Unique Difference

by  Mike Henry  |  Leadership Development

What does it take to be truly unique? What do you do that no one can reproduce?

A meeting I had this week caused me to think a great deal about this. This person said that they sought out people who were truly unique and that could make an impact to their company’s bottom line. They clearly understood and articulated their vision.

The words “truly unique” continue to ring in my brain.

My mind sifted through thoughts on this topic that came from the  Collapse of Distinction by Scott McKain. (I reviewed the book here.)  The slant of Collapse was toward businesses.  The premise: companies choose their services, products, marketing and direction. Companies can choose to be distinct or they can choose to copy someone else, follow best practices.  Success often went to those who chose to pursue their own path with clarity, creativity, communcation, ultimate customer focus.  When we choose to copy rather than pursue distinction, we try to out-perform the original or we are left to compete on price.  It seems easier to do what others are doing.  How many business models are simply minor evolutions or twists on some other successful idea?

Few rewarding things are easy.  Uniqueness requires courage. Forging your own path is hard.

So back to individual leaders in general and myself in particul

ar.  While thinking about the words “truly unique,” I began to wonder where Mike Henry stops and the rest of the world begins. Do you ever think how your combination of interests, desires, skills and passions are absolutely unique? You can’t be reproduced. You’re one of a kind.

But if that’s true, why do we get sidetracked?  Why do we tend to end up trying to be like everyone else or do what everyone else is doing?  If you’re like me there are at least two problems:


It’s easy to wonder what is going to happen with a small consulting practice or any business for that matter.  We live in tough economic times with rapid technological and cultural change. If you’re like me, you see others making more money, being more successful, or just doing things you might like to be doing and think you have to do the same things.  Can you be you when that looks like a bad strategy?  Whenever you’re tempted to copy someone else, remember that’s fear talking.  It takes courage to be true to yourself, but regret is a heavy consequence.  When you know you tried to do the right thing, when you did what you sincerely thought was right, at least you avoid the burden of regret for your motives.


Do you do things people appreciate without considering what your own strengths, desires or what energizes you?  We can get so sidetracked in commitments we’ve made to others that we never honor the commitments we have made to ourselves.  Do you ever find yourself  disappointed at what you’re doing just because you agreed to do it  without even thinking?  Unless you’re careful, the most important things you wanted from life, the truly significant things, will never happen.

One of a Kind

You and I are absolutely unique. We entered the world that way. Nothing will ever replace you. Others will duplicate your efforts or break your records, but there will NEVER EVER be another you. Don’t settle for the temptation of copying someone else just because it works for them. And don’t give away your life because you can’t say no.  Our world needs you to do your best, most noble, thing.  The world becomes a better place as we each make our own unique positive difference. You matter!

So what keeps you from doing your thing?  Add to my reasons below or straighten me out, unless of course your thing doesn’t include commenting on blogs.

Would you rather succeed at being like everyone else, or risk failure as you invest your life making a difference through your unique contribution?

What’s Next? Please leave a comment below to join the conversation…

About The Author

Articles By mike-henry
Chief Instigator (Founder) of Lead Change Group and VP of IT for a mid sized technology company. Passionate about character-based leadership and making a positive difference.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Jennifer Miller  |  02 Oct 2009  |  Reply


Happily, one of my “things” is commenting on blogs :-)

It’s never a bad strategy to “be yourself”. It’s just that sometimes we can’t figure out how to be ourselves and still do the mundane things in life like pay the bills. It seems to me the key is to find a way to “feed” our uniqueness each day, even if it isn’t immediately moving us toward the big picture. That way, it doesn’t feel so defeating if we feel we’ve temporarily moved away from our chosen path in order to put food on the table or clothes on the kids’ back.

Does that make sense?
.-= Jennifer Miller´s last blog ..The Anatomy of a Comment =-.

Mike Henry  |  02 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Thanks Jennifer. That is a wonderful suggestion for daily remembering and “feeding” our uniqueness rather than letting our everyday lives drive us to the edge. That’s a great idea. Sounds like another post…
.-= Mike Henry´s last blog ..Unique Difference =-.

Joanne Maly  |  02 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Mike, I love this post. It reaches right to the core of what motivates me and inspires me at this point in my own life.

Particularly, these words ring loudly.
“Companies can choose to be distinct or they can choose to copy someone else …. Success often went to those who chose to pursue their own path with clarity, creativity, communcation, ultimate customer focus. It seems easier to do what others are doing. … ”

Thank you for speaking such wise words on a Friday afternoon — and at the beginning of yet another month.

