The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

MY WIFE AND TIMES

Daniel Will Harris

The Sandoval Signpost (Web edition) is pleased as punch (diet punch that is) to bring you the humor and insightful human observations of Daniel Will Harris, author of My Wife and Times. —Ed].

Being Different

By Daniel Will Harris

When I was a kid, I just wanted to be normal—like everybody else. But I wasn't normal, as kids around me constantly pointed out. My hair was curly when everyone else's was straight. I was "husky" (the nice word for it) when all the other kids were skinny. I liked Broadway musicals when other kids listened to heavy metal. I didn't play baseball, I played Legos.

Before second grade started, I insisted on a Beatles haircut. My mom obliged, and when I walked into school (I can still remember it clearly) I looked around and realized to my horror that no one else had a haircut like mine. The rest of the boys mostly had crew cuts (which I called "toothbrush hair"). They all looked like "Dick" in the "Dick and Jane books," and there I was—a mop-top fab four, age seven.

I was, in short, different. And I didn't like it. I spent many years trying to fit in. Trying to be like everybody else. No one was fooled, not even me. And then, since I was a lemon, I finally started to make lemonade. I stopped trying to be "normal" and started to enjoy being an individual.

I wore different clothes a (interesting things from the thrift shop, and anything else that I liked). I worked unusual jobs. As a teenager, I was the Nurseryland Bee. I stood on the sidewalk dressed in a big bee costume and tried to attract customers driving by in cars. What I mostly did was cause traffic accidents, scare adults (kids weren't scared) and almost pass out from the heat.

I bought an unusual car, an AMC Pacer (which is still on my driveway, only now as a kind of non-kinetic sculpture). I thought (and still think) it's beautiful. I put eccentric and fun things in my house. Next to my computer monitor is a stuffed toy elephant hanging like King Kong onto the top of an aluminum model of the Chrysler building (and I don't care who knows it!). I didn't do any of this just to be different, but because this is what I liked, and I wasn't afraid to show it.

When I started to write computer books, I decided they shouldn't be like other computer books—high-tech and boring. Mine were funny and looked elegant. They were different and they sold well.

What I learned from all of this was that being different makes your work stand out. While that's terrifying as a kid, as an adult, it can be a big advantage.

A study by the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency concluded, "We see that the most popular products are those which seem unique in terms of style or functionality." Look at the hottest selling car today, the Chrysler PT Cruiser. It couldn't be more different than most cars on the road, and it's precisely that difference that makes it sell so well there's a two-year waiting list for one.

While being different may mean that some people may not like you, being boring means no one will. If you're different, chances are more will.

The same is true for web sites. Most sites tend to look so similar it's as hard to tell them apart as it is to tell a Camry from a Sentra (and where do they get those names?).

Lately I've worked for some people who, despite being adults, are still afraid to be different. These people range from late 20's to late 40's, and they're still acting like they're 14--as if being different is the worst thing in the world. They point to other sites and want to look just like them.

I say, "If you're just a copy of them, why should anyone choose you instead of them?" I think, "Grow up!"

So when you work on your site, don't try to look and sound like everybody else. Don't be afraid to be different. Make your differences into advantages. It can and will work for you.

 

 

My Wife and Times by Daniel Will HarrisIf you would like to read more fabulous stories such as Moms Online, you need Daniel Will Harris’s My Wife and Times. The 148 page book contains stories that are conveniently short, perfect for bedtime reading, or between airport friskings. Price: $15 postpaid and is available for purchase online at www.SchmoozeLetter.com/book or on Amazon.com.

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