10 Ways to Differentiate Yourself From Others And Eventually Stand Out From The Crowd

Kaye Ramos
May 31, 2018 · 14 min read

You’ve finally acted on that dream. The dream that you secretly wish will usher you toward financial independence. You picture working on your own terms without anyone dictating you what to do.

You finally took steps to nurture your creative or entrepreneur spirit. Maybe it’s your writing, singing, coding or business.

It’s pretty liberating, right?

You get to do what you’ve been wanting to do for so long. It’s like a part of you was released from its chains. As you nurture it, you slowly find out there are many people like you out there doing the same thing and chasing the same dream.

There are highly talented individuals who saturate the niché and their audience flock them every instant they share something.

“I’m screwed up,” you say. The market is too crowded and there’s no room for a budding creative or entrepreneur like you. There are so many heads competing for the same target’s audience attention and your effort is better spent somewhere else.

But is it really?

The thing is:

The market may seem crowded from afar but it can always cater for one, two or other creatives who can learn to differentiate themselves from others. You can penetrate the market and create a lasting influence. You can use your creative spirit to do the exact thing you love and inspire people. Eventually, your audience will take care of you if you know how to take care of them.

It comes with a price though.

Do something different from anybody else.
Do something beyond what others expect.

But as W. Edwards Deming has said:

“It’s not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.”

Here are some ways how:

Pursue the Extra Mile No One Wants To Do

“Don’t be content with doing only your duty. Do more than your duty. It’s the horse that finishes a neck ahead wins the race.” — Andrew Carnegie

The idea popularized by Napoleon Hill suggests you do more than what is required. This is not to let yourself be like a doormat and heed to every request that any person asks. Far from it.

Fill in space in your market that no one wants to fill in. Do something more than merely focusing on your craft.

Brandon Stanton, the founder of Humans of New York, exemplified it well. Sure, he takes great photos but he differentiated himself against other photographers. He focused on how he can use his skill to inspire others. He went the extra mile, connected with his subjects and interviewed them. While most photographers are busy improving their shots, he infused stories and life on his.

And the results are tremendous.

His photos were not only received well. Millions of souls were moved by the story each subject or photo tells. In his word:

“Humans of New York began as a photography project in 2010. The initial goal was to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers on the street, and create an exhaustive catalogue of the city’s inhabitants. Somewhere along the way, I began to interview my subjects in addition to photographing them. And alongside their portraits, I’d include quotes and short stories from their lives.”

Humans of New York has a Facebook following of more than 18 million and published books that landed as New York Times Bestseller.

You can apply the principle of “going the extra mile” but this does not guarantee that you’ll be rewarded right away. When you go the extra mile, you’ll be more of a giver than a taker. Often, givers are rewarded by different means. Adam Grant found this out when he studied givers and takers. He said:

“When takers win, there’s usually someone else who loses. Research shows that people tend to envy successful takers and look for ways to knock them down a notch. In contrast, when givers win, people are rooting for them and supporting them, rather than gunning for them. Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them.”

Do your job and always add something more to show that you really care. It is like petting a dog. The more you care about it, the more it loves you back.

Aid Those Who Are Still Working Their Way Up

In the book Influencers: Power to Change Anything, authors shared how Dr. Mimi Silbert influenced many previous jail residents and gang members to transform their lives. To destroy the gang culture that exists in the minds of the previous gang members, she requires each person to take responsibility for someone else’s success.

But how can a person who forgot the sense of responsibility do it?

When a new resident comes in, someone who had been a resident a little longer than him mentors him. And when a new resident comes in, that previous resident will teach him the same thing. And the complexity of work progresses from there. They were taught a sense of accountability.

You’ll learn your craft faster when you teach others how to succeed. You might argue that you’re not an expert. Remember, before you got to the stage where you are right now, you were once a beginner. It felt like walking in the dark without anyone to guide you.

Somewhere, someone out there is in the same situation. Teach him the things you’ve learned and it’s up to him how to act on it.

  • What are the basic tools he should carry?
  • How can you help him simplify the process?
  • How can you minimize his margin of errors based on your experiences?

When you begin to teach others, you also learn more about what you are teaching. Napoleon Hill once said:

“I have observed that all who acquire enduring riches have ascended the ladder of opulence with two outstretched hands; one extended upward to receive the help of others who have reached the peak, and the other extended downward to aid those who are still climbing.”

Value the Resources of Others the Same Way You Value Yours

Time and attention are very important but finite resources. Many audiences have been fed up with appealing headlines, photos or memes. They are enticed to click them only to find a link that links to another link before you can read or see it. Many times, it’s just plain trash. Nothing that will benefit the viewer.

This strategy may work for a while but it will never create a lasting impact to your audience.

You want the audience to know you and what you do. You want them to trust and listen to what you say. You want them to be attracted to your outputs and not get repelled by your bait tactics.

