“That’s a career-limiting tie,” my boss told me as he stared at my Flags of the World necktie. I looked for a smile but he wasn’t joking. He then went on to list the reasons why I should look for a new job. I had been categorized as an unsuccessful misfit.
Two years later, I was working for the same company, at twice the salary, with a free car and apartment. I loved my work, and my employer loved me. “Those are great sox,” my new boss remarked on my bright red footwear. He then went on to list all the positives about my work. I had gone from flopping to flying!
Remarkably, I was the same person. I hadn’t gotten myself an MBA, hadn’t worked on my “attention-to-detail” skills, and hadn’t changed my unique fashion sense. So what was the difference? Why was I a loser misfit in one job and a successful misfit in the next? How had I triumphed in one part of a company when I had failed in another?
The simple answer was that I turned my unique qualities—which some had found to be weaknesses—into my strengths. Just as a car is sold on its looks, fuel consumption, or GPS system, I began to sell myself on my uniqueness. I finally understood that my innate skills, knowledge, and even my unusual behaviors were the keys to my success. What made me a misfit had the potential to make me a successful misfit. I finally owned who I was – red sox and all and celebrated it. I stopped trying to fit in and began to work on standing out.
I found a way to be a square peg in a round hole—without sanding down my corners, or using a mallet to knock me into shape. I accepted myself, worked out what made me different and then marketed those differences.
I gave up trying to be something I wasn’t and focused on who I was. I’m a maverick, an eccentric and a successful misfit. Unique me. Unique you. Unique us.
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