Feeling like you’re working harder yet not smarter over time? Feeling thwarted, scattered or under appreciated? You are not alone. Perhaps the biggest gateway into a more successful and meaningful work and life is this step: Distill your smarts and most passionate interests into a distinctive, much-needed method. That’s what Joe Calloway calls Becoming A Category of One.
Here is a hurdle you may be facing, especially if you are smart. You have “the curse of knowledge.” You know things that the others do not and you have forgotten what it’s like to not have this knowledge. Yet if you discover how to make that knowledge understandable and valuable to people or organizations in a new niche you can become sought-after. The key is to be able to step back and see within your expertise what Dorie Clark, in her book Stand Out, calls your best breakthrough idea that can most attract others. You need that distillation to become a sought-after, one-of-a-kind expert.
Your Gateway To Your Best Path to Stand Out
Dorie Clark offers a step-by-step approach to identify and hone your unique expertise in a way no one else has, for a niche that will want what you offer. To be sure you are on the right path, read about when and get apt feedback from others. She shows how you don’t necessarily need to have distinguished diplomas from top schools as approachable TV cooking celebrity Rachel Ray and Google engineer and Search Inside Yourself mindfulness teacher Chade-Meng Tan have proven.
Hint: Rather than pushing your message at people by just citing your own accomplishments, pull people closer by citing relevant other experts’ specific actions and insights as sterling examples at the center of your story, speech, conversation, column or product launch. Read some of Dorie’s articles and columns and notice how much she shines a credibility-boosting spotlight on others, thus demonstrating her deep expertise on the topic as she also builds trusted, deep loyalty bonds with complementary thought leaders. I am deeply honored to be one of the legion of allies she has attracted by this approach. She demonstrates exactly how in her book, Stand Out.
Be Not Just a Giver But a Helpful Giver
Dorie is the consummate kind of helpful giver that Adam M. Grant advocates in Give and Take.
Her approach complements Bryan Kramer’s view that the most appreciated kind of sharing happens without expecting a quid pro quo and reflects an awareness of what would most benefit those with whom you share.
Move From Writing and Speaking Me-Me-You To You-Me-Us
Dishearteningly, most of the pitches I get as a columnist begin by promoting what they want me to write about them, rather than first showing some knowledge of what I usually cover and the mutual interest we share. Perhaps you have had similar experiences in your line of work?
Hint: Sufficiently research someone you want to meet or are actually about to meet. That way you can begin the conversation by citing something about them that genuinely interests you. Then suggest a possible sweet spot of shared interest, listen closely to their response so you can demonstrate curiosity, caring and flexibility in finding what you both would find satisfying to explore together.
Next, give potential, complementary allies reasons to add to or otherwise participate in growing your body of knowledge and sharing it with others. In The Click Moment, Frans Johansson calls this creating a “hook” on which others will want to attach their own contribution, to their mutual benefit. In short you build in opportunities for them to gain bragging rights, as the ALS folks did so brilliantly with their viral Ice Bucket Challenge.
Involve others in growing your collective expertise for greater impact together: forge a peer group, or a group with diverse backgrounds that share a strong sweet spot of shared interest.
Dorie Clark’s book is laden with fascinating examples of how diverse individuals have found their remarkableness and built a meaningful work and life around their breakthrough idea. They include Tom Peters, Diane Mulcahy, Mark Fidelman, Sebastian Thrun, Robert Cialdini, Rita Gunther McGrath, Robert Scoble, Stuart Crainer, Rose Shuman, Ramit Sethi, Nate Silver, Sophal Ear, Michael Waxenberg, Michael Michalko, Eric Schadt, Eric Ries, Paco Underhill, David Allen, John Gibb Millspaugh, Daniel Pink, John Corcoran, Debbie Horovitch, Robbie Kellman Baxter, John Hagel, Seth Godin, Mike Lydon, Miranda Aisling Hynes, Peter Shankman, Scott Belsky, Tim Walker, Charlie Hoehn, Robbie Samuels, and Teresa Amabile.
When I finished Dorie’s book this quote from William Butler Yeats came to mind, so timely and nourishing for those of us who want to have a greater impact with and for others: “Because I helped to wind the clock, I come to hear it strike.”