I remember growing up and doing everything I could possibly do to fit in. As a child and a teenager, being normal is the goal. You don’t want people to talk about you as if you’re some sort of weirdo, after all, right? So you were the same clothes as everyone else, you listen to the same music and watch the same movies as everyone else, and you generally behave like you think any average, unassuming kid your age would.
Maybe you weren’t like that, but I definitely was. I was horrified of being singled out for anything so I put all of my effort into being just another cog in the machine.
But a wonderful thing happens when you get older; you realize that the things that make you unique are actually the best things about you. I don’t have any profound explanation as to why this realization eventually hits you, but it does, and it’s liberating.
I started to succeed at work once I started doing things that made me stand out. I have certain skills and certain opinions that are not shared by anyone else at my former and current jobs, and leaning into those things has only helped me distinguish myself more than I would have had I simply gone in and done the things I was asked to do. I started new initiatives and created things that had never been considered before, and doing so brought me more success than trying to color inside the lines ever did.
I also saw this in my web projects. BirchTree has taken off in the past year or so not because I’ve emulated Gruber or Viticci better, but because I’ve found my own voice and I write about things that genuinely interest me. Show me one tech blog that writes more about the Apple Watch than I do. Additionally, it turns out I have an eye for smartphone wallpapers, and they get spread around more than I ever expected.
Just consider this as you go through life. You don’t have to be the most outgoing (and believe me, I’m not) or the absolute smartest person in the world to make waves, you just have to lean into the things that make you special. Figure out what that is as early as you can, and go with it. You won’t regret it.