Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The Significance Paradox

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Need To 'Stand Out'

The world suggests you must stand out, but paradoxically, this quest can lead to conformity.

How else will anyone see you and know you? This speaks directly to our need for significance.

Being seen, heard, acknowledged, appreciated, valued, respected, noticed, supported, or recognised.

I have yet to meet someone who doesn't value these.

**Avoid striving to stand out.

We all require significance; it's a core need.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs already shares this perspective: the shift from physiological needs to Safety, Love and belonging, Esteem, and finally, Self-actualisation.

It's not always in that order...

Many people navigate Maslow's model in non-sequential order, sometimes bypassing one need depending on their experiences and beliefs.

Consider these leaders who didn't conventionally climb the hierarchy:

1) Mahatma Gandhi - Faced personal risk and deprivation but was driven by higher-level needs of social change and self-actualisation.

2) Viktor Frankl - A Holocaust survivor, found meaning and self-actualisation even in the direst circumstances of concentration camps.

3) Mother Teresa - Dedicated her life to helping the poorest of the poor in Kolkata, India, who often lived in poverty herself.

What if theses self-leaders followed society's sentiment of standing out; they'd be limited by expectations and conditioned to

1) Showcase yourself to be the expert

2) Build a personal brand

3) Stand Out

We've come to rely on hacks to amplify and manipulate perception, not an effectively established criteria.

Our conditioning to 'stand out' has become a 'fixation' to be different.

Aren't we already so? It's forcing us to invest our resources where we think we're standing out, but we are, in fact, blending in.

- Familiar tools to create familiar outcomes.

People's criteria for standing out is reflected by what they've seen of others, leading their wants but thinking they are different 😏🫣.

Sutble examples like:

  • The overused association of colour to create recognition
  • Aspiring to be the 1%, deluded about wealth only
  • Following trends, mimicking style, becoming an "expert"
  • Claiming disruptiveness by using similar models & operations

It doesn't feel like standing out to me.

Here's the contradiction.

Need To Fit In

We want to stand out to be recognised, yet we also crave the comfort of belonging.

Standing out often means diverging from the norms and risking exclusion.

Fitting in involves conformity and being inclusive yet dilutes one's uniqueness.

Is it possible to have both? Sure is.

Can we be effective? Mmm.

Can this limit us? Yes.

Here are typical statements of what fitting in sounds like:

"I want to connect with like-minded people."

"We share similar values."

"This feels like home."

"What will they say about me?"

"I'll buy that because it's popular."

"That's trending."

You think we'd see Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos hanging out in multiple places with 'like-minded' communities vested in learning to be different

It's not where they'd invest their resources, they've already leaned into themselve selves.

They didn't need our approval of it.

So success leaves clues, right? Here it is.

Must Stand Apart.

Standing out implies you're standing in an already crowded space.

Think of this as a mental construct, it looks like this:

Let me ask you.

Can we ever stand out from such a restrictive place? Your chances of being authentic, genuine, and unique are all subjective to mimicry.

Often, what has worked for someone else successfully, we assume, it is suitable for all of us- far from it, friends.

What do you think everyone else is also thinking? If you guessed correctly, yes, they all want to stand out.

Here is what that looks like:

Our ability to be creative, original, and unconventional is limited. Echoing what Rory Sunderland, Ogilvy Vice Chairman, says:

"It doesn't pay to be logical if everyone else is being logical. It means you're predictable; you get to the same place as everyone else...a race to the bottom. If there had been a logical answer, we would have already found it. Rational people are all over the place, and they control everything. Therefore, if a problem is persistent, the reason for that persistence is logic proof. The problem that obsesses us is still a problem because people have yet to have the balls to use an irrational solution to it."

To stand apart means to literally stand apart 😅, like this:

In this space, you allow for the development of imagination, ideation, originality, and authenticity.

Your ability to stand apart holds all the juice, magic, jazz, exploration, and mystery.

It's the uncomfortable means of being the real you; get comfortable with it so you can lead with it.


  1. Do not let your quest for individuality lead to uniformity - Lean into different.
  2. Having a human need for significance doesn't mean we jump all in to indulge in it - No growth in survival.
  3. The path of the true self is developed from inner knowing and embracing the outer unknowing - Get irrational.

Until next time, don't stand out, stand apart.

Your Self-Leadership Coach

Anks Patel

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Founder, Self-Leadership Coach , Empowerer, Brander, Human

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