I recently had the chance to sit down and listen to a talk I have heard several times in my life. It was a talk by one of my all time greatest influencers and mentors, Earl Leonard. Mr. Leonard is the namesake of the Leonard Leadership Scholars Program in the Terry College of Business at UGA, my alma mater.
This particular talk is one that every member of the leadership program hears during their time in the program. We affectionately call it ‘Earl’s Pearls.’ I say all of this because I want to share one particular tidbit from the hour-long talk.
Different, Better, Special
Quite simply, what are we doing to be different, better, and special?
When I think about how I’m different, it changes the way I make decisions. Often times, different raises the word ‘bad’ in conjunction. But let’s take a minute and define different… a bit unconventionally. Different to me means being courageous. It means forgetting about conventional thinking and the status quo and doing what feels right.
Being different is actually GOOD thing – it means taking control of our life and our world and shaping it the way we see fit. Forget what we feel like we should do, we need to do what feels right. As Mr. Leonard says, “Ask yourself: ‘Am I happy?’ And if the answer is no, GO DO SOMETHING ELSE.”
Every day I try to be different in one main way: I am unwilling to accept ‘impossible.’ I want to build an ‘impossible’ company. One of those places where people fight tooth and nail to get in the door. One of those companies where people buy your products and services because of trust and reputation. So every day I’m taking measured action to create that different kind of place.
I love this part. It’s all about becoming what we were meant to be. Developing breadth and depth of experience. Pushing ourselves beyond our everyday boundaries and comfort zones so that we have new boundaries and new comfort zones. This is about life-long learning and humility that allows us to learn from our mistakes.
Becoming better is about have that burning desire to wake up everyday and find our inner greatness and put it to work. Becoming better is expanding our skill set so we can spread great ideas and catch the world on fire. It is about being excellent for no other reason than the sake of improving ourselves and those around us.
I get better in two main ways: I listen and I read. I listen to podcasts, I listen to TED talks, I listen to mentors, friends, and family. I read books, magazine, blogs, and anything else I can get my hands on. Every day I try to find a new idea or a fresh bit of insight. That’s my way of getting better.
Special is inherent. Special is in you. It’s in me. Being special just means embracing our talents and gifts we have been given and putting them to good use.
When we become special, we put our talents on showcase and open them up for praise and recognition… and criticism. When we are special we put away the fear of failure and embrace the opportunity to shine. We put our character and good works on display so others feel empowered to do the same.
I want to be special by forming meaningful relationships and leading by example. The people in my life mean the world to me and I want others to think of me as a trustworthy friend and someone willing to do anything for them. I also want others to look at me and look at my values of family, excellence, courage, passion, and integrity and see congruence.
So what does it mean for you to be different, better, special? When was a time you woke up and made that conscious decision to make it happen? Share your story in the comments. Or, highlight one of your friends that lives their life different, better, or special! I’d love to hear the stories because I know… I absolutely know you are out there doing it!
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