What sets us apart?

There are a lot of people in the world. 6 or 7 billion. If you can’t wrap your head around that number, you’re not alone. To give you an idea — at a second per count, it would take over 190 years to count to 6 billion. So, in what is effectively an endless sea of people, how do you set yourself apart? What makes you special? If you are one in six billion, what is the probability that you could be the best at what you do? How can you compete against those odds?

My answer: giving that little extra. I have never been one to do the bare minimum. I need to push myself, I thrive on challenges, and I rarely hear myself say, “That’s good enough.” Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I do what I do better than anyone else. I would describe myself as competent, but there are many people, whether through experience or raw skill, who do my job better than I do, who are better than me at the games I like to play, or who know little tricks of the trade that give them that competitive edge.

So, I ask again, how can I compete? I know, for instance, that what I bring to the table is a willingness to challenge myself, and to work hard every day. I am also constantly reassessing what I do, trying to figure out ways to do it better. But what it your little extra? What skill or quality do you possess that determines how you do what you do? What do you do differently that lets you say, not just ‘I did it’, but ‘I did it well’?

I may not be the one to answer that question. But there is a reason I asked it. Take a look at my last post (which happened to be my first). A pretty standard introductory blog post — I said who I am, what I do, and why I do it. Lots of people have done that before, so nothing new there. But I took some extra time and went through the post, picked out what I thought might be interesting things to learn a little bit more about, and set up links for them. Some I directed to Wikipedia entries. Some I linked to organization websites. I asked myself, “Why would someone want to read my blog?” And then I asked myself, “What is going to make that person want to read my blog again?”

Nothing incredible, sure, but it was something extra. And that, I think, is what people want to see. In friends, in products, in service, in romantic relationships… they want to be able to see clearly what makes that person, that thing, that place, stand out. So relax, you don’t need to be the best at what you do. You just need to strive to be unique. Be the best you that you can be. And I suppose life is about figuring out who you want ‘you’ to be. And for me, that involves soaking up as much information as I can, every day.

That’s part of what drew me to books. And for that reason, I plan to feature one book with each post I make to this blog. Not just any book, but a book that I think is worth mentioning, because it presents a new idea, gives us a new way of looking at the world, or otherwise contributes to improving our lives, either by providing intellectual stimulation, or a much-needed dose of entertainment.

Today’s book:

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point

This celebrated New York Times bestseller… is a book that is changing the way North Americans think about selling products and disseminating ideas. Gladwell’s new afterword to this edition describes how readers can constructively apply the tipping point principle in their own lives and work. Widely hailed as an important work that offers not only a road map to business success but also a profoundly encouraging approach to solving social problems.
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