The Beginning (Part 1) - The Relevant You and The Five Questions of Perception
Updated: Feb 9
Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. – GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
When I first saw the 1959 episode of the Twilight Zone, "The Obsolete Man", I was struck by how easily people and things fall out of favor, for no other reason than a louder voice had come on the scene. The episode, centering around a man put on trial for being irrelevant, with a guilty verdict resulting in a death sentence, is based on the idea that an eagerness to engage one day can be considered dull the following week because people lost interest. Someone with experience at one company can be passed over by another because their skills are perceived as outdated. A corporation that helped build an entire industry can be dismissed as unimportant because their products or leadership appear out of touch. A solution that has worked in the past can be rejected as inconsequential because it no longer feels pertinent.
So, how do people, ideas, and things remain in-demand in this ever-changing environment of information? And what does it take to be your most relevant you?
A reputation strategist by trade, I specialize in socializing fresh ideas. Throughout my 30-year career, I've helped introduce new technologies that made a difference in the world and forever changed how people manage their finances, buy perishable products on-line, access their personal genomics, store their data, and protect their privacy. I’ve worked side-by-side with iconic and revolutionary thinkers and companies to define the relevancy of their ideas, helped others reinvent themselves after experiencing setbacks, and guided those who had a desire to re-imagine what they have to offer the world.
In each instance, the essential ingredient for people and businesses to be relevant—and persuade others to advocate for their offerings—came down to one crucial factor: their reputation as a difference maker.
They had a clear purpose, and they embraced it with passion. They knew what their work was and were resolute in pursuing their vision. They knew that to stand out and rise above, they had to recognize their best and then harness the power of reputation.
These difference makers weren’t concerned about the “safety in numbers” that comes with being viewed similarly as others. They were obsessed with establishing their own renown, in their own right, on their own terms. There might have been uncertainty lurking, but they stood up anyway. Criticism may have teetered on the absurd, but they showed up anyway. Setbacks were common, but they pushed forward anyway. Fear of failure lurked in the background, but they focused on the potential for good instead because they knew what they had mattered. They committed to a plan to make their ideas a reality. They embraced their potential for greatness, and steadfastly shared their thoughts with the world. They were determined to make a difference by embracing the best they had to offer.
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. RALPH WALDO EMERSON
Since watching "The Obsolete Man," I spent the following years exploring in-depth the importance of perception and reputation of relevancy as a difference maker. In addition to my day-to-day work guiding the reputation strategies of well-known companies, I spoke at length with researchers, executives, theologians, business owners, and scholars about the role of reputation in creating success. And I discovered one common challenge that must be overcome when seeking to stand out, rise above and be known as a difference maker, regardless of their position, education, background or experience: we all need to learn how to talk about our ideas in ways that help others know how we will make a real difference in their life for good.
It turns out being relevant doesn't happen naturally.
It doesn’t matter if you are an individual, group, or company, whether the relationship is personal, business, or even with a stranger, people want to know if you’re going to make a difference in their lives. If you don’t implicitly tell them how you will make a difference, people are left to rely on their filters and the opinions of others. More often than not, the default determination is that you are not a difference maker to them.
There is a real risk in not communicating clearly and consistently about your ideas and how you bring betterment to others. By choosing not to master the techniques necessary for building a reputation that shines brightly, you are allowing others to define you. And if other people are doing the talking for you, the perception of what you offer will be at the mercy of what someone else determines.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You have a choice.
You can be the owner of your reputation. You can stand out and rise above. You can be known as a difference maker. For those who are serious about establishing and nurturing a bright and genuine reputation, there's a path of vibrancy and confidence, where you choose to move from being part of the crowd to standing out and rising above.
So, where do you begin this important work in establishing yourself as a difference maker and gain momentum in distinguishing yourself as one? Find out in The Beginning (Part 2).