• Gerald Tay

Be Unique, Not Greater

Updated: Feb 13, 2020

Hi Friend​,

Often, we think the way to stand out from the pack is to be better. And sometimes that is the answer: to become an improved version of who you were yesterday, to do what the “other guy” is doing with a few added features.

However, this is often a losing strategy, as you are making iterative improvements on someone else’s work. A better way to become world-class at what you do is to change the game completely.

For years, I was obsessed with comparing myself to others, constantly measuring my own accomplishments against the work of others. No matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, I always felt like a failure.

I could never shake this idea that my work, no matter how good or successful, was always a fraction of what someone else had done. Unable to enjoy my success, I was caught in the comparison trap, which robbed me of my unique contribution to the world.

Teddy Roosevelt was right. Comparing yourself will rob you of your joy. Not only that, it will cheat you out of any real success you could ever achieve, because you will constantly be questioning yourself, seeing what you do not for what it is, but for what it’s not.

And you will find subtle ways to sabotage your own efforts, never thinking it’s good enough. People will compliment you and you won’t be able to hear them. They will be impacted by what you do, and it won’t matter.

And over time, people won’t want to hear you drone on about how this isn’t good enough or what you imagined. Because, to be honest, that’s pretty damn disrespectful.

It took a brutal awakening to face this in my own life. My unhappiness with my work was a slap in the face of everyone who’d ever read a word I’d written or experienced any of my creations.

I had a decision to make: I could keep trying to be a better version of someone else. Or I could learn the art of becoming myself.

Perhaps success was not so much about being better or greater, anyway.

Maybe it was more about being unique.

Unique is better than greater

Unique is almost always better than greater. In any field—business, academia, athletics—the individuals and organizations who stand out are those brave enough to pave their own way. To go in a direction few have gone before and wait for the world to catch up.

Why does this work?

Because it grabs your attention. A slightly better version of the iPhone is not going to make headline news. Bing won’t ever beat Google in search attention. And you won’t be the next Bill Gates by creating slightly better word documents.

That’s not how it works. Even if you are better, people won’t care, because it’s not just enough to be better. You have to be unqiue.

Being unique is the only way to get comfortable in your own skin and to truly stand out in a world of copycats and charlatans: Be unique, not better or greater or compare with someone else.

In any successful investments including property, herd mentality and kiasuism is never the key to your success. It's about your strengths, knowledge, what you really know, what you really don't know, resources, connections, network, some LUCK, market cycle and many other intricate parts that contribute to the bottom line.

So the belief that holds us back is the idea that we should merely pay attention to the way it has been done or the way it is being done. This kind of thinking, to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, is the death of joy.

Yes, comparison kills your contentment, but it can also destroy any possibility of success you might have because to substantially change the world, you have to first believe it is not flat.

You have to go against the grain of what “everyone” says or does or believes. You can’t beat them if you join them. At some point, you’ve got to go your own way and face the rejection and hardship—and greatness—that comes from such courage.

Thanks for reading.

What would it look like if you started doing this today? What would this make possible for you?

Share in the comments.

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