I get frustrated when I hear about the social structure in high school. But then I realize it is the same everywhere else, if you let it.
When my daughter Samantha was in high school, she had several classmates she had known for many years. They went to elementary and middle school together. But she doesn’t talk to them. Confused, I asked her why.
She told me, “They are ‘populars,’ and I’m not. I hang out with the band.” Definitions can be interesting. According to high school social vernacular, “populars” doesn’t mean these students are well known or well liked; it means they are full of themselves. Samantha is looking for people who are more accepting of each other, and that’s the band kids.
I don’t like this because I want everyone to like my daughter, and I want her to be the most popular kid in the school. More important, I don’t want her to limit her own choices and experiences by predetermining she’s going to exclude people based on which group they are in. Yet I do the same thing.
In the late 1990s, I was well known in the association world. (The association world is made up of the people who run associations.) After I learned about info-marketing, I thought to myself, “Association people don’t get it. I’m going to start hanging out in the marketing world, or more specifically, the Dan Kennedy world. I’m going to be part of planet Dan.” I shut myself out of a lot of experiences I could have had because of a false feeling of superiority.
Because we are so busy, we have to assign people to categories. In the end, all of the categories are simply subcategories of these two: important and not important.
Certain people end up in the important: spouse, kids, boss, clients, Steve Jobs. Others end up in the not important and can be ignored: pestering salesperson, the loser who keeps hanging around me at the office and Kim Kardashian. Our customers do the same thing; they are making these judgments about us!
The good news? In business we get to create our own identity. In fact, it’s essential to establish our identity.
This is why it’s so important for you and me to become big characters. That is how we can differentiate ourselves as someone important, someone to be listened to.
You establish yourself as someone important by doing important things—publishing a newsletter, providing knowledge, producing a white paper or a special report, writing a book, becoming the chief spokesperson for your business.
In other words, become a big character.
Be the master of your public image, command attention and never bore your audience of customers and potential customers.
I tried to teach this lesson to my daughter. I told her she can be a “popular” anytime she wants; all she has to do is behave with confidence and share your personality. But that feels phony to her and more than a little scary.
I understand. It doesn’t come naturally to me either. I was taught to let my actions speak for themselves. Yet if you do that, it’s too easy for your prospective customers to sort you into one of the “not important” categories.
You don’t have to be phony. Everything you do should reflect your personality and refer to your own successes. “But what if I don’t have any successes?” you ask. First of all, I doubt that’s entirely true, and second, go create them! Demonstrate your knowledge and ask someone for the opportunity to turn what you know into a success demonstration. This will give stories you can talk about.
These stories will enable you to be true to yourself, to prevent you from being phony. And they will demonstrate to your audience that you are important.
You and I must refuse to accept the labels our markets put on us. We frequently have to “blow up” those labels by being different and commanding attention.
If you’ve been all about Topic X for the last two years, maybe it’s time to start talking about Topic Y. Be unexpected, entertaining and different.
You must forge a new identity in your market. Always be yourself (but make it interesting), keep it unique and make it bold. You’ll not only transcend the high school labels, but within your market, you’ll also transcend Kim Kardashian.
What do you think? Have you created a new identity in your market this year? Or do you need to forge a new identity in the next year?