On being different

By: Stella Orange

Lately, people have been telling me their stories about what it is to be different.

‘Different’ is a word that I hear all the time from people in this community. 

But I hadn’t stopped to appreciate what it really means to be different until a conversation last week with Dr. Nadia Brown, a longtime friend, colleague, and client.  

Last year, Nadia hired us to create a custom vision and strategic plan. She already had a sense of what she wanted to build. She engaged us because she wanted that vision to be crisper and come into focus faster.  

So we did the work of laying out a custom vision of what her business would look like several years from now.  

It will be a global sales organization, with her as its leader and spokesperson, and a well-trained sales team that serves her clients.  

Nadia told me she was thrilled by the clarity of vision and the step-by-step custom plan we made for her.  

Her plan lays out exactly what she needs to do to get from where she was to that full-blown vision.  

But even with all that clarity, Nadia realized that the real work was just starting.  

She knew she wanted our support as she made it happen.  

Because the vision all four of us were now holding for her was – her words — “something I’d never seen anyone else build before.” 

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This is the catch-22 about being different. 

We see and build things that no one else has ever done before.  

And that can be rather… unsettling. 

Some might say: doubt-invoking. 

Several years ago, I noticed this principle at play in my own life, when I realized I wanted to run a profitable business – but that wasn’t the only thing I wanted to do.  

I also wanted to cook my own food, garden, ride bikes, participate in civic life, and be a writer.  

But in the circle I was running in, it was fashionable to hire other people to do ‘anything that wasn’t worth your hourly rate.’  

The people around me hired cooks and drivers and assistants. 

But me, being me, didn’t do that. I’m different. I find joy in being physically engaged in my life.  

So for the longest time, I thought I was doing it wrong.  

I confused my desire to be physically engaged in my life with the prevailing and sinister coaching nugget that doing things yourself when you have a business is — in all cases — a tell for ‘poverty mentality.’ 

Rich people hire people to do their quotidian tasks, that particular earworm went. Poor people do the tasks themselves.  

But what about a rich person who finds joy in doing things that aren’t about making money?  

That’s different. 

Also? I never saw stories about lady CEOs who ride bikes, grow their own kale, write essays, and don’t work all the time. 

Where were the examples of people being that? 

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Nadia recently told me the story about how the people around her kept trying to get her to build her business like theirs. 

She was social with a bunch of coaches. As coaches, they were used to working with clients for twelve months, doing two coaching calls a month. The typical coaching program set up. 

Now, there’s nothing wrong with structuring one’s work with clients that way.  

But there is something wrong when you tell someone like Nadia – or me, or maybe you – that the only way to build a business is to structure it in the standard coaching business way.  

“But I’m not a coach!,” Nadia protested. 

These folks kept telling her she should build her business so it looked like their business. 

Even though that’s not what she wanted to build! 

“That’s when I knew I needed to keep working with you three. Because you keep reminding me that I can build it differently,” she said. 

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Too many coaches only teach you how to build one kind of business.  

A business that looks like their business.  

So what if you want to build something different

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So what if Nadia’s never met someone who’s built an international sales team before? 

So what if I’ll be the first CEO-tree hugger-writer?  

So what if you want to build something that you’ve never seen done before? 

That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. 

It just means we’re going to pull inspiration from all sorts of places to get the job done.  

We’ve got the vision. 

We’ll make the plan. 

And we’ve got the audacity to believe that we can arrange our businesses, travel, family and friends, finances, and days in a way – totally unique to each one of us — that aligns with our deep need to be of service to this world, in our own weird-wonderful ways.  

Even if it’s more complex, nuanced, and deeply personal than some mass-market business formula. 

If that sounds like you’re kind of party and you want to talk with us, invite us to chat – there’s a link below.  

Keep up the good work.

Stella

Stella is cofounder and copywriter at Las Peregrinas, a creative and consulting agency. As our resident word nerd, she writes copy and points out the stories everyone is living and telling through their work. She is also fun at parties.


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