Authors of Influencer cited two reasons why other people are not paying attention to you:

First, they might not have confidence in your expertise.
Second, they may doubt your motives. They think you want them to do something that will only benefit you.

In order to crush these conclusions, you have to get up and do the work. But you don’t have to be a perfectionist just to deliver something to your audience.

Julia Cameron described perfectionism in her book The Artist’s Way:

“Perfectionism is not a quest for the best. It is the pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us that nothing we do will ever be good enough — that we should try again. No we should not. ‘A painting is never finished. It simply stops in interesting places,’ said Paul Gardner.”

Do not let perfectionism get in the way of sharing what you have. Before you share something with others, ask yourself:

  • Is it worth their time and attention?
  • Will they learn something from it?
  • Is it merely a fluff to get their attention?
  • Is it a subject I want others to associate with me?

Once you are clear with your answers, you’ll have a far better chance to stand out from the others who don’t really deliver value. You take time and attention as important assets. So why would you devalue theirs?

Be Willing to Endure The “Wilderness” Part Of It

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiousity keeps leading us down new paths.” — Walt Disney

It’s exhausting, isn’t it? To keep doing your work and not many people recognize you for it.

The worst is:

The creative or business spirit that you initially thought would take care of you seems to even suck you dry.

Bills are piling. Would it not be easier to just pursue a different source of income than to nurture this thing that you don’t even know if it will take care of you?

At least that’s how I feel.

Every freaking day, since I committed to nurture my creative spirit, I get up, go to my writing table and do the work.

I educate myself on things that I can share with others. I’ve been nurturing my creative baby for months now but did it take care of me? Nope! At least not yet! Some days I ask myself:

Is it really worth it?
Am I not just wasting time?
Is it better to quit and do things that have more sense than this?
Will it ever get better?

You wouldn’t know the answer until you pursue the journey. It’s normal to undergo what I call “ creative wilderness.” You’ve been doing it for so long and seems that no one sees your effort.

Hang in there!

That wilderness will help you gain strength and power to continue your journey. That wilderness can create an intimate relationship with solitude to attract possible ideas. That wilderness is what God uses for you to be familiar with your own strengths and weaknesses. Moses stayed in the wilderness for forty years but he came out stronger and differentiated himself from the rest.

Consider every phase as your training process. It’s going to be tough but you’ll eventually come out stronger and more determined person. You’re like in a training camp right now preparing yourself for a better position and greater reward someday.

“If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons On Your Pigtails”

It is a wise advice from the mother of business mogul Barbara Corcoran which she shared in her book. It simply means not to focus on what others have that you don’t. Instead, focus on what you have and what you can do with it.

Gallup conducted a research on people who use their strengths every day and how it affects their performance and overall, their quality of life.They found out that people who use their strengths and talents every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job.

The key points they found in the research are as follows:

a. Improved health and wellness
b. Experienced less worry, stress, anger, sadness or physical pain
c. Boost their positive emotions
d. More energy to face the day
e. Higher engagement level on the task

They also found out that building employees’ strengths is a far more effective approach to improving performance than trying to improve weaknesses.

Gallup’s data show that simply learning their strengths makes employees 7.8% more productive, and teams that focus on strengths every day have 12.5% greater productivity.

We’re often guilty of trying to polish or repair our weaknesses and it’s taking too much time from us.

You’re better off improving what you already have because it’s already there. It’s been sitting there for a while and has been buried by fears, doubts, and insecurities.

Make an inventory of yourself:

What are the things you’re good at?
What are the things you do that you get lost of the time?

You already have a gift that you can use — your talents, wisdom, skills, and experiences. “You will miss out on the true blessing of your life if you don’t accept that your gift is your winning ticket and the key to your life’s blessings,” says Steve Harvey

It doesn’t make sense to others why you’re spending time on what looks like a useless hobby. When you use your gift, you’ll know and feel it. When you’re ready, opportunities will come.

When you use your gifts to the best of your ability, you experience personal satisfaction. Don’t waste time trying to remove your weaknesses. Use that time to improve your strengths. Even financial mogul Warren Buffett suggests this. As he said:

“If we have a strength, it is in recognizing when we are operating well within our circle of competence and when we are approaching the perimeter.”

Continue To Be Interested Than To Appear Interesting

You don’t stop the minute you get to where you want. Even when you achieve your sweet spot, train yourself to continuously learn.

The most successful people are consistent learners. They try to learn in any way they can even when it’s outside their area of expertise. They are aware that they can pick up a new idea from another field. They know that it is more important to be interested than to appear interesting.

Charlie Munger once shared with the graduates of USC:

“I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent. But they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than they were when they got up. And oh boy does that help, particularly when you have a long ride ahead of you.”

Learn to continuously learn how to learn. Develop your childlike curiosity because it may lead you somewhere else.

Stay Long Enough to Familiarize Yourself With the Process

Napoleon Hill once made a bold remark:

“The main trouble with so may of us is that we see men who have “arrived” and we weigh them in the hour of their triumph without taking the trouble to find out how or why they arrived.”

