April 25 – Differentiating from the crowd

“The message is clear: Plan with attitude, prepare with aptitude, participate with servitude, receive with gratitude, and this should be enough to separate you from the multitudes.” (Krish Dhanam)

Everyone wants to set themselves apart from the crowd. The basic competitive nature in all people drives them to want to be head and shoulders above their peers in one way or another. As parents, we all want our children to be among the best as well. Some time back I saw a news article stating that on the order of 90% of parents believe that their children are above average in intelligence. Mathematically this is probably impossible, since by definition only half of all children can be above average, but it plays to the notion that we all want the best for ourselves and our children, and we look for the best in them.

When our children were in middle school and high school, my wife and I tried to impress upon them the idea that they needed to differentiate themselves from the crowd. They needed to find ways to show their teachers and future employers that there was something special about them.

Living in a house with a project manager, it was somewhat inevitable that they would learn the power of planning. The countless lists that have been made for things like holiday preparation, party planning and the like have been a part of our lives since their childhood. Having a plan and being goal oriented was taught to them both formally and informally. I would like to think that we set those plans with a positive, “can-d0” attitude. We have watched as they have excelled at the ability to make plans for themselves that were attainable.

As participants in Boy and Girl Scouts, all four of them also learned to “Be Prepared”. The key to preparation isn’t that you think of, and plan for everything in advance, that is impossible. There will always be twists and turns that were unforeseen. But, preparing for those things that you can foresee means that when the oddities strike, your attention can be focused on the oddity more fully. That is the key to preparation and planning.

Every parent wants their children to show leadership skills. I am not talking about having them all be the boss and directing others. Rather, the idea we have for them is to show true leadership such that others will follow their example, regardless of who is in charge. To be a leader, one key element is to have service mentality. When participating, we encouraged them to do so in a way that shows that they are serving the greater good, and giving help and service to those around them. When we approach our participation with service in mind, it opens us to making sure that the group’s or the project’s goals come above our own. This moves both us and what we are working on in the right direction. When participants set aside their personal goals, indeed the greater good is served.

Receiving with grace and gratitude shows that a person understands that their accomplishments are never achieved alone. Any achievement work attaining is done always with some help from others. Whether that help came in the form of teaching the skills needed to complete the task, the extra hands that were offered along the way, or something else, the fact is that no one achieves alone. Understanding this, and always giving thanks when receiving is key to not only understanding your own place and debt to others, but also to ensuring that those who helped will continue to want to help in the future. I don’t think it is possible to show too much gratitude, at least I can’t think of anyone (including myself), who suffers from it. True gratitude is always appreciated, and always needed to recognize the contributions of those around us.

If the goal is to differentiate myself, to separate from the multitude, these four concepts will most definitely get me there.

I would add one last piece, and I am not sure how to make it fit the rhyme scheme of this quote. But, the concept is still key… flexibility. If I take a bit of literary license in making up new words, it would be “adjust with flexitude”. There are many twists and turns in life. The more that we can adjust along the way, and do so without breaking, the more successful we will be.

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