10 Ways to Stand Out from the Crowd
Today at a Glance
- Researchers studying zebras in the wild placed a red dot on the target zebras to distinguish them, but they were quickly eaten by lions. The Zebra Effect says that blending into the crowd is a survival mechanism. Standing out is risky.
- In his final shareholder letter, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos called out the difficulty and importance of the fight against normalcy. Specifically, he said that your distinctiveness isn't free—it comes with a steep cost. But it is worth it.
- 10 ways to stand out: (1) Take care of your house, (2) Learn to enjoy being wrong, (3) Let curiosity guide you, (4) Do the old fashioned things well, (5) Stop fearing boredom, (6) Avoid perspective blindness, (7) Find your tribe, (8) Avoid the comparison trap, (9) Stop taking everyone's advice, and (10) Avoid the need for external validation.
What’s a Rich Text element?
The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.
Static and dynamic content editing
A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. !
How to customize formatting for each rich text
Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.
A team of researchers were trying to study zebras in the wild when they noticed a unique challenge:
Every time they'd observe a behavior of a specific zebra and look down to jot it in their notebooks, they'd lose track of the zebra they had observed in the pack. The black and white stripes made it exceedingly difficult to keep tabs on any specific zebra.
To solve this, the researchers placed a single red dot on the target zebra to make it easier to follow.
It worked—the target zebra was much easier to track, not just for the human researchers, but also for the lions hunting it.
Within days, each target zebra was taken down by the lions.
As the researchers learned, standing out can be dangerous. Blending in with the pack is often a survival mechanism—the Zebra Effect.
The same principle applies to all of our lives:
Blending in is easy and comfortable. Standing out is hard and uncomfortable. It's risky.
The difference, however, is found in the reward:
For the zebras, there is very little upside in standing out. For all of us, the upside is unlimited...
The Fight Against Normalcy
In his final shareholder letter, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos quotes a passage from The Blind Watchmaker:
"Staving off death is a thing that you have to work at. Left to itself – and that is what it is when it dies – the body tends to revert to a state of equilibrium with its environment...Our bodies, for instance, are usually hotter than our surroundings, and in cold climates they have to work hard to maintain the differential. When we die the work stops, the temperature differential starts to disappear, and we end up the same temperature as our surroundings...More generally, if living things didn’t work actively to prevent it, they would eventually merge into their surroundings, and cease to exist as autonomous beings. That is what happens when they die."
Reflecting on the passage, Bezos writes, "In what ways does the world pull at you in an attempt to make you normal? How much work does it take to maintain your distinctiveness?...What I’m really asking you to do is to embrace and be realistic about how much energy it takes to maintain that distinctiveness. The world wants you to be typical – in a thousand ways, it pulls at you. Don’t let it happen. You have to pay a price for your distinctiveness, and it’s worth it."
This is perhaps the most beautiful mental model I've encountered for considering the importance and weight of being different:
If equilibrium with our surroundings—a state of normalcy—is our natural state, we must fight to maintain our distinctiveness.
Distinctiveness isn’t free—you have to pay your dues every single day—but it is worth it.
The fight against normalcy is the most important fight of your life:
To maintain your uniqueness in a world that pulls you to blend in is the only way to realize your full potential and live a fulfilled, texture-rich existence.
It comes with a risk—that glaring red dot—but the rewards are abundant.
10 Ways to Stand Out
In a world that wants you to blend in, here are 10 powerful, actionable, and completely free ways to stand out...
#1: Take Care of Your House
Treat your body and mind like a house you have to live in for the next 100 years.
Keep the foundation and roof in solid order, fix minor issues as soon as they arise, and make the small daily, weekly, and monthly investment required to ensure it will last a long, long time.
You can't show up as your unique self in the world unless you're taking care of your house.
#2: Learn to Enjoy Being Wrong
Wanting to be right is a dangerous thing.
Finding the truth is much more important than being right. Retrain your mind to embrace new information that forces a change in viewpoint.
View each "software update" as an improvement upon the old. Open mindsets rule the world.
#3: Let Curiosity Guide You
A 2018 paper found that the brain systems engaged by curiosity contribute to maintained cognitive function, mental health, and physical health with age. Furthermore, curiosity has been connected to higher levels of life satisfaction and positive emotions, and lower levels of anxiety.
Curiosity keeps us happier, healthier, and more fulfilled. If curiosity were a pill, all the world’s pharmaceutical companies would clamor to sell it as a super-drug.
Let it serve as your guide into new worlds.
#4: Do the Old Fashioned Things Well
Simple actions that are completely free:
- Look people in the eye
- Be true to your word
- Be on time
- Practice good posture
- Hold the door
- Be kind
- Have a confident handshake
Some things will never go out of style.
#5: Stop Fearing Boredom
We really need to normalize boredom.
Some of your most creative moments come during periods of boredom: On a walk, in the shower, or at dinner by yourself. You’re bored, your mind wanders, your thoughts mingle. Creative insight strikes.
Schedule boredom into your weeks.
#6: Avoid Perspective Blindness
"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.” ― Mark Twain
Remember the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant: The world is much more complex than any of us can possibly understand.
At the end of every month, ask yourself what you've changed your mind on recently.
If you can't think of anything, that's a bad thing.
#7: Find Your Tribe
Your environment creates your entire reality.
Surround yourself with people who are constantly talking about the past, you'll be stuck in it.
Surround yourself with people thinking big about the future, you'll build a beautiful one.
Build a tribe that encourages you to think bigger.
#8: Avoid the Comparison Trap
Early in your life and career, it's tempting to compare yourself and your progress to those around you:
- This person made X dollars last year.
- That person got Forbes 30 Under 30.
- So and so is crushing it.
It's natural, but dangerous—learn to turn it off.
Focus on what you can control. The only comparison worth making is to yourself from yesterday.
#9: Stop Taking Everyone's Advice
The Advice Paradox: Taking more advice can leave you less well-prepared.
Most advice sucks.
It's well-intentioned, but it's dangerous to use someone else's map of reality to navigate yours.
Develop your own filters and selectively accept and implement advice—take signal, skip noise.
#10: Avoid the Need for External Validation
Grigori Perelman is a mathematician considered to be one of the smartest humans alive.
But in 2006, he walked away from professional mathematics and decided to live a secluded life outside Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Since walking away, he has turned down countless awards for his contributions to mathematics—including the Fields Medal and Millennium Prize—many of which came with significant cash prizes.
Asked about these rejections, Perelman said, "Everybody understood that if the proof is correct, then no other recognition is needed."
Perelman is an extreme example of someone who has completely eliminated the need for external validation. He was fulfilled by the process, by the work itself, not by the validation from his peers.
While none of us should reasonably aspire to this level, there is a powerful lesson in his story:
A life devoid of the need for external validation is a life lived on your terms.
As Jeff Bezos said, "Being yourself is worth it, but don’t expect it to be easy or free. You’ll have to put energy into it continuously."
The fight against normalcy is the most important fight of your life.
It may be risky—and it may come with a steep cost in the short-term—but the long-term rewards are worth it.