experiences of a parent, even before conceiving, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations,” the report concluded.
Another reason it is worth it to invest time, energy and intention to drive through my fears is so that I don’t infect other people with them…namely my kids! Me writing this blog is one way I keep myself accountable to driving through my fears of expressing. See the tendency to keep playing small and staying in hiding with your specialness doesn’t go away!….at least not that I know of.
Even people like Seth Godin and Gary Vaynerchuk who blog several times per day and seem so bold, still probably deal with resistance and fear. If you also need to push yourself to drive through your fears, just remember, fear is not permanent or terminal, and you can get to the other side of it! So whatever you hesitate at, whether it’s pressing the ‘publish’ link on your blog post, picking up the phone and dialing, or raising your hand with a question next time you are in a presentation, try this next time, “Go for it!!”
For me, I will keep writing, videoing and calling…as long as you keep reading, watching and picking up the phone! Thank you for helping me drive through my fear!
Here are ten questions for self-exploration…to lead you on a path of uncovering your hidden specialties!
1-What am I grateful for?
2-What do I love?
3-Why am I happy?
4-Who am I mad at?
5-What am I most committed to?
6-How committed am I?
7-What is my intention?
8-What is my wish?
9-Why am I here?
10-What am I afraid I am?