We now live in a world where we’re all trying to out special each other.
This phenomenon called competitive individuality has become our favorite pastime.
But there’s also something called the paradox of uniqueness. It’s the idea that we are all simultaneously special and not special. It’s all depends on the context.
When we’re sitting across the desk from a hiring manager or prospective client, want that person to think the following:
Wow, this guy’s talent stack is rare, his work experience is compelling, his creative portfolio is original, his energy signature is unique and his valued added is remarkable.
In the absence of that uniqueness, we’re destined to be unemployed for a long time.
When we’re sitting across the desk from a surgeon, it’s the opposite. We hope the doctor thinks the following:
Excellent, this guy’s test results are typical, his physical state is normal, his diagnosis is unremarkable, his symptoms are ordinary and his body is doing exactly what we expected.
In the absence of that ordinariness, we might want to get our affairs in order.
See the difference?
Imagine if your doctor told you to stay put while he enthusiastically grabbed four of his med school students to come into the examination room and witness just how special you were.
Behold, young doctors, this gentleman’s cardiac anomaly accounts for only two percent of all patients worldwide!
Not the kind of uniqueness worth striving for.
And so, it’s all a matter of perspective. Sometimes it’s better to be a blade of grass, not a daisy. Sometimes it’s paramount that people notice how special we are, and sometimes terminal uniqueness is a danger to our health.
Speaking of cardiac anomalies, years ago a medical organization hired me to give a presentation at one of their summer camps. This charity provided free camping experiences to children undergoing treatment for, and survivors of, cancer and blood related diseases.
Their mission was to help kids make new friends and experience relief from the everyday stresses caused by their illness.
Five minutes before my presentation, the executive director pulled me aside and said.
Scott, we appreciate that your nametag story is all about being an individual and finding your uniqueness, but these kids attend our camp because they just want to feel normal. They’ve spent their whole lives being sick, battling their disease and fighting the stigma attached to it. Please adjust your speech accordingly. Thank you.
That’s the paradox of uniqueness.
Not everybody wants to out special each other.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
When has your individuality worked to your disadvantage?