Be Different to Be Successful

By Leo Gura - April 20, 2013 | 2 Comments

How doing things differently than everyone else is a great rule of thumb to follow to create extraordinary success in business, relationships, and life in general.

Avoiding Mediocrity in Life

When you think about the kind of results the majority of people in America get, not even to mention the world, do you picture an amazing life? I’m talking about a life of financial abundance and independence, healthy relationships, optimum health, emotional well-being, making a significant positive impact on society, and being mentally well-developed. Well?

If the answer is No, why do you think doing the same basic things, engaging in the same strategies — or lack thereof — will put you in a better place? I never thought so, which is why I valued being different. Since an early age I’ve always figured that doing what everyone else is doing will get me what everyone else is getting — mediocrity in life.

The reality is that being different in-itself doesn’t guarantee success, but it’s a shockingly good rule of thumb to follow.

Key Blocks That Drive Most of Society into Mediocrity

Looking for easy hand-outs is symptomatic of why people don’t have an awesome life. And I’ll admit, there have been many times where I’ve bought into the group think of “something for nothing”. To be fair, optimizing energy and use of resources isn’t just group think, it’s wired deep into the DNA of all living organisms, but American culture feeds into this viciously.

Any area of your life where you had major success probably came about after massive persistence.

If you think like the masses do, then you’re quick to want easy money, fame, success, and free hand outs. A lot of this mentality is reinforced by media, friends, and culture at large. I’m talking about stuff like the lottery, freebie hand-outs at a new store opening, get-rich-quick-schemes, or that electric waistband that’s supposed to give you an effortless 6-pack. If you think independently, you realize that this stuff doesn’t work and actually causes a lot of harm to you if you’re on your own path towards success.

If you’re looking for a get-rich-quick-scheme you’re likely doomed from the get-go because you are in effect saying, “I don’t want to work hard. I want an easy solution. If this doesn’t work fast and easy, I’ll move on to something else.” And so inevitably when the scheme turns out to not be as quick or as easy as advertized, you quit, looking for the next best thing, not realizing that lasting success comes from focus and determination.

I would argue that certain values like focus, mental discipline, and hard work are very contrary to mainstream thinking, so if you just blindly follow the rule of do-everything-differently, applying it here would produce extraordinary results over the course of your life.

Why Doing What Everyone Else is Doing is Bad

Let’s take a look at some of the ways being different can be beneficial to your success.

Starting Your Own Business

In business it’s important to do things differently because you want to carve out your own niche and reduce competition. The most successful businesses are usually highly innovative or early market adopters. Then competition closes in as the niche proves profitable. Being different in business puts you in a good place to find new markets, innovate, and get a head start on your competition.

In business you also want a unique selling point, which is basically something that sets you apart from your competition. It might be the unique product you’ve designed or how you handle customer service. If you’re just like everyone else, your only edge will be price, which isn’t an effective way to compete. By being different, you can challenge business-as-usual and find better ways of doing things that might endear you to customers or make you stand out from everyone else.

The ability to think outside the box and operate outside of mainstream thinking is characteristic of millionaires.

Internet marketing is a great example of the blind following the blind. So many people try to set up work-at-home online businesses but most of them fail. If you read internet marketing forums you can feel the herd mentality at play. The overall vibe is that of people desperately looking for the next shortcut to success. When someone seems to find a new marketing tactic, clever technique, or the next hot market, the herd jumps on board. But as soon as everyone gets on board, the ship sinks because most tactics or techniques can’t sustain a horde of businesses. What works for one or ten, often won’t work for 10 thousand. Having a mindset of going against the grain in this case can mean the difference between going broke and making millions.

I had an unusual level of success in internet marketing because I was very wary of the fads. I would browse the forums and look for what everyone else was doing, filtering the information, drawing lessons, and then applying it to my own marketing process. Sure, sometimes I would jump on fads, but those were usually the times I got burned. But overall, I was very deliberate in telling myself, “No, I will ignore all get-rich-quick stuff and go for something sustainable.”

