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‘UNMISTAKABLE: WHY ONLY…’

‘… IS BETTER THAN BEST’ part five

by Srinivas Rao
Published by Portfolio
ISBN: 9781101981702
eBook ISBN: 9781101981726
Copyright (c) 2016 by Srinivas Rao

Buy the Book

“SHARKS, DROWNING, AND OTHER THINGS THAT KEEP YOU
FROM GETTING IN THE WATER

Two forces, one external and the other internal, are the most common culprits that account for the delay and death of many potential projects and the failure to pursue our unmistakable art. To become unmistakable, you have to become aware of these defeating influences and how they work, so you understand their power to work against you and know how to assess or ignore them.

The Voices of Parents, Peers, and Society

When you start to become unmistakable, the voices of people who want you to follow their plan will get really loud. Those voices will often come from well-meaning friends, family, and colleagues, and some less-than-sympathetic adversaries like competitors, critics, naysayers, and strangers on the Internet.

Whatever their intention, these voices will question your sanity and say you’ve lost your mind. They’ll give you a list of reasons why you will fail, and tell you how the odds are stacked against you.

For many years, I heard some variation of the following:

You don’t have enough experience.

You just don’t have the talent. You’re too old.

You’re too young.

Your cousin or friend or uncle or aunt tried to do this and failed.

If this doesn’t work out, you’ll be old and broke. Then what are you going to do? How are you ever going to make money doing that?

Nine out of ten businesses end up failing.

Only one in a thousand people will make it in acting, writing, or anything creative.

Millions of blogs are out there. Why would anybody read yours? This is such a waste of your education.

Friends and family will fill your ears with tales of woe, disasters, and debacles. They’ll kindly suggest a backup plan that involves following the script that they follow, what society has told them to do. They’ll tell you that your work is no good and they’ll question your talent.

Why do the voices get so loud?

1. People want you to remain as you are because you make them realize they’re ignoring their own calling. People are uncomfortable when you start to change, because your actions remind them what they’ve been avoiding in their own lives. They’re forced to confront the fact that they’re choosing to remain the same while you’re making a drastic shift in the direction of your life. You hold a mirror up to all the fears they’ve given in to and all the goals they’ve chosen not to pursue.

2. Criticizing is easier than creating. If you’re a critic you get to avoid the risk of failing, looking stupid, and making the world wonder what the hell you were thinking. As a critic, you’re off the hook. But the most iconic creators in history have all contended with critics. Every single book, piece of music, or film has received negative reviews. Browse the contemporary reviews for classic books like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, and The Sun Also Rises. You’ll find a one-star review for all of them. If your work is unmistakable, it will have critics. So you must embrace or ignore the critics and create anyway.

3. Some people are just rule followers. Sometime early in 2013, I went to a job interview. One of the people interviewing me, Chuck, had become incredibly indoctrinated. When I asked him about the culture of the organization he said, “When we say work starts at eight o’clock, we don’t mean eight-fifteen.” I never forgot that. Following rules was his world. I quickly realized in that moment that this was not my world and I didn’t want to be a casualty of defending the status quo as Chuck had. You can follow a set of prewritten rules or you can start to make your own. 

The people who criticized me when I started have since moved on. A handful of critics have been replaced by thousands of people around the world who have supported my work.

If I had listened to those critical voices, I would never have put another idea out into the world.

You wouldn’t be reading this book.

The Unmistakable Creative podcast wouldn’t exist.

I would have missed out on getting a world-class education from some of the greatest minds of our time.

And I would be miserable.”

This excerpt ends on page 18 of the hardcover edition.


FROM THE BOOK JACKET: 

Stop trying to beat everyone else. True success is playing by your own rules, creating work that no one can replicate. Don’t be the best, be the only.

You]re on the conventional path, checking off accomplishments. You might be doing okay by normal standards, but you still feel restless, bored, and limited.

Srinivas Rao gets it. As a new business school graduate, Srinivas’s dreams were crushed by a soulless job that demanded only conformity. Sick of struggling to keep his head above water, Srinivas quit his job and took to the waves, pursuing his dream of learning to surf. 

