Despite what you may have been told, working hard does not get you what you want in life.
Working hard, or as I call it, “doing what you’re supposed to” only sets you apart from those who don’t do what they’re told.
Think about it. All of your classmates are supposed to get straight A’s… there’s no excuse not to. All of your coworkers are supposed to answer all of their emails, show up on time, leave at 5:00, and get their job done… those who don’t will find themselves looking for other employment sooner rather than later.
If you want to blend in, and be average, do your job, work hard, show up on time, get straight A’s. Do the things that everyone else around you is expected to do, and act the way everyone around you is expected to act.
Expecting special treatment for standard compliance is complete foolishness.
During my senior year of college, I was invited to attend a special networking meeting where top executives of successful businesses were asked to meet, and interview some of the brightest students from various local universities who shared my major.
I showed up with a handful of business cards (which consisted solely of an image of the Google search bar with my name in it) and a smile. It only took about two minutes for me to realize that other students had spent days putting together resumes, portfolios, and a wardrobe while simultaneously planning how they were going to schmooze these corporate bigwigs into offering them a job.
In an effort to stand out, my peers had all done exactly the same thing, and inadvertently made themselves completely blend in.
They all spoke with fake, over-inflected, ass-kissy voices, and laughed far to loud and long at jokes that were only mildly funny. They threw business cards out like ninja throwing-stars before even knowing who they were meeting, or offering their name.
In a nutshell, they did exactly what everyone else does in a networking meeting… and not surprisingly, it didn’t work.
Unfortunately, society, school, and often times even our families and closest friends train us (or even encourage us) to mask our true selves.
We’re taught the importance of making the best possible first impression… which often translates into pretending to be somebody we’re not by sacrificing our character or personality.
In my experience, it is being true to yourself that opens doors of opportunity. When I call a CEO “dude” instead of “sir,” he knows that what he sees is what he gets. When I high-five a corporate executive after enduring a grueling over-friendly pitch from a slimy marketer, he knows he can trust me to be honest.
If you want to stand out in the crowd, the solution is simple. Just be you. You are more unique and more valuable being you than you’ll ever be if you try to fit into the mold that someone else created for you.