My biggest successes came from doing things differently. For example, in a sea of internet marketers creating small, flimsy, made-for-adsense sites, I focused on making big, high-quality sites and I made an effort to take control of monetizing the traffic myself. It was more work and more investment for me, but it ultimately paid off because Google started tightening quality standards and many of those cheap, low-quality sites were completely deindexed or heavily penalized while mine rose to the top and overwhelmed the competition with quality and quantity of material.

Managing Your Finances

Financial collapse and group think go hand in hand.Pyramid schemes, stock market crashes, and real-estate bubbles all come to mind.

Most market crashes can be attributed to unsustainable action en mass. Think about the dot-com bubble or the crash of 2008. When too many people jump on the bandwagon, it tends to bog down and eventually collapse. This is especially true in the stock market. If you play the stock market like everyone else, your chances of losing a lot of money are pretty high. From what I’ve read about the stock market industry and people that used it to make big bucks, they were using unsustainable strategies that could never work for the population at large.

Most people get interested in stocks when everyone else is. The time to get interested is when no one else is. You can’t buy what is popular and do well.

— Warren Buffett

Think about it, almost by definition, success for the masses in the stock market is impossible. If everyone invested in the same stock, no one would make money. Money is made by trade disparities and off-loading your stock to someone else who’s willing to pay more. And when one stock becomes too over-bought it usually ends up collapsing shortly after. Being different means not following the herd to slaughter. Buying into the hype can lead to financial ruin. Many stocks are traded at ridiculous price-to-earnings multiples just because the crowd thinks the stock is hot. The bottom could fall out at any time.

It’s interesting that hedge funds and top-performing mutual funds suffer when they open themselves to more investors. That’s why hedge funds are usually kept small and exclusive, and why mutual funds that perform well for several years in a row start to dip. Success means more publicity, so more people jump on board, and then what worked on a small scale becomes unsustainable.

Pyramid schemes are another great example. There are dozens of well-documented cases in history of how a clever pyramid scheme robbed otherwise hard-working folks of their retirement nestegg. Follow the herd in a case like that and you could end up destroying your life. The lesson is to stop chasing after fast money or fast success and think critically about how sustainable things are on larger scales.

Benefits of Group Think

As bad as group think can be, sometimes group think is great — which is why you need to have balance.

A great example of positive group think is mainstream education. If you have a college degree, you probably owe a lot of it to group think. The pressure society puts on kids to get educated is insane. Parents, teachers, media, and other kids basically make it an imperative to go to school, and then most likely college. And this is a good thing. If you think about it, getting a high school diploma, not to mention a college degree, is actually a huge undertaking. That’s years and years of time and hard work. Without a robust support structure and social pressure, very few of us would even have a basic level of education. What’s really crazy is that you probably went through most of school, if not even college, without making a firm decision to do so!

Another great example of positive group think is adoption of PCs and the internet. What started off a nerdy fad has become an incredibly powerful tool. There is so much pressure today to know how to type, use email, process documents, use Google, etc that you have much more potential to be productive and resourceful than ever before. Notice I said, “potential”. Whether you are realizing that potential, as opposed to playing Farmville, is a totally different story. Actually, Farmville is another example of counter-productive group think.

Bottom Line:  Don’t follow the herd. Think for yourself but keep an eye out for positive trends in society.

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Eelco says:

Hi Leo,
just watching some older videos. If not everyone can be a millionaire, if we need people to do the dirty work instead of robots. Can there ever be full equality? Can all of China’s people be developped economically or will their cheap labour always be serving Western Society’s flourishing?
Or on a smaller scale: will the rich few in Latin America always keep fighting against equality because they need cheap labour to do their dirty work. To have a maid and gardener and cook for only 1 percent of their salary per month.

Marjorie says:

I was glad to see the insight on your vision when you were younger. You did not follow the crowd. You had good parents i bet, that taught you this philosophy. It took you to higher grounds. I liked this; its good teachings for someone who follows the crowd, and will end up, lonely.

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