Better Is Fragile—Different Is King

Are you trying to sell a product? Trying to stand out from the crowd on Twitter? Maybe you’re trying to be a standup comedian. What makes you different than the thousands of others who’ve done the same thing before you?

In the revised and updated version of Fascinate, the author claims that it’s better to be different than better. Generally, I couldn’t agree more. Here’s what she had to say on the matter:

Most of us grew up believing that, to compete, we need to be better than the competition. We need better skills, better players, better résumés. But what happens when your best is no longer good enough? What happens when that amazing software application you just spent beaucoup bucks developing is blindsided by an even better program? One that’s less expensive, to boot?

Better is fragile. It can be trampled in a nanosecond. Attempting to be better puts companies on a hampster wheel, running faster and faster—and in the same direction as everyone else—to keep up. Better is weak.

Different is king. When you can differentiate yourself in the market, you step off the hamster wheel, never to return. You only look back to witness the frenzy your brand is causing in the hamster cage you left behind.

Here’s your choice: Spend a lot of time and money in pursuit of better. Or find what makes you different, and then do it on purpose.

Look at how easy it is to be sucked into the fallacy that being better is better than being different. More than 4 out of 5 people polled would rather be better than different. Fall in line.

Successful people are different people. To do something better means it’s already been done before. To do something different means it’s something new—it’s singular.

Another way to look at this is content curation versus content creation. How many meme accounts are out there that can’t think of original ideas so they regurgitate other people’s art? Boring.

Look at artists who are successful. They are better because they are different. They also don’t have to try as hard because they are just being themselves—naturally. They aren’t trying to be someone else—someone they aren’t.

You can also make an argument that this idea applies to investing—but it would be harder to prove. What does it take to outperform? What makes someone a better investor? It could come down to finding the outliers—going against the herd and shooting for the moon. Being different. Or you could just aim for 8-10% annual returns with a passive portfolio for the next 40 years. But, if everyone else is doing the same thing, that makes you an average investor.

Full disclosure: I don’t believe the better versus different discussion applies to sports. You definitely need to be better than your competitors. The reason for this—in my opinion—is because sports have defined rules that are constrained—not flexible. You can’t just be different and make up your own rules. You have to stay within the boundaries.

Think about this next time you are trying to stand out from the crowd. Think outside the box. Be unique.

Don’t mine for gold where everyone else is mining for gold—sell shovels instead.