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Sunday, 26 February 2012

Want to Make a Difference? Then Be Different and Work Hard at It!

Can you recall anyone in your past life who was different in some way such as someone who taught you at school or college?

Can you recall the impact that they had on you and your life?

Can you work out why they were different and how they differed from other people in your life at that time?

There is no doubt that those who are different stand out in our memories far more that the conformers, the normal, the usual, the grey mass of humanity that is like all the rest of it.

I recall one of my teachers who was different, very different.  He taught biology but he had a hobby of making puppets and putting on puppet shows.  His enthusiasm was such that we all started to follow him and make puppets.

That biology class learned more about human anatomy and mobility, not from books but from trying to make puppets that moved as nearly naturally as humans.

And what about sport?  There are individuals who are journeymen, solid performers, never set the Thames on fire, but make a living without making much of an impact.

And then there are those who are different and don’t we just remember them.  Names like footballer Paul Gascoigne, cricketers Ian Botham and Keith Miller, athlete Daley Thompson and golfers, Gary Player and the great Seve Ballesteros.

Geniuses?  Perhaps.  Talented?  Most certainly but most of them would say that they were ferocious practisers and that they made it to the top through a great deal of application and hard work.

It can all be regarded as a metaphor for business.  Too many people expect to make it to the top via a degree and a certain amount of experience.

In that wonderful book, The Puritan Gift by Kenneth and Will Hopper, they make the point that the great engines of growth in the USA during the 19th and 20th centuries were driven by people with “domain knowledge”, who had come up through the company learning more and more at every stage and turning their experience into expertise.

The great leaders of that age, Henry Ford, the Duponts, the Rothschilds, were different and stood out in every way.  They changed the way that business was organised and showed that success could come from dedication, commitment and hard, sustained effort.  

Nothing has changed in that sense.  However difficult are the times in which we live, sustained effort, a lot of research and being different can overcome all the predictions of the gloom mongers and naysayers.

If you want to make a difference, be different and work at it

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