It's good to be sticky

When I first started developing my online presence, I asked a good friend to give me her view on my website (an old one, not the one we’re on now) – an honest view.  She replied that many of the pages could have been written by anybody – they lacked the distinctiveness of what makes me me.  Basically, the thing I had slaved over for weeks was bland and undifferentiated.

As they say, truth hurts.

I decided to drown my sorrows by watching TV with my family that evening.  It happened to be a rerun of one of the very first episodes of the sitcom Will & Grace.  One of the great things about that show is the collection of distinct characters, all dynamic, appealing and frankly, “sticky” – as in they stick in your memory.

One of those characters, Karen Walker (played by Megan Mulally), is so distinctive that she has her own cult following, just like the Kramer character on Seinfeld.  We know how Karen would do and say things and look forward to her saucy take on issues, even the nasal pitch of her voice.

Seeing this early episode for the first time, we were surprised that the Karen Walker character wasn’t always just so.  Originally, Megan Mulally played her more “straight up”, as in more “normal,” and boy was it bland.

Don’t get me wrong, it was well acted, but this wasn't the character as perfected in later episodes.  Clearly, someone had given Megan Mulally feedback and she had acted on it (no pun intended) brilliantly.

She “leaned into” the Karen Walker character to emphasize her distinctive aspects and captured the essence of the character in later episodes.  When Megan Mulally played Karen Walker outside the norm, the character blossomed and developed an avid following.

All of a sudden, my good friend’s website feedback made sense.

Playing it safe makes us average

  • When you play it safe, stay with the basics, and keep within one standard deviation of the “norm”, you are going to be in the norm – which is just another way to say “average”
  • You won’t be outstanding, and you will not stand out (unless everyone else around you is extreme)
  • You will not be revealing what is distinctive and memorable about yourself

Okay, so not everyone is going to love the Karen Walker character (or me), but we all know what she stands for and what makes her Karen.

It's time to go for it!

The truth is I’ve played it safe most of my life and while it’s served me just fine, I do wonder whether I have really lived to the full extent that I can?

Have I really fulfilled my potential?

After much examination, observation and experimentation, my take on it is that we can all do and be more.  And for me, it’s time to go for it.

Now, I get up every morning and push myself to get and stay outside of my comfort zone.  Sometimes I succeed, other times the gravitational pull is too strong.

But over time, I’m extending my comfort zone… and discovering that there’s joy out there beyond one standard deviation!

How about you?

Can you do more and be more, and have more fun while you're at it?

I would love to hear how are you getting out of your comfort zone, and what’s worked well for you.  Please share your comments below.