Dare To Be Different

in Small-business


This is a typical dilemma we all face from time to time – should I do the “tried & true,” or create my own path? Should I do what conventional business wisdom suggests, or do something radical and be considered an “upstart”?

Let’s start with the conventional approach.

Do what is “tried and tested” or “learn from other’s experiences” – this is what you read when you open any business magazine, newspaper or ezine.  Inside, you’ll see a lot of success stories that demonstrate the basics that have been proven over the years. And it’s not just in business. This pattern is repeated in pretty much every discipline you can name.

I devour these stories because I figured out that it's smarter to learn from other people's experiences and because I won't have enough time to do it all myself. For years, I have been studying business - books, case studies, media reports – anything that might reveal some of the “business DNA” that can make a difference.

Sir Isaac Newton summed up this approach when he said, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”

Isaac Newton

But here’s the thing – surely if you do what everybody else does – by definition the “average” - won’t you get the “average results”?

If that’s what you’re aiming for, then it is a perfectly appropriate strategy. Further, if you do the same things that average companies do, only you do them much better, you’ll get better than average results.

If however, you want even more than that, then you have to dare to be different. You may have to buy when everyone is selling, and sell when everyone is buying. You may have to zig when everyone else zags. Or possibly even zug.

Seth Godin talks extensively about being different in his treatise Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable. Francis Bacon said, "If we are to achieve results never before accomplished, we must expect to employ methods never before attempted." And Albert Einstein followed up with, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”


Over the years I have noticed that the most interesting people I meet are i not the ones who do what everyone else does; but rather the ones that challenge the status quo and set off on new paths – boldly going where no man (or woman) has gone before (apologies to Gene Roddenberry).

I’ve also studied the biographies of many famous achievers in a broad variety of disciplines - business, the arts, humanities, sciences, engineering and the environment. Having identified some common traits in these people, I decided to call them ‘Upstarts’.

Steven R. Covey said that, “Management works in the system and leadership works on the system.” My discovery was that ‘Upstarts’ create new systems.

You see, an ‘Upstart’ is that remarkable person who sees the world differently from the rest of us. They are mavericks that can sense opportunities that others miss. They change and break the rules. They make us uncomfortable - and they make things happen.

Here are some people who have demonstrated ‘Upstart’ characteristics with their life’s work:

Akio Sony, Albert Einstein, Andrew Carnegie, Anita Roddick, Bill Gates, Bob Dylan, Charles Handy, Coco Chanel, David Attenborough, David Suzuki, Dick Smith, Gene Roddenberry, Germaine Greer, Gustav Nossal, Henry Ford, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Jim Henson, Leonardo Da Vinci, Lucille Ball, Mae West, Marlin Brando, Mary Robinson, Michael Dell, Oprah Winfrey, Pablo Picasso, Quentin Tarantino, Rachel Carson, Richard Branson, Richard Pryor, Shaun Fanning, Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney. (If you’re not sure why someone is on this list and you’d like to know, drop me a line and I’ll fill you in. Also, if you think there is someone obvious missing, please let me know.)

Lucille Ball

Society calls them inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs - the label isn’t too important though.  An ‘Upstart’ doesn’t fit into traditional roles, categorisation or answers, and is compelled to find new answers for themselves. They are individuals who challenge the status quo and have ideas that need to be nurtured to reveal their potential and, in turn, benefit everyone.

Why are upstarts so important? Simple. It’s because the value of Upstart DNA is woven throughout the world - from cars, to computers, to E=mc². Upstarts have the ideas that change the world.

 As George Bernard Shaw put it, “Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.”

We all love to read about how someone else succeeded in overcoming significant odds and rising to the “top” - especially when that someone flaunted conventional wisdom and backed themselves and their ideas. Just look at the hoopla surrounding Jessica Watson’s achievement in sailing solo around the world at age 16. But wasn’t she lambasted at the beginning of her journey?

In the music industry there are some who will play by the rules. They might make it that way (the odds are very low), but it's likely to have little to do with their talent.  It's going to be much more about their relationships, their marketing and their backing.

In order to really succeed in music you've got to innovate. The recent and not so recent global b(r)ands have all proven that. Their secret is to do it in such a way that a large percentage of the public cares. In other words, to build a tribe of dedicated followers and rabid fans (customers).

In the era of marketing, anyone can go online and tell their story.  But the key is not just about finding a way to get your music / service / product in front of people.  The key is to create something so good that it builds its own audience. Do you remember only a few years ago when Google was the hot recommendation for a cool search engine?


Does all this mean we can ignore the “tried and tested”? Absolutely not – it’s the tried and tested that gives us our Business DNA - our foundations and building blocks. However, the real difference is how we uniquely apply our DNA to create something unique and compelling.

And that is exactly what every business needs to do!


Author Box
David Solomon has 14 articles online


 I work with women entrepreneurs who feel overworked and getting nowhere, so they end up frustrated and unsure of how to move their businesses forward. I help these women build a Higher Purpose Business so that their business works for them, rather than them working for it.

To know more about my approach to business, check out http://quidditybusiness.com.au

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This article was published on 2011/11/24