Don’t Be Ordinary

As one friend of mine goes back to work after a year or two of being officially unemployed, I offered some words of wisdom, “Don’t Be Ordinary”.    You can take this to mean many things, because it is a general statement about our condition in life.   You can just do things “the company” way and churn out what is expected of you, or… you can show that you have ideas, that you can communicate and this means you have more to offer and are wanted by the organization.  We need to show our value more and more, and communicating that value is critical.  And there are people who like to be ordinary.  That’s fine. I don’t.  But that’s me.  But my reference to Don’t Be Ordinary refers to how others view us. My specific advise to an employee going back to work means don’t be the person you were (if it was an issue) when you last worked.  Be a different person, one who is not looked upon as average.

How to be different?

First off there are a tons of ways to be different and less ordinary in our work.  There are many ways to start changing.  One is to learn to be a better presenter.  The info is out there to learn.  I personally love Diane Duarte and have read her book Slide:ology and a new one Resonate.  And there is You Got To Believed To Be Heard by Decker.  My answer is, if you were laid off from a job  and told you were not very important or added much to the organization, then change that.  Learn to be a great presenter, and each time you are given a chance to communicate, be extraordinary.   You can improve your slides, your speaking habits, your dress, your weight, your hygiene, your whatever.  We can improve and yes, the little details matter when it comes to being different.

College Rules

I always felt that the whole underlying purpose  of college and high school education was to teach us to succeed at following the rules. I quite frankly struggled at this concept.  I was constantly looking for ways to be different, and was not interested in competing to be best, but rather competing to be different.  Instead of following the rules exactly, I would always try to find ways around the rules.  In fact, I took as many classes where you got your education in the field.  In both high school and college I was an intern or worked in the field in politics.  I worked on a bunch of political campaigns in high school and eventually worked for Bill Bradley as an intern for college credits.  I wrote papers for 6 credits, to not be in class, in both my undergrad and graduate school.  I even took a 9 credit summer class where we watched movies all day long and wrote criticisms.   To me that was a lot better than studying.

When Different Is Not A Good Thing

My friend Scott, who is no longer with us, was a case of person who was different, but not always in a good way.  He could not focus at work, he had trouble completing tasks.  He was generally a problem.  I know, he worked for me.  If you can get up and give an amazing presentations and solve problems and be viewed as a person who thinks differently terrific.  But there is a fine line.  There are people who are non-conformists, and can not follow any rules.  These people should know who they are and where the boundaries exist for them.  It is almost like they consistently make bad decisions and don’t know when to stop at a red line and don’t know when to start moving when the green light changes.  That person, yes they are different, but not extraordinary.  But that person can easily transform from odd and different to extraordinary, by doing the things in life they are good at.  Not everybody is good at a day job…  We need to understand our limitations.

Conclusion On How To Be Extraordinary

While working 9 to 5 in an office makes us money (if we have to do it), we are not living in a totalitarian society where we have to do things by the book.   And yes, I’ve been at over 20 years of jobs where we had to do what we are told and do it by the book, so I know that some things you can’t change in life…  But there is no reason why we can’t improve ourselves, read up on giving better presentations, speak better, communicate better.  You are often pigeon-holed by organizations as you work your way up the ladder.  This can be good or bad.  My early career I was known as the Garbage Man, because you could throw any task at me and I would get it done.  I had to.  That was my mantra back then.  But as time went on I learned more about communicating, I realized that you need to differentiate yourself to succeed.  And quite often this is not easy to do, since my technical jobs required little or no need to be different, in fact, I just had to meet the rules all the time.  But as I have been breaking out of my technology back-ground and into marketing, branding, speaking, selling, managing, create product, raising capital, I have concluded that I need to be a better communicator.  Presentations skills is the first place to start.