Many budding artists and entrepreneurs focus on the results of others slowly killing themselves of jealousy. The end result may look glamorous but we often discount all the pain and sacrifices behind it. Even the seemingly flawless actors and actresses we glorify undergo several injections, botox, and other surgical treatments to achieve a natural look, no sweat beauty.

Often, the best way to differentiate yourself is to immerse yourself well in the field. How can you learn the ins and outs if you don’t stay long enough to familiarize with the process?

Walt Disney has been honing his drawing skills since he was a kid to the point that he breathes it like air. Entrepreneurs and successful people cannot fully share what they know to be successful. Sometimes the secret cannot be expressed in words. It comes out naturally that even themselves cannot explain. They’ve been doing it long enough that it becomes deeply ingrained in them.

Harvard University cognitive scientist Steven Pinker explains:

“Accomplished people don’t bulk up their brains with intellectual calisthenics; they immerse themselves in their fields. Novelist read lots of novels, scientists read lots of science.”

Be More Open To What Others Have To Say

It’s easy to disregard opinions and ideas of others who we don’t deem closely related to our field. Sometimes best ideas come from unexpected sources.

When you are too confined to a single area, you develop a tunnel vision. You begin to think that all great ideas only come from your niché and your known reputable sources.

You can learn from people outside your field.

The thing is: When you rely so much on the ideas that your main niché can provide, you become limited. Look at what other people in other niché are doing. Spot the great performers.

Can you replicate their process?

Can you apply it in your field?

Do not shut down any idea or opinion right away. But do not act on it right away. Any advice or opinion requires a careful scrutiny before launching it into action.

Jack Hughes, founder of TopCoder said:

“Almost everything I do is borrowed and repurposed from others in other fields.”

Be a Master of At least One Single Area In Your Life

“We can immediately command when we focus all of our resources on mastering a single area of our lives.” — Tony Robbins

A common advice when you’re starting out is to identify your niché. I did not adhere on this because it contradicts the idea of tapping a huge market.

Why would you limit yourself to a topic when you can create different topics and attract several audiences?

But this is exactly the reason why I received poor results. If you see my old blog, you’ll see different topics going on. I post random stuff. It’s like a marketplace.

No wonder when someone lands on my page, they don’t come back. They are confused. They are overwhelmed. It’s difficult to trust someone who lacks focus.

Honing twenty skills at the same time is like juggling twenty balls up in the air. You lose focus and eventually they will fall down. While some people can do it, it’s still challenging.

So why would you want to do it?

To create a lasting impression in your field, prove that you know what you’re doing. Prove that you know what you’re saying. Prove that you have enough knowledge in your craft. As you begin to show expertise, you draw people to you. You start to gain their trust and respect. You create your reputation as someone credible.

If I give you some niche here, give a name of a person that immediately comes to your mind. Painting. Comedy. Singing. Drama. Swimming.

You’ve probably thought of specific people associated with each category without much effort. These people have mastered their craft. They have honed their skills that it became their primary source of identification.

It’s the same strategy you can follow.

  • What is the market that you want to saturate?
  • What is the niché you want to be associated with?
  • What is the area you are willing to work and dominate?

As you develop your quest for mastery, you’ll see other areas within that area that deserve your attention. Only insiders get to see those areas. And that’s when you start to gain command and momentum.

Provide a Satisfying Vicarious Experience To Your Intended Audience

In 2016, a lady inside a car went viral. She was laughing her heart out while wearing a mask that growls. Her laughter is so genuine that you can never sense a hint of fakeness in it. In fact, if you watch it, you’ll be triggered to laugh too.

She did not intend to go viral. She simply wanted to share her happiness over a toy with her friends. The Chewbacca lady gained millions of views and unconsciously marketed the toy. So much to the point that Kohl’s, TV shows and even Disney rewarded her. In fact, it was reported she made over $400,000 incentive over that video.

Her results are the total opposite of advertisements that are often ignored. They are structured, scripted and viewers are not attracted because they doubt their motives.

The lesson is:

Be genuine in your approach and treat your market as people that you actually value. Don’t simply sell something to generate sales. Spot the reason how they can benefit from your product.

What is the underlying story that your product or service delivers?

If you keep selling without giving them an experience that they would remember, people won’t likely come back for more. If you treat customers as people you really care for, they will feel it.

They will become your main source of advertisement. No one can prevent them from sharing their wonderful experience. That is the power of word-of-mouth. It can help or bite you. If you want your market to take care of you, take care of them first.

Great Results Require Great Effort

It’s easy to lose hope when you see the overwhelming competition. But it’s not too late. You can always differentiate yourself from others.

This comes with lots and lots of work.

It’s never easy. That’s why your chance of standing out is big. Only if you are willing to put in the effort.

If you are one of the rare few, your efforts will pay off. You’ll differentiate yourself from everybody else who does the same thing.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by 329,974+ people.

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