My best to you,

Mike Henry  |  03 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Thanks for the comment Joanne. I’d love to take more credit but some of what you appreciated came from a recap of Collapse of Distinction by Scott McKain. I have been challenged and encouraged by that book. Check it out.
.-= Mike Henry´s last blog ..Unique Difference =-.

John Barcanic  |  02 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Being my unique self means embracing the complexity of interests, passions, strengths, skills, etc. that make me who I am. It’s so easy to focus on one small part of “multi-dimensional me” (usually the part that’s most rewarded by the marketplace) to the exclusion of the rest of what makes me unique. This flattens my life and keeps me from being as creative and effective as I could be if I would bring all the facets of my being to the table.
.-= John Barcanic´s last blog ..A New Tool for Managing Too Much Information =-.

Mike Henry  |  03 Oct 2009  |  Reply

John, thanks for the comment. I like the term “flattens my life” because of the picture it presents of a one-dimensional life, but also one that is not inflated, energized, mobilize, or inspired. Great thought!

Nicole De Falco  |  02 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Hi Mike, there were so many points in this post that really struck a chord for me. The “People Pleasing” section is especially poignant. I often find myself saying “yes” to commitments because the person I think I’m supposed to be would say “yes.” Sometimes saying “yes” is because it is difficult to say “no.” Although, when I think about these situations , there’s another dynamic at work. At times, saying “yes” is not so much denying my uniqueness in an effort to be like everyone else. It’s more about not giving in to the part of me that hates doing/trying things outside of my comfort zone. I know if I give into that fear, it will keep me from succeeding or contributing.

I love your posts! They getting people thinking and discussing!

Mike Henry  |  03 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Great point Nicole. Many times we avoid going where all the way to our true calling as a way of playing it safe for comfort, rather than fear reasons. We do expend great resources in the pursuit of comfort. Thanks for the comment.
.-= Mike Henry´s last blog ..Unique Difference =-.

Amy Bryant  |  03 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Mike, I can relate to your words about the temptation of adopting others’ strategy when we see it working. Sometimes that’s ok – why reinvent the wheel? I think it’s when we know in our heart of hearts that the strategy goes against the very grain of who we are or what we value that’s when we need to draw a line in The sand. “Common practice” doesn’t necessarily mean common good. These words by Gandhi encourage me:

First they ignore you. And then they ridicule you. And
then they attack you. And then they build monuments to

We may not want monuments built in our name, but wouldn’t you love to see a couple for the cause? ;)

Keep Playing BIG,

Mike Henry  |  03 Oct 2009  |  Reply

I appreciate your comment Amy. Many times something is being done just about as well as it can be and we’d be stupid not to copy that and remain patient to wait until some other event (technological, economic, etc.) comes along to create a new opportunity. Like you said, the real test is where we draw the line in relation to ourselves. Thanks.
.-= Mike Henry´s last blog ..Unique Difference =-.

Jim Seybert  |  03 Oct 2009  |  Reply

It is certainly risky to step out and go where no one else has been. Some folks are just not wired for that – they’re more comfortable in the status quo even though they know deep down that change is imperative. For those would want to risk change but are smart enough to know they shouldn’t attempt it alone, my advice is to find someone you trust who IS wired to change and risk taking. Explain to them where you are, where you’ve been and what elements of your status quo you think might need to change. Let them ask you LOTS of questions and make suggestions. The final decision and action will be yours – it has to be – and the input you gather from your more futuristic friends will be invaluable.

The greatest risk you can take is not taking a risk.
.-= Jim Seybert´s last blog ..Rufus Hussey and his strengths =-.

Mike Henry  |  04 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Jim, thanks. Your comment about finding someone who IS wired to change and risk taking is very wise. I think for all of us, a key to developing in any area is to find help from a key friend with that strength who will help you. Thanks for the reminder.

Susan Mazza  |  06 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Really well done Mike. You have some very memorable and quotable statements here. My favorite: “It takes courage to be true to yourself, but regret is a heavy consequence.”

I would add the need to belong or to fit in as something that keep sus from doing out thing. As much as we may want to express our uniqueness we also have a need to belong and sometimes the two feel can like they are at odds.

