Career Guide

Want To Stand Out?

Do what 90% of people won’t

“I love to read articles and advice on how to be successful – but how can I stand out when everyone is following the same advice?”

This was the message I received recently.

As someone who loves to help others work towards realising their ambitions, I hope it inspires people to get out there and do whatever it takes to create incredible success stories.

In response to the question, I wrote:

“Everyone nods along to all the advice out there. Everyone thinks that what they read online is great and that they should ‘really breathe some life into that idea, soon.’

But few people act consistently with deliberate intent to be better than they were yesterday, and to keep building on that progress.

To stand out, all you have to do is put everything you’ve got into working towards achieving the goals you set yourself.

As the saying goes, if you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way; if you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

Standing out is easy... simply commit to taking more steps forward than most other people are willing to take.”

The American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

So often, when I have conversations with young people and they ask me how to stand out, succeed, go their own way, and follow their dreams, I can sense they’re looking for a magic formula.

It doesn’t work like that.

Nuggets of advice

The best advice anyone can give is that you have to realise that you are 100% in charge of your own life and its direction.

This means that any ambition you have can be reached, as long as you’re willing to put in the hard work, commitment, time and dedication to get to where you want to go.

The next piece of advice comes with a caveat. Some people have certain life circumstances that means they’re unable to make the kinds of choices they would like to make.

While “everything’s a choice” is technically true, it’s clear that the ability to make life-changing choices is much more difficult for some than it is for others.

With that in mind, I offer the following piece of advice for those who are able to make use of their relative good fortune and decide the direction of their own lives.

You’ll succeed a lot quicker if you drop the excuses.

Read to lead

It’s particularly true when it comes to reading (a powerful way to maximise your potential). People often tell me they have no time to read.

Usually, I’ll ask them if they have a tougher job than being the President of the United States.

When they say ‘no’, I share how former President George W Bush had a competition with his Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Christian Rove, to see who could read the most books in a year (this was when Bush was serving as President).

At the end of the challenge, Bush had read 95 books to Rove’s 110 – the President found the time to read roughly two books every week.

Reasons vs excuses

To stand out takes a lot of work and, to many, that’s off-putting.

Fewer people than you think have the patience, the passion, the perseverance and the work ethic to follow their dreams. Dreaming is nice and easy; bringing dreams to life is another thing altogether.

It’s the excuses that tend to hold us back. It’s important to remember that ‘excuses’ are different to ‘reasons’.

If you can’t start a business because you’re a full-time caregiver for an elderly relative, that’s a reason – it’s an end point.

An excuse would be to say, “I can’t start a business because I don’t have enough money.”

Excuses are the shields we use to avoid the possibility of failures.

Noise or sound advice?

We can listen to the wrong advice that’s either well-meaning but unsuitable to us, or it’s simply misguided. Don’t get me wrong – unless it’s blatantly terrible advice, we should always consider the input of others.

However, we should learn quickly to separate good advice from those that hold us back and narrow our potential.

When it comes to having an edge and standing out, British writer George Monbiot offers some excellent advice.

He focuses on journalism, but the advice can be adapted to just about any field or profession.

He writes:

“You are told to travel, in other words, in precisely the opposite direction to the one you want to take. …

“The advisers say that a career path like this is essential if you don’t want to fall into the ‘trap’ of specialisation: that is to say, if you want to be flexible enough to respond to the changing demands of the employment market.

“But the truth is that by following the path they suggest, you are becoming a specialist: a specialist in the moronic recycling of what the rich and powerful deem to be news. And after a few years of that, you are good for little else.”

As we can see from Monbiot’s words, most people are given the same advice, and most tend to follow it for two reasons:

1. It comes from a place of authority (even the experts can get it wrong).

2. It’s just easier to follow what someone else tells you to do than to walk your own path.

In a way, everyone does follow the same advice – the safe advice, hence why many don’t stand out.

Few people follow the advice that truly makes them feel alive, the kind that strongly resonates with what they really want to do.

The trouble is, while the advice sounds good, it also takes dedication and hard work to reap the rewards, and so most simply don’t follow it.

Here are questions to ask yourself:

l Who do you want to be?

l What kind of life do you want to live?

By taking the time to think about these questions, I hope you’ll find the inspiration and the courage to do what 90% of others fail to do.

Concluding thoughts

For what it’s worth, here are five suggestions to stand out from the crowd:

1. Always give much more to others than others give to you.

2. Make your giving unconditional: it’s not giving if it comes with expectations.

3. Look beyond your specific area of interest for the truly valuable lessons that will help you to grow.

4. Learn to love the process of your passion and work hard at it. Success is always dependant on the amount of effort you put in along the way. Give your all.

5. Find the time to read. Let’s set a challenge to see who can read the most books in a year!

Roshan Thiran is the founder and CEO of Leaderonomics, a social enterprise working to transform lives through leadership development. Connect with Roshan on Facebook at, Twitter @lepaker and Linkedin for more insights into business, personal development, and leadership. Drop us an email at to see how your organisation can partner with Leaderonomics to transform the nation.

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