When we were young my brother and I convinced my parents to let us have a chameleon.
Earth is home to more than 100 species of chameleon. To a boy, the pet store variety is the coolest because they change color based on their surroundings.
When on grass, they turn green. When then hang out on sand or a stick, they turn brown. A simple defense mechanism, but pure magic to a little boy.
On the other hand, these creatures are the most scared, stressed-out and jittery little things I’ve ever seen. They’re constantly changing color to blend in, fearing for their lives.
No wonder each chameleon we ever had lived for less than a month.
Chameleons In Suits
Early in my career I got the impression that, to succeed in business, I had to be a chameleon.
Dress like everyone else. Look like everyone else. Talk like everyone else. Think like everyone else. Write like everyone else. Be like everyone else.
Don’t stand out. Work hard, but blend in.
Bend your values, strategy and who you are based on what you think your customer wants.
I know I’m not the only one who begins their career this way.
Don’t Trap Yourself
The worst part about this modus operandi is that, in the early stages of your career, it works.
You impress people by fitting in with the homogeneous blob. You impress by spouting back the nonsense they want to hear.
This doesn’t last forever.
Over time, people expect you to come up with solutions to real problems. They want your ideas. They need them.
Neither your organization nor your customers want you to be like everyone else.
They need your ideas, not some perverted version of what you heard someone else say.
Your customers don’t want you to tell them what you think they want to hear. They want your advice.
How are you supposed to do this when you have’t practiced it?
It’s Not Too Late
The good news is you’re not like everyone else. You don’t think, talk, write or look like anyone else, so don’t pretend.
It took me a long time to realize this, but it’s those who stand out who get noticed, promoted and hired.
Start figuring out who you are and what you care about. What are your values? What makes you special? What can you offer that no one else can? What unique perspective do you bring?
Who cares if it seems weird? You’re not for everyone, and everyone isn’t for you. The sooner you start to realize this the happier and more successful you’ll be.
Don’t fear being different.
Don’t fear what people will think.
Don’t fear making mistakes.
Don’t try to please everyone.
And definitely don’t try to blend in.
You don’t want to end up like my pet chameleon.