He also found the freedom to chart his own course. Interviewing more than five hundred creative people on his Unmistakable Creative podcast was the ultimate education. He heard how guests including Seth Godin, Elle Luna, Tim Ferriss, Simon Sinek, and Danielle LaPorte blazed their own trails. Srinivas blends his own story with theirs to tell you: You can find that courage too. Dont be just one among many—be the only. Be unmistakable. 

Trying to be the best will chain you to othersdefinition of success. Unmistakable work, on the other hand, could only have been created by one person, so competition is irrelevant. Like Banksys art or Tim Burtons films, unmistakable work needs no signature and has no precedent. 

Whether you’re a business owner, an artist, or just someone who wants to leave your mark on the world, Unmistakable will inspire you to create your own path and define your own success.


AUTHOR INFO: 

Srinivas Rao is the host and founder of the popular podcast, the Unmistakable Creative, where he’s interviewed over five hundred creative people. Former guests on the show include Seth Godin, Elle Luna, Tim Ferriss, Gretchen Rubin, Simon Sinek, Adam Grant, and Danielle LaPorte. His self-published book The Art of Being Unmistakable was a Wall Street Journal bestseller.

This week’s selection ‘UNMISTAKABLE: WHY ONLY IS BETTER THAN BEST’ by Srinivas Rao appears Monday thru Friday and comes to you courtesy of dearreader.com and BurlingtonPublicLibrary.ca Business Online Book Club.

Buy the Book

 

‘UNMISTAKABLE: WHY ONLY …’

‘…IS BETTER THAN BEST’ part four

by Srinivas Rao
Published by Portfolio
ISBN: 9781101981702
eBook ISBN: 9781101981726
Copyright (c) 2016 by Srinivas Rao

Buy the Book

“In any creative endeavor or goal worth pursuing there are obstacles. Sometimes you achieve those goals quickly and other times it takes longer than you’d like. You can read, prepare, and study until you’re “ready.” But “ready” is an illusion. You won’t really know what to do until you’re in the water. Opportunities are like waves. You can go for them or keep letting them pass by. But the sooner you go for a wave, the sooner your ride will begin. Like every wave I’ve ever ridden, every person’s path is different. It will come with its own set of challenges, its own circumstances, and in its own time.

Surfing isn’t only about riding a wave; it’s about the Zen-like high and thrill that comes from it, known in surf lingo as “the stoke.” The beauty of the stoke is that it can’t be measured or quantified, because it’s a limitless gift. When creation becomes its own reward, you’ll transcend yourself. You’ll be on your way to unmistakable.

My goal is that reading about what makes others unmistakable will galvanize you into getting off the sand and into the waves.

Let’s go. Surf’s up.

PART 1: THE PADDLE OUT

Even though I’ve lived in California since 1993, I needed fifteen years and, ironically, to leave the country before I finally started to surf.

We often wait like this when it comes to the pursuit of some of our most important dreams. We drive by the water admiring it from the safety of our cars, or we simply stand onshore watching and admiring those who are already in the water. We justify not doing anything by convincing ourselves that people in the water have something that we don’t. They’ve had lucky breaks that we never will, or they’ve won some sort of genetic lottery or happened to be in the right place at the right time. While in some cases this might be true, our justifications start to become excuses and then narratives we repeat that limit our potential.

When you start to pursue anything that falls outside the boundaries of societal expectations, anything that disrupts or disturbs the status quo, the sirens of safety and security will begin to go off like a fire truck blazing through the streets of New York City. A decision to disrupt the status quo is in many ways a decision to disrupt yourself and your life. But we resist changes like this, despite knowing how much a subtle or significant shift in our lives can come to outweigh what we fear.

And we fear that taking a plunge into the water, into the unknown, and doing the work required to become unmistakable will be worse even than the boredom or dissatisfaction that we currently feel with our lives. So we just stand onshore with our feet sinking into the sand. We continually choose to do nothing, settle, and compromise until we get to the end of our lives and find ourselves looking back at a life that could have been.

A life in which we could have published the novel we’ve stashed in our desk drawer.

A life in which we could have started the company or nonprofit that is deep within the chambers of our heart and mind.

