Stop Manufacturing Schtick to Stand Out

How to Zig When Others Zag — Without the Artificial [Podcast]

Unthinkable is an exploration of one question: What happens when you follow your intuition? To do so, you probably have to ignore what you’re “supposed to do” and instead create what that internal guide is urging you to try. But for craft-driven creators in business, that often means doing things others just don’t understand — things they see as unthinkable.

You can create a high quantity that is ALSO high quality. You agonize over the tiniest details to make something just 2% better, because it matters that much to you. You don’t believe in “the muse” and instead proactively schedule your creativity, because that’s how creativity works. And of course, you launch side projects left and right.

Today, in Unthinkable’s return from our offseason, we explore one big question: What does it take it stand out in a noisy world? Our answer is simple, but it’s anything but easy: You have to zig when others zag.

Listen here or wherever you get your podcasts. (Transcription below.)

iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, Google Play


In a noisy world like ours, you don’t just want to be the best of the best. You want to be the only one who does what you do. Today on the show, we explore the need to zig when others zag — the need to own some white space and be original rather than incrementally beat others who do something similar.

First, we talk about penguins. Because, I mean…penguins. Then we go outside the echo chamber for some tropical house music from DJ Viceroy. Then we hear the story of writer and marketer Finn Dowling of the Humane Society of Silicon Valley, as well as Eddie the Terrible — a tiny dog at the shelter that got some big internet fame, all because of one very hilarious blog post.


Far Side penguin comic:

Viceroy’s music: @viceroymusic

Viceroy’s site:

Eddie the Terrible blog post:…e-reasons.html

Jay’s Twitter:

Jay’s Snapchat:

SUPPORT FOR THIS EPISODE: — empowering kids to be more creative and helping art programs in need.


There is an old comic strip by Gary Larson, the creator of The Far Side, it’s just a single frame, but the lower half is full of penguins and they all look exactly the same. Black backs. White chests. Pointy beaks. Flippers straight down. No facial expressions. Over, and over, and over.
And then, in the middle of the group, you see this tiny penguin. Flippers stretching upwards. Head tilted back. And he is singing “I gotta be me, oh I just gotta be me.”
“I was bouncing ideas off my friends; logos and branding. And I thought ‘I like the beach, summer stuff, it’s who I am,’ and so it was organic in that sense. Not some contrived marketing scheme to make the facade of this summer dude who wants to get everybody to think it’s 5 o’clock somewhere all the time. It’s who I’ve always been. I was a happy kid growing up. It wasn’t like I sat down and this is all contrived, this is what I’m going to do because of this, this, and this. It was all organic growth.”
DJ Viceroy (Austen Afridi)
Three reasons why you don’t want to adopt Eddie The Terrible. Like to go for walks in dog infested areas? Enjoy the dog park? Keep walking. He’s never actually attacked another dog, but he has made it abundantly clear that he hasn’t ruled out the possibility. He goes zero to kujo in .5 seconds. Want your kids to grow up with a full compliment of fingers and toes? Not the dog for you. Some dogs love kids. We have a bunch of child loving dogs here — Eddie The Terrible, however, is NOT one of them. Looking for a simple dog that will sleep in his crate? Not your guy. A bed in your room? Awesome. In bed with you? Better. In a crate? Let him sing you the song of his people.
Image from the original blog post

Jay Acunzo is the creator & host of Unthinkable, a show about following your intuition. He’s also worked in media or marketing at ESPN, Google, two startups, and now in VC at NextView Ventures.

The Unthinkable community is made up of thousands of craft-driven creators in business.

Subscribe to get a quick note every Monday morning with each episode, plus exclusive bonus content and the experiment the community is running in the next week.

If you liked this episode, click the heart below to share with friends on Medium. Thanks for reading!

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.