Have you ever stopped yourself from doing something by telling yourself that it’s been done before?
“I’m not going to write this book because someone else has already written about it.”
“I’m not going to invent Facebook because Myspace already exists.”
“I’m not going to develop the iPhone because you know what, this flip phone I have works just fine.”
There’s very little in this world that has not already been thought about and/or done before. The idea of being “unique” is no longer the road less traveled, it’s the road never traveled. In our work with clients, “unique” is a word we automatically eliminate from our vocabulary. We don’t use it because #1, it’s pretty meaningless and #2, it leads to defining yourself by what you’re not – not by what you are.
As a fan of Donald Miller, a recent email he sent really resonated with me. His point? Be the same but different.
“…Chick-fil-A is a fast-food restaurant, but they’re different in that they only serve chicken. Papa Murphy’s is a pizza place, but they’re different because you take the pizza home to bake it. The iPhone is a phone, but it’s different because it does nearly everything your computer can do.”
There is a familiarity we crave as consumers. We want a product or service to resonate. It may seem more alluring to come up with an idea that’s never been considered (good luck with that noble pursuit), but what really works is taking something that exists and making it better, making it different, making it your own.
When I first had the idea to start Proof, I knew there were a million other branding/design/creative agencies in the world. And believe me, I questioned the legitimacy of throwing yet another one into the mix. But what I remembered was the best asset I could bring to the mix. Myself.
If you find yourself in the midst of wanting to pursue an idea but are held back by the pursuit of “unique” – take a moment to redefine what unique really means. Unique doesn’t mean “only”. It means better. It means different. It means you bringing yourself to the table – and there’s only one you.
Maybe today you’ll realize that everything you need in your pursuit of unique…you already have.
That realization is powerful enough to move you away from the road never traveled to the road less traveled. And the road less traveled–the one rife with discovery, improvement, iteration, and innovation–is the best path to be on, en route to success.