You Can’t Make It to the Peak of Success
If You’re Afraid of Heights
Which of These Things is
Not Like the Other Ones?
It’s a funny thing. In close-knit communities you’ll often find many people driving the same kind of car. It could be a Town Car, or a Taurus or an Escalade. One person gets it, then another and another.
Earlier this year I needed to buy a car. My old one was kaput, and I needed to commute to my then-job, and I simply had to have a reliable car.
In my neighborhood, everyone I knew seemed to be buying Hondas. The Honda Odyssey was THE minivan and the CRVs and Pilots were THE SUVs to get. If you wanted a regular car then it was the Civic or the Accord.
So me being, well, me, when I saw that everyone around me was getting a Honda, I decided that I absolutely positively had to get a car that was any brand other than a Honda.
Well, that’s a little too strong. I guess what I mean is, once I realized that a lot of people were buying Hondas simply because other people were buying them, I resolved not to do that.
I did a lot of research, and test drove several cars. Ultimately, I decided on a Toyota Prius V as the best choice for my needs, and I’m happy with my purchase.
But every leasing place I spoke to tried to push me into a Honda. The reasons were numerous. Honda offered the best deals. Hondas were the most reliable. Hondas held their value better. And, of course, I had only to look around me and see how many happy, smiling Honda drivers there were to see what a good choice it was.
And that last argument was all I needed to steer me in another direction. I can’t help it. When I see a large group of people doing something - particularly if it’s for no good reason - I just can’t bring myself to join in.
It also didn’t help that I spoke to people who were already a year or two into their Hondas and not only couldn’t stand them, but couldn’t remember (or wouldn’t admit) why they had gotten them in the first place.
So as I so often do, I struck out on my own and made my own decision. And from this an idea was born.
Cruise Control - Here, There, Everywhere
Something I’ve touched on before continues to astound me. I look at job postings on the various sites - LinkedIn, Monster, etc - and also some higher end executive recruiting sites. The same companies always seem to be searching for the same positions. How is this possible? In recent memory there has never been such a huge glut of talented yet unemployed people? Companies should be able to fill literally any staffing needs in a matter of weeks, if not days! Yet clearly this isn’t the case.
As I’ve said before, at a time when they should be in the position to get the very best people, many employers are making little practical effort to do so.
I believe there are a few reasons. First is simply overworked HR departments. They are so inundated with applicants that finding faster and easier ways of plowing through the piles of resumes takes precedence over the caliber of hires.
Second, there is a lack of vision in how employers search for workers. Writing poetic, esoteric job descriptions, or descriptions so crammed with requirements that a 20 year veteran wouldn’t qualify for the position doesn’t help anyone.
Some years ago, I needed to recruit staff for the art department at the company in which I was Creative Director. What I DID NOT do was make a “wish list” demanding years of experience in multiple disciplines and expertise in an alphabet soup of software programs, along with a BFA (Masters preferred). What I DID do was draft a straightforward list of practical skills that I wanted candidates to have, along with the responsibilities they would have to fill. Within a couple of weeks I found a fantastic guy.
The difference is I wasn’t looking to impress anyone. I didn’t care whether the candidate had a BFA because in my experience that credential hadn’t made other workers any better at their jobs. I focused on the person - how he presented himself and his work; how he related to me and to the company, and what benefits we could realize by adding his skills to our team.
I looked at how “everyone else” was doing it, and chose a different path - just as with my car. And just as with cars, the problem in many companies, and with many individuals, is that they look at what everyone else is driving - er, doing, and then they just, well, go along for the ride.
In fact you find this everywhere, in every department in every industry. Employees, either from apathy or insecurity simply look at what “everyone else” does and so things stumble along on cruise control.
And those Hondas keep driving on.
Do It the Same… But Different
My point in all this is that you’ll never find real success or happiness by following someone else. I’ve seen businesses try it - mimicking the strategies and tactics of larger more successful competitors. And all it made them were pale shadows of the originals. The only real success they had was when they had the courage to differentiate themselves and stand out from the pack.
And, likewise, employers need to show some vision and forethought to seek out exceptional people. Don’t be afraid of being different! Don’t back away from hiring someone who is incredibly creative and innovative just because he or she doesn’t fit the “mold.”
People with talent, imagination, vision and passion should’t be passed over, held back, or brushed off just because it’s what everyone else does.
Take a stand. Get that Prius.
What do you think? I’d love to hear!
Danny Kay is a marketing and advertising professional as well as a designer and photographer with over 25 years of experience. He's worked with businesses and organizations of all sizes, up to Fortune 500.