Here’s the most important thing I’ve learned in my professional career: figure out what makes you weird and do more of it.
I’m not talking about wearing a clown nose around the office or standing uncomfortably close to people in the elevator, I’m talking about leveraging your unusual skills and abilities to add unique value anywhere and everywhere possible.
For years I wrestled with the fact that I am creative and emotional while also being analytical and organized. It felt weird. I looked around me and saw people who were (most often) distinctly “thinkers” or “feelers” and the fact that I was a mashup of the two was complicated and messy.
The beauty that I’ve come to discover in recent years is that being weird gives me a perspective that is unlike most of the people around me. It’s not better, but it is different and can be helpful in many situations.
You also have unique value to share with the people around you…it’s just sometimes disguised as weirdness.
Take a minute to think about the successful people who you find memorable and I bet more than a few of them are “weird” in that they are unlike most others in their category. From Steve Jobs to Lady Gaga to Mark Cuban to Key & Peele to Richard Branson to Oprah to that guy who makes the super suctiony vacuums…most successful people have demonstrated a keen self-awareness and the ability to profit from the things that make them unusual.
We are taught to admire the weirdos who do remarkable work but to work like everyone else. We hold up examples of risk takers and people who chose to be anything but average as being exemplary, but hope our own success will be built on doing safe work in stable work environments.
If you think being weird is going to hinder your ability to advance professionally, just think about what it will take to “average” your way to the top.
Please don’t play your kazoo at work as a way to “differentiate yourself” – that’s a different kind of weird – but please do be weird by extending unusual kindness, expressing a contrary opinion, exposing a solution others are missing, inciting change, helping others succeed, building bridges between people, being grateful, pursuing excellence, being a calming presence, or by doing a thousand other things that make you a remarkable and desirable professional partner. Your weird will repel a few, certainly, but to many it will make you that much more irresistible.