Were you either picked on as a child or did you see other people get picked on for being different from the crowd? I clearly remember a game called ‘The odd one out’ where everyone would stand around in a circle and you’d wait for the instigator of the game to come up with a reason to reject you for being different.
And, of course, it sent a clear message; ‘Do everything you can to fit in.’
Which is fine for some careers. But when you start your own business or you’re a creative, fitting in is a death nail in the coffin of your career. It’s vitally important that you stand out. That you’re memorable in some way.
You don’t have to be wildly different like Lady Gaga, but you do need to reach for those nuances and subtleties that make you, you.
My daughter is my teacher in this regard. She’s always finding little ways to express herself with her clothes. She went to school one day with one black shoe on with a white sock, while on the other foot she wore a white shoe with the back sock, because she wanted to be a piano. Sometimes her experiments really work, sometimes they don’t. But because she’s a kid, she’s not put off by that. It’s all just play and she keeps testing new ideas.
Recently I asked her, ‘Of all the women we’ve read about, who do you think of as being completely unique?’
(The benefit of being seven years old in 2019 is that she’s grown up her whole life learning about inspiring women in books and on podcasts designed specifically to encourage girls to imagine a big future for themselves. As a consequence, she has an entire back catalogue of women’s stories in her head ready to be drawn upon at a moment’s notice.)
‘Coco Channel, Mum,’ she responded. ‘She made all those simple hats and plain dresses when everyone was wearing fancy hats and tight fitted clothes. Lots of people thought her ideas were too different when she put on her first show but she was right; her clothes were better than what they had then.’
‘You’re right, she was perfect just as she was, as are you,’ I responded.
So this week, we’re taking our inspiration from Coco around being a woman who is visible in both business and life. The lessons I draw from her include:
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