A life in which we could have dared more greatly and dreamed more audaciously.

But we always have a choice to take one small step forward to begin our quest for change. Nearly every innovative, groundbreaking, creative idea that defies the limits of what we once thought was humanly possible started as nothing more than a thought in someone’s head, a moment of creative daring, before it became that person’s unmistakable dent in the universe.

Given that we’re about to enter a new and unfamiliar environment and attempt to learn a completely new way of living, we have no idea what our limits are. We might imagine those limits to be greater than they are, dreaming of being Michael Jordan when we’ve never picked up a basketball in our life. Or we might imagine them to be worse than they are, that we can’t even try to write or draw, sing or dance.

Inevitably, when you get in the water you’ll face obstacles like rocks, waves crashing down on your head, jellyfish, and other surfers yelling at you. Similarly, the pursuit of unmistakable work also comes with its own set of obstacles that you will have to face, like critics, naysayers, moments of panic, fear, anxiety, self-doubt, and competition.

Before you get ready to paddle out, consider what’s making your feet feel like they’re stuck in the sand forever.

***** TABLE OF CONTENTS *****

PART 1: The Paddle Out
PART 2: The Lineup
PART 3: The Drop
PART 4: The Ride
PART 5: The Impact Zone
PART 6: The Stroke


FROM THE BOOK JACKET: 

Stop trying to beat everyone else. True success is playing by your own rules, creating work that no one can replicate. Don’t be the best, be the only.

You]re on the conventional path, checking off accomplishments. You might be doing okay by normal standards, but you still feel restless, bored, and limited.

Srinivas Rao gets it. As a new business school graduate, Srinivas’s dreams were crushed by a soulless job that demanded only conformity. Sick of struggling to keep his head above water, Srinivas quit his job and took to the waves, pursuing his dream of learning to surf. 

He also found the freedom to chart his own course. Interviewing more than five hundred creative people on his Unmistakable Creative podcast was the ultimate education. He heard how guests including Seth Godin, Elle Luna, Tim Ferriss, Simon Sinek, and Danielle LaPorte blazed their own trails. Srinivas blends his own story with theirs to tell you: You can find that courage too. Dont be just one among many—be the only. Be unmistakable. 

Trying to be the best will chain you to othersdefinition of success. Unmistakable work, on the other hand, could only have been created by one person, so competition is irrelevant. Like Banksys art or Tim Burtons films, unmistakable work needs no signature and has no precedent. 

Whether you’re a business owner, an artist, or just someone who wants to leave your mark on the world, Unmistakable will inspire you to create your own path and define your own success.


AUTHOR INFO: 

Srinivas Rao is the host and founder of the popular podcast, the Unmistakable Creative, where he’s interviewed over five hundred creative people. Former guests on the show include Seth Godin, Elle Luna, Tim Ferriss, Gretchen Rubin, Simon Sinek, Adam Grant, and Danielle LaPorte. His self-published book The Art of Being Unmistakable was a Wall Street Journal bestseller.

This week’s selection ‘UNMISTAKABLE: WHY ONLY IS BETTER THAN BEST’ by Srinivas Rao appears Monday thru Friday and comes to you courtesy of dearreader.com and BurlingtonPublicLibrary.ca Business Online Book Club.

Buy the Book

 

‘UNMISTAKABLE: WHY ONLY…’

‘… IS BETTER THAN BEST’ part  three

by Srinivas Rao
Published by Portfolio
ISBN: 9781101981702
eBook ISBN: 9781101981726
Copyright (c) 2016 by Srinivas Rao

Buy the Book


“Throughout our lives, we inherit the limitations of society’s expectations and conform to its ideals until they weigh so heavily on us that we stop questioning their existence. When these unspoken rules are imposed for long enough, they become the unconscious scripts that dictate our lives and trap us in an invisible prison. We become so indoctrinated, it’s as if we’ve been institutionalized. We forget that our life is what we make of it. Only when we have the audacity to question the status quo can we disrupt it.

We forget we’re free to dismiss others’ expectations any time we’d like.

Remember: the door is always wide open.

