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].
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
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
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
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
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