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Be Different. Make a difference.

“Never forget that you are one of a kind. And never forget that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. Be that one person.”

R. Buckminster Fuller

It always comes down to one person who is different and makes a difference in the world–one person changes everything. History has given us thousands of examples of those extraordinary human beings who were different and made a difference.

Here are a few of my favorite examples.

Richard Buckminster "Bucky" Fuller was an American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, and inventor. For most of his life, he was considered an eccentric outsider cut off from the scientific establishment of his time. Regardless of conventional wisdom, Bucky never ceased to bring his ideas to the world.

In his lifetime, Fuller published more than 30 books, coining or popularizing terms such as "Spaceship Earth" that changed how we view the planet we call home. He also developed numerous inventions, mainly architectural designs like widely known geodesic dome. Carbon molecules known as fullerenes were later named by scientists for their structural and mathematical resemblance to the fractal geometry of geodesic spheres.

The Wright Brothers were seen as crazy nut jobs tinkering in their bicycle shop late at night. Despite having no formal engineering training they designed the first airplane flight– they succeeded in showing the doubting world that yes, people could fly. They were outliers to conventional wisdom and their work forever changed life for everyone on planet earth. Amazing what a little tinkering can create!

Ben Franklin was a major dude! Unlike the other notable founders of our nation, Franklin was self-made.  He’s a remarkable example of the “enlightened entrepreneur” that we would all do well to study–especially in this hyper-connected digital, socially connected world we are currently living in. Ben’s approach to innovation and service is a model we all can follow today. But not just for his writing, printing and publishing innovations, but rather for his values and philosophy–which he masterfully embedded into his many astounding accomplishments as an admired entrepreneur and global statesman.

Most, if not all, of Franklin’s inventions were designed for the good of his community, not for his personal profit. Franklin was purpose-driven! His version of 18th century enlightened entrepreneurship – virtue, character and service– was way ahead of his time and so desperately needed in our capitalist-consumer-driven culture of today. There’s a reason Ben’s kisser is on the C-note.

Steve Jobs proved that surprising and delighting the market again & again with exciting unexpected solutions results in incredible business, customer and profitable outcomes. He achieved these outcomes despite increases in global competition, a roller coaster economy and quickening product lifecycles. Jobs created one of the most admired and innovative companies in the world, by having the guts and ability to be different, think different, and act different. As a result he made all the difference to the world of technology, music and entertainment.

In today's tidal wave of global economic, technological, and social change, creativity and innovation is your only path to more impact, influence and income. To elevate your business from the slush pile of a crowded marketplace requires you abandon the idea of following the conventional wisdom regardless of how logical and compelling.

You must stand for something.

There is no competitive advantage in doing what others do, or have done before. There is no advantage in copying the success of others and selling at a cheaper price. The idea that you promise your customers and clients a “total solution” is just another way of saying your business doesn’t stand for anything. Greatness requires focus and discipline.

Avoid the temptation to follow the conventional wisdom even if it appears as common sense. Follow your heart. Trust your intuition. Grow your value to the world by holding true to your vision of what matters to you and serves the growth and success of your customers and clients.

The key to being different and making a difference in people’s lives is to focus your creativity and innovations on creating new value rather than compete for the value already created by others. In doing so you can change the world.

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