If you walk out that door and abandon all the expectations society has laid out for you, the truest expression of who you are emerges. You play with abandon, optimism, and curiosity—like you did as a child. You begin a quest for which only you are made, the passage that only you are destined to make.

You learn the art of being unmistakable. But this doesn’t happen in one brief moment, one blog post, one work of art. It’s not something you do. It’s not a technique, methodology, or formula. It’s something that becomes part of your DNA, a lens through which you view the world. And once you see the world this way, it will never look the same.

When I started learning how to surf, I’d always get in the water with fear and trepidation because I had no idea what I was doing, and my big blue foam surfboard was basically a symbol of the fact that I was a kook (surf lingo for incompetent). Every morning I would look at the surf report in hopes that the waves wouldn’t be too big. One wave at a time, countless hours in the water, and seven years on, I’m still learning how to surf. Some days still intimidate me. You never really stop learning how to surf.

My trajectory of learning to surf has been much like that of an artist or creator. It’s been a process of letting go of fear, doubt, expectations, and the need to be perfect. It’s been a process of commitment, risk, and embracing the possibility of a wipeout. And every time I go slightly past the boundaries of my comfort zone, my capacity for risk, for charging bigger waves with bravado, increases. Every small wave prepares me for a bigger one. I still wipe out on plenty of waves, but I’ve learned one essential lesson: the fear of wiping out never goes away until you’ve actually gone for a wave, and the fall is almost never as bad as you imagine it to be in your head.

Creating work that is unmistakable has been a process of letting go of all the masks that I’ve hidden behind my entire life. Every creation is like a wave, and with each piece of work I put out into the world I dare a bit more, I let the world see a bit more into the depth of who I am. I gradually increase my capacity for risk. I may say what other people are thinking but are afraid to say. I challenge the status quo or redefine it. I take bigger and bolder risks until I reach a new normal. I might fail. But as in going for a wave, the antidote to fear is to commit to the act of creating and to keep putting work out into the world.

Inevitably, surfing had to be the organizing principle of this book because the pursuit of waves has defined my life and my personal quest to become unmistakable. From standing onshore to paddling out, from riding the perfect wave to wiping out, surfing parallels any artistic, entrepreneurial, or ambitious endeavor. Whether you’re yearning to change careers or start a business, drop out or go back to school, figure out your artistic medium or fine-tune your art, my hope is that these pages will help you become unmistakable.

Surfing led me to start what has become the Unmistakable Creative podcast. Since then, I’ve interviewed more than six hundred people I call Unmistakable Creatives about their work and life process for my podcast. They explain what they think being unmistakable means, what they do to foster and nurture their creativity no matter what field they’re in, and how they deal with the setbacks that come with the territory. They include best-selling authors such as Tim Ferriss and Seth Godin; inspiring practitioners like pastor and author Rob Bell, Basecamp cofounder David Heinemeier Hansson, and entrepreneur Danielle LaPorte; and geniuses you’ve never heard of, including a bank robber who became a talking head on the subject of the criminal justice system, a graffiti artist who writes business books, a painter who is completely blind, and world-class cartoonists who have become masters of their craft. I’ve synthesized their insights and observations together with my own lessons to offer you a springboard toward becoming unmistakable. I’m not offering you a roadmap or even a guide, because only you can plot your own course.

It’s also not the science, it’s the art of being unmistakable. Art requires you to attempt what hasn’t been proven to work, and as author Todd Henry said, you must “be decisive in the face of uncertainty.” There’s no formula or set of prescripted instructions. The most unmistakable elements of your art come from intuition and instinct.”


FROM THE BOOK JACKET:

Stop trying to beat everyone else. True success is playing by your own rules, creating work that no one can replicate. Don’t be the best, be the only.

You]re on the conventional path, checking off accomplishments. You might be doing okay by normal standards, but you still feel restless, bored, and limited.

Srinivas Rao gets it. As a new business school graduate, Srinivas’s dreams were crushed by a soulless job that demanded only conformity. Sick of struggling to keep his head above water, Srinivas quit his job and took to the waves, pursuing his dream of learning to surf. 

