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Weekly 3: Distinguishing yourself


Idea Journal Weekly 3

July 21 · Issue #96 · View online

We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Have a go-to-mind strategy. Put more of yourself into what you’re creating. Be relevant. (~5 min read)
Note: Idea #1 is taken from a previous issue, and we’ve included it here because it fits well with the core theme: distinguishing yourself.

#1. First to market = first to mind
For marketing strategists Al Ries and Jack Trout, the first of their 22 “immutable laws of marketing” is the Law of Leadership: “It’s better to be first than it is to be better.”
Ries and Trout argue that this law can be applied to any brand, category or product for the following reasons:
  • Conceptual inertia and the cost of switching: it’s easier to get into a person’s mind first than it is to convince them that you have a better product than the one that did get there first.
  • The brand or product that’s first in a category often tends to remain in a leadership position because its name becomes generic; they cite examples from Gore-Tex to Kleenex.
  • Marketing is more a battle of perceptions than products. Regardless of reality, “people perceive the first product into the mind as superior.”
They use two familiar “brands” to demonstrate their point:
  1. George Washington was the first President of the United States, but who was the second? (Answer: John Adams)
  2. Advil was first in the ibuprofen market, but what was the second? (Answer: Nuprin)
Yet because of timing or other factors, being first to market may not always be possible. As Ries and Trout put it, that’s why there are 21 other laws, including the Law of the Category: “If you can’t be first in a category, set up a new category that you can be first in.”
#2. The value -- and limit -- of authenticity
Entrepreneur and investor Naval Ravikant says on his podcast that the best way to escape competition is through authenticity. 
If you are building and marketing something that is an extension of yourself, “no one can compete with you on being you.”
For example, no one is going to create a better version of Dilbert than the cartoonist Scott Adams. The same is true for Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes
Or, as Ravikant points out, Elon Musk: “If somebody else came along and started launching rockets, I don’t think it would faze Elon one bit. He’s still going to get to Mars. Because that’s his mission, insane as it seems. He’s going to accomplish it.”
In each case, the products and businesses they create are authentic to their desires and means. If you’re successful with this approach, you’ll find that in the long run you’re doing most of your hobbies for a living.
But authenticity has its limits – you don’t want to be so authentic that there’s no longer a market for what you’re creating. Being the best juggler on a unicycle, for example, when there isn’t market for such an activity, is not a winning strategy.
#3. How relevant are you to others?
Author and entrepreneur Rajesh Setty writes on his blog that one of the best ways to distinguish yourself is to be as relevant as possible to the people you’re engaging.
He suggests reflecting on some of your interactions with people where you “tuned out.” In part, your attention probably faded because the person continued to talk about things that weren’t relevant to you. 
When we’re irrelevant, it’s harder for our messages to get through. Setty acknowledges this may seem like an obvious point, but that doesn’t make it any less important.
How many times have you continued to talk with someone about something that was not relevant to them?
Setty tells the story of receiving an unsolicited email from someone named Bob Thomas. It was an announcement about a new magazine called Enterprise Open Source Journal, which at the time was the first-ever publication covering open source in an enterprise setting. 
Because Setty was active in the open source business, he didn’t consider the unsolicited email spam – it was relevant to him and his work. In fact, he thanked Thomas for his message, and they’ve since become friends. 
As Setty points out, striving to be relevant in all of your key interactions can make a big difference in your life and the lives of those around you – from family and friends, to clients and co-workers.
And the easiest path to relevance is to genuinely care: “Once you care, you will start to take notice of what is relevant to them rather than focusing on what is relevant to you.”
Quote of the Week
“I have the nerve to walk my own way, however hard, in my search for reality, rather than climb upon the rattling wagon of wishful illusions.”
- Anthropologist and writer Zora Neale Hurston in a letter to poet Countee Cullen
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