Seth Godin says you need to be a "Purple Cow". Chip and Dan Heath teach that "unexpected" ideas stick better. A million other people offer the same advice in a million other ways. If what you're doing is run-of-the-mill, you're headed for run-of-the-mill results.

I'm sure you've heard plenty of times before that to get outstanding results, you need to stand out. If you're like most people, you hear that, agree with it, and within a few minutes, you're back to your same old boring self.

Why do we have such a hard time following this advice? Let's talk about some of the assassins of uniqueness that keep us in our ruts.

"Because I'm NOT unique."

Most of us probably never get past this thought. "Sure, I'd love to be the most amazing blogger in my niche, but I'm not." "I'd love to create products that wow people like Apple's, but I'm not that good." "I'd love to have my cartoons exhibited at the Louvre, but I can't draw that well."

Have you ever told yourself something like that before? If so, guess what. You've completely missed the point.

Being unique isn't the same thing as being the best. "The best" is relative anyway -- "the best" for any particular customer simply means "the closest to what I want" -- and not everybody wants the same thing.

Yes, some products are "the best" for more people than others. And you should strive to be the best you can. But half the point is just to stand out -- to get attention. The other half is to tie your attention grabber to some unique value that you provide. You don't have to be all things to everyone.

"Because I can't think of anything unique to do."

I can tell you with absolute certainty that that's simply not true. I'm sure you could think of something as unique as:

  • ...recording all your marketing videos singing falsetto.
  • ...writing all your blog posts from the point of view of a fork.
  • ...writing your emails in iambic pentameter.
  • ...tweeting a famous quote every day with words changed to make them talk about your product.

I'm not saying these unique ideas a good ideas, just that the problem isn't not being able to think of anything unique. If you'll stop judging (and condemning) your ideas for a few minutes and just brainstorm, you'll come up with a lot of unique ideas.

Reader Comment:
Emmit Hollin said:
I've read most of Seth's books and find them disorganized and thus off putting. Thanks for making this concept resonate with me. I'm going to have to think about what my unique voice might be.
(join the conversation below)

The crazier your ideas are, the more unique they'll be. So go for crazy. Write 'em all down no matter how ridiculous they are.

Once that's done, you can go about the business of evaluating, picking a good seed, and figuring out how to make it work. Which leads us to our next excuse:

"Because I'd look like an idiot."

Leigh Peele demolished this excuse over at Yaro Starak's blog yesterday:

Steps To Decreasing Your Boringness

1. Get out of your own way

Being boring is safe. Being boring means less rejection, less opinions, and more blending. If you want to stand out, you can't blend. Big blocks to creativity are uncertainty and fear.

One of my favorite things to do is dance. ... Dancing is an extremely basic thing to do, if you can get out of your own way. Most people feel stupid or hesitate. When something is based on fluid movement, hesitation leads to awkwardness. That awkwardness leads to an unsuccessful dance and more insecurity.

Think about that. Most people -- even if they don't like dance -- admire someone who's mastered it. Nobody thinks doing 15 consecutive pirouettes looks stupid. It's awesome, and we all know it, even if we wouldn't go out of our way to watch it.

But most people would feel like idiots doing pirouettes in public, even if they'd mastered the skill in private. The people who make big bucks at dance aren't just those who've mastered the skill, but those who aren't afraid to show it.

Most people listen and admire when someone gets up on stage and belts out a good song. But how many -- even among those who sing well -- dare to do it?

Most people would watch and admire someone who put on an unscheduled physical comedy performance at the park. But who'd dare to do it themselves?

In fact, getting past the fear is even more important than developing the skill. You can make a lot of mistakes and still earn enthusiastic applause if you'll just stand up and let your uniqueness flow with confidence.

Heck, when you make mistakes and yet continue with confidence, you'll earn applause for that alone. So why are we so afraid of making fools of ourselves?

To paraphrase Alexander Pope, "fools cash in where angels fear to tread." You'll never stand out from the crowd if you let fear get the best of you.

Quoting from Leigh a little more:

Research shows overwhelming evidence that friends and environment affect everything from obesity to wealth. Who you surround yourself with is in a sense, who you are.

Imagine how you'd feel if one of your friends or family members climbed up on top of the monkey bars and started singing at the top of their lungs. You'd probably want to shrivel up and disappear, even if they were an amazing singer.

But how many strangers hearing this bold and awesome performance would think, "oh, my gosh. What an idiot!" Sure, there'd be some. Mostly people who are insecure and jealous of those with the courage to stand out. But I'd put good money on them getting a rousing round of applause.

People who know us as we have been may not be ready to see us standing out and being unique. Don't let them hold you back. They'll come around.

Focus on the people you don't know, who'll respond positively to your message. They're the ones who are seeing you without filters -- seeing the value of your uniqueness.

They're the one's who you're going to sell to.