He also found the freedom to chart his own course. Interviewing more than five hundred creative people on his Unmistakable Creative podcast was the ultimate education. He heard how guests including Seth Godin, Elle Luna, Tim Ferriss, Simon Sinek, and Danielle LaPorte blazed their own trails. Srinivas blends his own story with theirs to tell you: You can find that courage too. Dont be just one among many—be the only. Be unmistakable. 

Trying to be the best will chain you to othersdefinition of success. Unmistakable work, on the other hand, could only have been created by one person, so competition is irrelevant. Like Banksys art or Tim Burtons films, unmistakable work needs no signature and has no precedent. 

Whether you’re a business owner, an artist, or just someone who wants to leave your mark on the world, Unmistakable will inspire you to create your own path and define your own success.


AUTHOR INFO: 

Srinivas Rao is the host and founder of the popular podcast, the Unmistakable Creative, where he’s interviewed over five hundred creative people. Former guests on the show include Seth Godin, Elle Luna, Tim Ferriss, Gretchen Rubin, Simon Sinek, Adam Grant, and Danielle LaPorte. His self-published book The Art of Being Unmistakable was a Wall Street Journal bestseller.


This week’s selection ‘UNMISTAKABLE: WHY ONLY IS BETTER THAN BEST’ by Srinivas Rao appears Monday thru Friday and comes to you courtesy of dearreader.com and BurlingtonPublicLibrary.ca Business Online Book Club.

Buy the Book

 

‘UNMISTAKABLE: WHY ONLY…’

‘… IS BETTER THAN BEST’

by Srinivas Rao
Published by Portfolio
ISBN: 9781101981702
eBook ISBN: 9781101981726
Copyright (c) 2016 by Srinivas Rao

Buy the Book


“The first inkling of that realization came to me on December 31, 2008, after I had turned thirty and was on the tail end of a study abroad program in Brazil. My friends had all gone home early because they ran out of money, and I had become quite bored with sitting on the beach. So I decided to rent a surfboard and give surfing one last shot, after many failed attempts, before I returned to the United States. Standing up on a surfboard that day for the first time created a ripple effect of change in my life. When I returned to school for my final semester, instead of going to the bookstore when my financial aid check was deposited, I went to the surf shop to buy a surfboard and a wetsuit. I surfed on the mornings I didn’t have classes, I surfed in between my classes, and I surfed every weekend.

Given that I had no job waiting upon graduation and I had depleted nearly my entire savings account, I realized I could seize this opportunity to effectively start from scratch. What I had was a blank canvas on which I could deliberately create a masterpiece, which would give me an opportunity to once and for all put an end to my crisis of mediocrity.

Midway through the summer after my graduation from Pepperdine, I started to see that surfing—which started as a way to pass the time—was now transforming into a way of life. On the days when it didn’t get windy too early, I was in the water from sunrise to sunset.

When I stood up on a wave, every ounce of fear, anxiety, depression, and self-doubt didn’t just dissipate, it vanished. Even though I was jobless, surviving primarily on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sleeping on the living room floor of an apartment that was once mine, for the first time in my adult life I experienced unparalleled joy. I went to sleep every night eagerly anticipating the waves of the next day. Every time I stood up on a wave, the doubting voice in my head lost its power over me. Surfers say that riding a wave is a bit like taming a wild horse, and it makes you feel almost superhuman. While my outer world appeared to be in shambles, my inner world was transforming, one wave at a time.

When surfing, there is no one but you and the wave. You’re liberated from the expectations and standards of other people. Surfing is a performance in which you are the main audience, allowing you to connect with and discover your unmistakable self and process in the most direct way possible.

One summer afternoon, I was rinsing off my wetsuit near lifeguard tower 20 in Santa Monica, California, when I met a fellow surfer who was clearly older than me. I told him I was in the water so much because I’d just finished grad school and was struggling to find a job, and the only thing keeping me sane was surfing. He told me that surfing had gotten him through a terrible divorce, as well as through the death of his mother.

That day I realized I had stumbled on something truly magical, something that would forever continue to change my life, a love affair that I’d carry on from my first wave to the grave.

It would become the driving force of my creativity.

It would lead to meeting one of my best friends and my future business partner, Brian Koehn.