That is one reason why I so respect the incredible Linked In community Lead Change that you have created. You created a way for those of us who are forging our own path to belong to a community of like minded people. This is one of many ways you demonstrate in action the authentic and talented leader you are.
.-= Susan Mazza´s last blog ..We Are Not Poor =-.

Mike Henry  |  06 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Thanks Susan. I’m energized that the Internet has made it easier to find our community rather than having to try to fit into one that isn’t really “ours.” The key seems to be in not giving up. I won’t if you won’t… :-)


Erin Schreyer  |  06 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Fabulous post, Mike! I love it!!

I, too, am a firm believer that we are each uniquely created (coincidentally, I just tweeted about that this morning!) That means that our path should not look exactly like anyone else’s, because we all have unique gifts and talents that should be leveraged throughout the course of our lives and careers.

It seems so many people get caught in the “comparison trap” in very unhealthy ways. If we are to compare, choose a person that inspires you to be better and make changes accordingly and in-tune with your own gifting. Don’t, however, choose to compare just to bring yourself down. There’s not any benefit!

The key, which is hard for so many, is trying to determine what your unique path is. It takes lots of introspection, talking with people close to you and determining what makes you ‘tick.’ It’s a process, for sure…but well worth the findings at the end!!!

Way to motivate everyone, Mike!! Nicely done!

Mike Henry  |  06 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Erin, thanks for the comment. I confess I often am tempted to compare. And many times, I would say almost every time, the comparisons are not good. I compare myself with someone much better at something (their something) and get discouraged. Or, I compare myself with someone much worse at something (my something) and be wrongly inflated. I just try to remember I’m not racing against anyone, but I’m trying to make sure I don’t have room to second-guess my own effort. I may do the wrong thing, but I want to do it to the best of my ability without regard for anyone else.

Marion Chapsal  |  06 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Amazing how your post resonated with me, Mike.
I had just received from Susan Mazza, on Twitter the following message, after she retweeted a quote I liked “always seems I see the perfect quotes at the perfect time in my twitter stream…
I then read Suzan’s stream and found a link to your blog…Just like following a magical thread.
Why did it resonate with me?
Last week, I had to to a tender for a very big European Bank. Part of the tender was to provide a 3 minute video presentation of ourselves.
I was very honored to have been picked and wanted to show me at “my best”.
It resulted into me dressing up very formaly, hair attached in a strict old fashion, glasses on and very serious business like looking.
I was doing exactly what you described in your last section “Do you do things people appreciate without considering what your own strengths, desires or what energizes you? “.
Well, I don’t have the response yet, but I showed this video clip of me to my eldest daughter.
She said “But I don’t recognize, you, Maman! Who’s this serious person? You seem tensed behind your fake smile.” (She can be quite tough, this girl! But what she said was true.)
I had forced myself into what I pictured would be the model executive woman they were expecting.
I had tried very hard to conceal the joyfulness, mischievous, playful side of me, afraid they would not like it…
That was a good lesson. Now I know about the video technique, I will “loosen up” and show more of my true self. Very ironic when you think that my job is to reveal that in others!
Thank you for this gentle reminder, Mike!
.-= Marion Chapsal´s last blog ..Welcome =-.

Mike Henry  |  06 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Marion, thanks for the story and your transparency in sharing. Thanks too for following your promptings to arrive here. I appreciate the story. Sometimes I think I’ve spent most of my life trying to fit into someone else’s box. Little real good ever comes from it. The people around me deserve my best which usually only comes when I’m energized and operating from who I am rather than who I am not.

Let’s not be who we’re not anymore. OK?

L Smith  |  07 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Being unique as an individual helps bring uniqueness to a business and it’s the people that are the core of what differentiates a business. If one works with people that think similarly, the overall capacity for creative ideas is limited. Business creativity is more easily born out of unique ideas and unique ideas come from unique people. This is why I believe that the most diverse businesses are the most successful.

Remember, American was born out of rugged individualism, not weak conformity.

One more thought. Let’s not fall into the trap of too much inward thinking; don’t think I how can be more unique, but think how my uniqueness can benefit others.

Mike Henry  |  08 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Thanks very much for your comment and the cautionary reminder. People are the core of the business and the best businesses seem to understand and appreciate that.

And we do need to avoid the trap of too much inward thinking. Inward thinking causes us to slow down. Any thoughts that hinder action eventually paralyzes us and perpetuates the problem. A big part of working through the problem is to to keep moving and correcting as we go.

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