You Are Unique

You Are Unique, Permission to Lead

Consider this challenge. Take a moment to think of key words that you would use to describe yourself. Try to focus in on ideas that express what makes you unique… unlike any other.

It may take you more than a few moments to really give this task the attention it deserves, but I assure you the exercise is a healthy one.

Identifying your unique traits, those things which speak to who you really are, is an essential step toward making significant contributions to society. There are very real pressures to mimic that which has already been successful. If it isn’t a pressure we place on ourselves then it comes from an outside source – a parent, a boss or maybe a spouse. No matter what the source , it is altogether dangerous.

Failure to embrace uniqueness robs the world of contributions that cannot be made by another.

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I Am Unique

I felt this pressure during my senior year of high school. I decided that I was not going to attend college. Friends and teachers who tried to convince me otherwise meant well but I was determined that college was not something I was built to endure.

The theory that a college degree is a necessity, though honorable, is founded in cultural ignorance. If we really stopped to examine the phenomenon of a college degree, we would find that its power is not in the level of education one achieves . The power is the association that a college degree equals a qualified worker. In other words, to be a qualified worker it is assumed you must have a college degree. This speaks to the danger that I mentioned above.

I realized that I was unique and that college was not an institution designed to teach a student like me , but would actually hold me back from achieving all that I could . At its worse, it could have unnaturally altered the very DNA of my uniqueness, leading me into a different career path altogether. While right for some, it was not right for me. This realization was the beginning of my understanding that I am truly unlike any other.

You Are Unique

I fear that a fascination with celebrity has polarized our culture into believing that there are those who are unique and those who are not. There are those who are beautiful and those who are not. There are those who are gifted and those who are not. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

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People are gifted far beyond what shows up in a pop culture celebrity. Go to a farmers’ market and witness the uniqueness of all the products being sold. Get past the dreadlocks and beards and you’ll find people are capable of incredible accomplishments.

You are no different. You have the ability to influence others and impact lives. It takes courage to pass on college. It takes courage to present a new idea. It is dangerous to be vulnerable with another person… but if it’s true to who you are, it will feel as natural as breathing.

It Is More Difficult to Be Someone Else

I won’t deny it; there are some businesses that won’t even look at my resume because it doesn’t have a college degree attached. As a matter of fact, I found a job listing for a volunteer social media intern at a small non-profit that listed a college degree as a requirement. The truth is, I don’t want to work in an environment where being myself is frowned upon. Swimming upstream against the current is hard work, especially when I know that who I am is more than enough.

As you consider what character traits make you unique, I would invite you to begin laying out how you can lean into those traits. If you have a knack for storytelling, how can you lean into that trait? If you are good at helping other women look their best through accessorizing, how can you lean into that ability.

Start Living Uniquely

This is a call to start making a real contribution to society. Don’t pretend that all you are is what your current job tells you you are. Moreover, don’t believe your worth is what your paycheck says.

You are unique. Believe it and live it!

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12 replies
  1. shaunrmiller
    shaunrmiller says:

    Thanks for being real Dave. This really inspired me this morning and was just what I needed to read. Keep it up!

  2. emilycarlton
    emilycarlton says:

    Great thoughts, Dave! Though I have a college degree, some of the best creatives don’t, so I’m convinced that it isn’t necessary. The education bubble is going to burst soon, so the sooner we realize this, the better. I’d love to see a work world based on talent and integrity rather than wealth, status and education.

    • Dave Shrein
      Dave Shrein says:

      Emily, I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s interesting how you mention the education bubble and I definitely think that you’re on to something big. Let’s see what happens. – Thx for chiming in.

  3. JeffScurlock
    JeffScurlock says:

    Dave, I found you blog accidentally and have only read this post. It is good. I am a firm believer in being me, embracing my uniqueness. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Great Job.

  4. David Tussing
    David Tussing says:

    Dave, You really hit the mark regarding the lack of a “college degree”. I, too, opted to bypass college and chase my “entrepreneur” passion.

    • Dave Shrein
      Dave Shrein says:

      Following all the different stories you’ve been a part of has been exciting. My guess is you would never trade the road you’ve traveled for a different one.

      Thanks for sharing.

  5. Josh Schifferer
    Josh Schifferer says:

    I hear what you are saying Dave about not wanting to work for an organization that doesn’t empower you to be you, but let me add this to the conversation. One reason that some organizations “require” a degree is because, generally, when someone has a degree, it shows that they have a a set of characteristics that would work well in the workplace (i.e work ethic, time management etc.). This is a big resume builder when you are young and don’t necessarily have 10+ years of work experience to show that you are “unique” and qualified for the position.

    I know what people are going to say though. Just because I don’t have a degree doesn’t mean I don’t have those characteristics. Probably true and you could argue that it’s a bad test to see who is the most qualified for a certain position. On the other hand though, if you want a job and the employers looking to hire want a degree, well, that’s life. You make the call. 🙂

    • Dave Shrein
      Dave Shrein says:

      Thanks Josh for chiming in. Not everyone has the work ethic and patience to go through college or, for that matter, to forego college. It is all dependent upon your design as well as your end goal.

      The point is, the decision should be made solely based upon the uniqueness of the individual, not the ignorant demands of culture.

      Love to see your comments buddy.

  6. Cody Alley
    Cody Alley says:

    Great post. I’m glad you brought up college because it’s one of those things that, like you said, has a lot of assumptions made about it in our culture. I work as an academic advisor at ASU and I’ve seen the good and the bad in higher ed. No, you don’t need a college education to be successful. I’m convinced of that. Nor is college for everyone. But getting a college education is like so many things in life–you get out of it what you put into it. I work with students who are simply wasting their time and money. They’ll eek out their degree and then probably search on and on for jobs. Their flaw though is that they don’t put in the effort needed to succeed and no college diploma can overcome that lack of hustle.

    However, I also work with students who are a good fit for college and are there for the right reasons and put a good amount of effort into it. They usually do some really cool stuff that they couldn’t access any other way. So it’s one of those things that, if you’re going to do it, make sure it’s a fit and that you do it for the right reasons.

    That being said, I still think education in the much more general sense is essential. I personally believe that we usually stop growing when we stop learning. I totally agree you have to know what makes you unique, what you’re good and then find ways to serve others with our work and our lives.

    • Dave Shrein
      Dave Shrein says:

      Cody, I’m really happy you commented. You hit the nail on the head here -> “Getting a college education is like so many things in life–you get out of it what you put into it.”

      If a young man or woman is going to attend college, it has a much greater value if they do it for themselves and as a way of bringing greater illumination to their uniqueness.

      Like you said, education is essential. I am always encouraged to see new ways of becoming educated emerging. It helps dudes like me (who learn best outside a classroom) continue to receive knowledge in a language that makes most sense.

      Thank you Cody. Again, really glad you spoke up.

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