Being in the water became my essential daily meditation. It was a lifeline, a spiritual practice, and a central metaphor for everything else I would go on to do.

Each wave seemed to wash away the structures, beliefs, and ideas that had been imposed on me since I was old enough to understand what I was being told. I started more and more to question the life I had meant to live, and the advice of so many well-intentioned people:

Stick to well-lit, straight and narrow paths.
Follow the rules.
Don’t make a ruckus.
Don’t ask too many questions.
Climb the corporate ladder.
Obey your elders.

This script, from my parents, teachers, mentors, friends, colleagues, and others, I took and followed to the letter. My results weren’t average. They were abysmal. I’d been fired from every real job I’d ever had and never made much money. Worst of all, I’d lived a life that was completely devoid of meaning, intention, and purpose. Then I looked around and saw others trying to follow the same script to achieve success and noticed that they were just as miserable.”


FROM THE BOOK JACKET: 

Stop trying to beat everyone else. True success is playing by your own rules, creating work that no one can replicate. Don’t be the best, be the only.

You]re on the conventional path, checking off accomplishments. You might be doing okay by normal standards, but you still feel restless, bored, and limited.

Srinivas Rao gets it. As a new business school graduate, Srinivas’s dreams were crushed by a soulless job that demanded only conformity. Sick of struggling to keep his head above water, Srinivas quit his job and took to the waves, pursuing his dream of learning to surf. 

He also found the freedom to chart his own course. Interviewing more than five hundred creative people on his Unmistakable Creative podcast was the ultimate education. He heard how guests including Seth Godin, Elle Luna, Tim Ferriss, Simon Sinek, and Danielle LaPorte blazed their own trails. Srinivas blends his own story with theirs to tell you: You can find that courage too. Dont be just one among many—be the only. Be unmistakable. 

Trying to be the best will chain you to othersdefinition of success. Unmistakable work, on the other hand, could only have been created by one person, so competition is irrelevant. Like Banksys art or Tim Burtons films, unmistakable work needs no signature and has no precedent. 

Whether you’re a business owner, an artist, or just someone who wants to leave your mark on the world, Unmistakable will inspire you to create your own path and define your own success.


AUTHOR INFO: 

Srinivas Rao is the host and founder of the popular podcast, the Unmistakable Creative, where he’s interviewed over five hundred creative people. Former guests on the show include Seth Godin, Elle Luna, Tim Ferriss, Gretchen Rubin, Simon Sinek, Adam Grant, and Danielle LaPorte. His self-published book The Art of Being Unmistakable was a Wall Street Journal bestseller.


This week’s selection ‘UNMISTAKABLE: WHY ONLY IS BETTER THAN BEST’ by Srinivas Rao appears Monday thru Friday and comes to you courtesy of dearreader.com and BurlingtonPublicLibrary.ca Business Online Book Club.

Buy the Book

 

‘UNMISTAKABLE: WHY ONLY…’

‘… IS BETTER THAN BEST’ part one

by Srinivas Rao
Published by Portfolio
ISBN: 9781101981702
eBook ISBN: 9781101981726
Copyright (c) 2016 by Srinivas Rao

Buy the Book


FROM THE BOOK JACKET: 

Stop trying to beat everyone else. True success is playing by your own rules, creating work that no one can replicate. Don’t be the best, be the only.

You’re on the conventional path, checking off accomplishments. You might be doing okay by normal standards, but you still feel restless, bored, and limited.

Srinivas Rao gets it. As a new business school graduate, Srinivas’s dreams were crushed by a soulless job that demanded only conformity. Sick of struggling to keep his head above water, Srinivas quit his job and took to the waves, pursuing his dream of learning to surf. 

He also found the freedom to chart his own course. Interviewing more than five hundred creative people on his Unmistakable Creative podcast was the ultimate education. He heard how guests including Seth Godin, Elle Luna, Tim Ferriss, Simon Sinek, and Danielle LaPorte blazed their own trails. Srinivas blends his own story with theirs to tell you: You can find that courage too. Dont be just one among many—be the only. Be unmistakable. 

