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Posted by on Jan 24, 2014 in BOLD, Business, Featured, Inspirational, Leadership, Strengths, Talent | 7 comments

BOLD: Are You Bold Enough to Be Different?

“I’m following all the great advice. I’m working my butt off. Yet I’m struggling to find my niche. Why?”

Sound familiar?

In this economy, there is one way to stand out among hundreds of would-be leaders, consultants and subject matter experts.

You must be BOLD enough… to be different.

By “different” I don’t mean dye your hair orange and get even more body art. Or go all Richard Sherman.

I mean be unique, in a professional way that makes people look at you and go, “Damn, I don’t know much about her… but she’s got balls.” Or in a way that makes others think, “Give him credit, he got up there… and did it.”

For example, check out this video:

Think that (very bold) guy will have any trouble being remembered? No. Why? Because we respect the bold. And we crave different.

So, what can you do to establish yourself as bold? As different? Here are some thoughts:

Be BOLD Enough to Be Passionate

Not the generic self-promotion (“I’m a passionate evangelist…”) included on almost every website and LinkedIn profile without substantiation. And certainly not the Tom-Cruise-jumping-on-Oprah’s-couch variety. The passion we all look for is when you clearly feel strongly about your niche – and won’t let anything stop you.

We respect the bold. And we crave different.

Most everyone is reserved, even introverted. It takes someone really bold to let their passions be known. And when that happens, the display of sincere, mission-driven passion quickly becomes contagious.

Be BOLD Enough to Say “No”

In my case, there have been two instances – totaling about six years of my professional life – where I wish I was brave enough to say no. In both cases, the culture sucked; the leadership had no direction; the mission was focused on making money rather than developing a solid product or valuable service. In both cases, however, the money offered was amazing. I rationalized the decisions to join those organizations for one reason: the money. I simply wasn’t bold enough to say “No.” Or rather, “Hell No!”

There will be times when you need to be brave enough – confident enough – to say “No, thank you”. A task you can’t possibly get done in time. A role you’re not ready for right now. A culture you know isn’t right. Be brave enough to walk away from these all-wrong, passion-sucking opportunities.

Be BOLD Enough to Ask, Listen and Learn

Almost every member of Club Struggling is afraid of one thing: looking stupid. Their egos can’t handle not knowing something critical. Their sense of self can’t deal with being wrong. You must be different.

On your way to absorbing every piece of knowledge your brain can hold, ask a million questions, then listen carefully to the answers. Be a sponge during networking events, self-learning moments and mentoring sessions. Absorb every keyword, technique and tool to better yourself and your value proposition.

Yes, once in a while you will look stupid. You just have to be bold enough to take that chance.

Be BOLD Enough to Be Yourself

All those self-doubting leaders and subject matter experts mentioned at the top of this post, the ones who said they were following all the great advice, doing exactly what they were supposed to do? To them, I submit: you are struggling because, just like everyone else, you are following all the advice commonly accepted as “best practices”. You are, just like everyone else, doing exactly what is expected of you. You’re a good follower. You’ve done all the right things.

Just like everyone else.

And, just like everyone else in “follow the leader” mode… you sound and act… just like everybody else.

You are struggling because, just like everyone else, you are following all the advice commonly accepted as “best practices”. You are, just like everyone else, doing exactly what is expected of you. You are a good follower.

Take a different approach. Determine what makes you stand out. Why do others love working with you? What are you really, really good at? What do you do that makes people smile? What about your personality makes them want to follow you?

Find that. Bottle that. Sell that.

Be yourself. Be different.

Ultimately, being bold isn’t so difficult. Forget what you’ve learned – and tried – so far. Start new; nothing is off limits. Display that passion. Say no. At every opportunity, learn.

Most importantly, be BOLD enough to be deliberately different.


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Image credit: robodread / 123RF Stock Photo

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Mark Babbitt

CEO & Founder of @YouTern, dad of 5, grandpa of 2, husband to a woman who tolerates me (barely), @HuffingtonPost blogger, keynote speaker & mentorship advocate.

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  • Margy

    Love this article! Your words/the video have me revved up! I’m pumped to be bold. Nicely done, Mark.

    • Mark Babbitt

      Thank you, Margie… that video does have a way of getting us ready to do something bold, doesn’t it?

  • Jimmy Collins

    Mark, I am committed to avoiding “group-think.” That is one of the reason I advocate Creative Followership. Jimmy Collins

    • Mark Babbitt

      Love it… looking up ‘Creative Followership’ now, Jimmy.

  • Marte Sorg

    Mark, all I can say is WOW!!! You are so right on. I am just so sorry that I didn’t read this 35 years ago; it would have changed the course of my career! However, I am not totally decrepit yet. I am going to adopt this BOLD philosophy. I want to write, and by God, I will do it!

    • Mark Babbitt

      Thank you for the kind words, Marte. Yes…I could have used this perspective 35 years ago, too. Way too many years playing it safe!

  • Dr. Ellen Weber

    Great stuff Mark! Would you agree that we cannot be bold or different without skills to take risks! People often refuse to risk for their lack of skills – and yet these skills are learned by risking in safe, yet challenging circles. The brain increases dopamine needed to take
    risks and create – with each risk to create that one takes. Take no
    risks and dopamine takes no boost to help you.Lots of dopamine here! Thanks! Ellen