Contrary to the advice Robert Fulghum gave in his book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, what you learned in kindergarten just might be working against you. First, let me emphasize that I’m a big fan of this book. I love Fulghum’s advice about sharing, playing fair, and cleaning up your own mess.
But I’m also a believer of the points that Seth Godin makes in his book, Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable. Godin states that what you learned in kindergarten about following the rules can prevent you from being remarkable.
To those of you who say, “Why would I want to be remarkable?” I’ll respond with a few questions, “Why wouldn’t you want to be remarkable? Why would you want to be average? Or less than you can be?” Some of you will be satisfied with the way things are. But those of you who strive to grow, develop, and improve—keep reading.
The problem with some of the lessons we learn in kindergarten (and school in general), is that they encourage sameness. That’s where we learn to color within the lines. We learn that the safe thing to do is to fit in and not make waves. Those who don’t follow the rules tend to get penalized. So basically we learn to play it safe and be like everyone else.
But if you want to be successful, you don’t want to be like everyone else. Because if you are, how can you possibly excel? In selling, you don’t want to sound like every other sales rep. You want to stand out, to be different. That’s how you can develop the greatness within you.
There will always be those people who admonish you to play it safe, to stay within your comfort zone. When economic times are in a downturn, they’ll encourage you to stay the course and not make waves. When things are going well, the same people will advise you to relax and don’t go out on a limb. Basically for them it seems there is no time that’s ideal to rock the boat.
I would rather think of why you should go out on that limb. That’s where the low hanging fruit is found. Don’t do things that others do just because it’s expected of you. Strive to be the best you that you can be. You can’t get there by playing it safe. Developing greatness means taking chances. And if you take risks, you will fail. There is no shame in failure. The shame lies in not trying.
Think about how often you venture outside your comfort zone. How often do you get criticized? The answer to these questions just might determine how remarkable you are. I like Ben Franklin’s attitude: “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” Be proud that you make mistakes because it means you are trying something new. You can’t be all that you can be—or be remarkable—by being risk averse. So take the best of what you learned from kindergarten about sharing and playing nice but don’t adhere to the lesson about staying within the lines. Take a chance to find your inner greatness.