Trying to be the best will chain you to others definition of success. Unmistakable work, on the other hand, could only have been created by one person, so competition is irrelevant. Like Banksys art or Tim Burtons films, unmistakable work needs no signature and has no precedent. 

Whether you’re a business owner, an artist, or just someone who wants to leave your mark on the  world, Unmistakable will inspire you to create your own path and define your own success.


AUTHOR INFO: 

Srinivas Rao is the host and founder of the popular podcast, the Unmistakable Creative, where he’s interviewed over five hundred creative people. Former guests on the show include Seth Godin, Elle Luna, Tim Ferriss, Gretchen Rubin, Simon Sinek, Adam Grant, and Danielle LaPorte. His self-published book The Art of Being Unmistakable was a Wall Street Journal bestseller.


“INTRODUCTION

For the first ten years of my career, I followed a script and played by the rules. I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. I collected bullet points on my résumé as I aimlessly wandered from one job to another until I had been fired from nearly every one. I applied to graduate school to collect yet another societally approved badge of honor, my MBA, because I thought maybe this choice would lead to something great.

By the time I finished graduate school, the era in which competence, convention, and conformity guaranteed the path to a safe and secure existence was over. The jobs once reserved for freshly minted MBA graduates were gone and never coming back.

The consequences of being simply competent have turned the careers of many people into cautionary tales. When we’re merely competent, the value of our work is diminished until it can eventually be outsourced to the lowest bidder, making us a dispensable commodity.

The future belongs to individuals and organizations who are unmistakable.

I define the unmistakable as art that doesn’t require a signature. It’s so infused with your heart and mind that no one else could have created it. It’s immediately recognizable as something you made—nobody could have done it but you. 

Now maybe you don’t identify yourself as an artist, but I define art as any creation: a project, interaction, blog post, report, paper, book, song, performance, company, and so on. When we view our work and the world through the eyes of an artist, we can’t help but see things differently.

An unmistakable person, whether a poet or a painter, a podcaster or a YouTube star, does what he or she does in a completely distinctive way. You couldn’t write a job description for what the unmistakable person does. You might be able to describe the work, but the core value is impossible to replicate or mimic. No course, blog post, or how-to book can teach you how to become this person. The art of being unmistakable is difficult to achieve, yet it is one of the most effective traits of an artist, a business, or an individual.

So why does it matter if nobody could have created it but you?

When you’re the only person who could have created a work of art, the competition and standard metrics by which things are measured become irrelevant because nothing can replace you. The factors that distinguish you are so personal that nobody can replicate them.

When Malala Yousafzai speaks, her message is unmistakable.

When Toni Morrison writes, her voice is unmistakable.

When Slash plays the guitar solo to the Guns N’ Roses song “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” his timing and technique are unmistakable.

When Danny Meyer starts a restaurant, the service is unmistakable.

When Banksy paints, his style is unmistakable.

When Lindsey Stirling plays the violin, her virtuosity is unmistakable.

Unmistakable people make a dent in the hearts and minds of humanity. They create a ripple beyond any measure.

As I neared the end of my MBA at Pepperdine in 2009, I was faced with two choices. I could either continue on the tried and true path, which I knew would lead me only to a dead end, or I could gamble on an uncertain quest that could lead me to disaster—or discovery. I had taken the first path all through my twenties to end up at this unhappy destination of thirty.

As I started to examine the choices I had made over the past decade, I realized I had never been proactive. I’d always chosen from the options that were put in front of me. I’d settled over and over again. I settled for the first job offer I got. I settled for doing work that didn’t mean much to me. I settled for the best I thought my life could be as opposed to thinking about and going after what I really wanted.

If I wanted to end up in a drastically different place by the age of forty, I’d have to make drastically different choices in my thirties even if they might be questioned, frowned upon, and misunderstood.

When I started my career, I’d blindly signed the contract of society’s life plan as if there were no other option, but now I was starting to realize that it was and always had been completely negotiable.”


This week’s selection ‘UNMISTAKABLE: WHY ONLY IS BETTER THAN BEST’ by Srinivas Rao appears Monday thru Friday and comes to you courtesy of dearreader.com and BurlingtonPublicLibrary.ca Business Online Book Club.

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