Walking as Ourselves
Imitation is a relatively easy practice. We’ve seen this as a response to innovation. Your business thinks deeply about a problem and innovates its way to a solution. The next thing you know, a competitor dissects it and mimics its version of it.
The data will tell you that the innovation costs 10X more than the imitation. So, why bother innovating?
The data won’t tell you what the innovator learned through innovating: how to innovate. What the imitator can’t imitate is the innovation process. So, while it’s relatively easy to imitate, it’s a trap that will keep you in an imitation loop.
Dame Helen Mirren, the Academy Award, British Academy Film Award, Tony Award, and Laurence Olivier Award winning actress, says the hardest thing you can do is walk as yourself. While she was likely referencing acting, her words carry wisdom from which businesses and their leaders can learn.
From an early age, we’re encouraged to fit into society’s norms. This act of fitting in conforms us to what’s normally done. Staying normal means cutting out possibilities, including the opportunity to be ourselves. Growth, fulfillment, and the joy of being yourself are a by-product of exploration.
Paradoxically, the world that asks us to conform needs the opposite: to walk as ourselves. The world needs us to imagine, innovate, create, and contribute as only we can. This means following our unique voice in our unique way and living that into being.
In order to walk as ourselves, we must become a fugitive of conformity. When we break free of expected norms, we shine a light for ourselves and others to make and walk our own path.
This practiced path of self-discovery is the innovators’ path. When we practice this, we become skilled at knowing what’s our innovation and what’s society’s norms.
For the business that innovates, it builds the practiced skills of innovation and discovers a never-ending what’s possible along the way. Multiply this over time — years or decades — and the imitator is a forgotten entity. Brands (and people) that that imitate will always play catch-up to innovators.
Relevant to all of the above, with David Whyte’s permission, I shared the below poem in my recent book The Beautiful Business:
We shape our self
to fit this world
and by the world
are shaped again.
and the invisible
in common cause,
I am thinking of the way
the intangible air
passed at speed
round a shaped wing
holds our weight.
So may we, in this life
to those elements
we have yet to see
and look for the true
shape of our own self,
by forming it well
to the great
intangibles about us.
— David Whyte
from The House of Belonging, ©1996 Many Rivers Press
Today is Giving Tuesday.
It’s a global movement of generosity and giving back to organizations in need. This movement works to reimagine a world built on shared humanity and generosity.
While today is promoted as #GivingTuesday, the organization behind it is a year-round global network that works to inspire generosity around the world. I encourage you to donate to an organization or cause today.
Here’s a few organizations that I support:
WesleyLife — A 75-Year-Old non-profit who’s revolutionizing the experience of aging.
Dorland Mountain Arts — An artists residency program where I wrote most of The Beautiful Business.
Spiritual Arts Institute — The premier metaphysical arts school that helps souls grow.
The MOSAIC Foundation — An organization that works to prevent veteran suicide and to develop healthy and empowered veterans, families and communities.
If you want to find an organization that aligns with your values, American Charities has a listing of various organizations which you can search by topic.
If you want a more trusting team, a culture of belonging or a magnetic brand that attracts more of the right customers, I can help. If you'd like to explore if working together makes sense, drop me a line.
February 6, 2024
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