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Be the Novelty, Not the Knockoff

Arm & Hammer Baking Soda: Real and Knockoff

On a recent plane ride, I sat next to a college student whose younger sister is a high school sophomore. He described her as smart and great at making friends quickly in new situations, but feeling stressed regarding schoolwork, preparing for college, and teenage life. Having a high-achieving older brother didn’t help, either.

Stop worrying about keeping up with those around you

When someone creates something new, it’s cutting edge (eventually, at least). When everyone else sees the innovator’s success and jumps into the fray, we see them as copycats. As people, we celebrate the original, not the knockoffs.

Real-life examples

A) MacBook Pro vs. Microsoft Surface laptop

Apple MacBook Pro
Microsoft Surface laptop

You ever meet someone and get the feeling that you know them from somewhere but can’t pinpoint from where? If you get that feeling when seeing the Surface, it’s because it looks a lot like the MacBook Pro. Go to any university lecture hall and look around. You’ll see a sea of them (the real MacBooks that are actually made by Apple).

B) Toyota Prius vs. Honda Insight

Doesn’t the Insight look a little too strikingly similar to the Prius to be coincidental? Yet when we think of an iconic hybrid sedan, we think of the Toyota Prius with its instantly-recognizable shape.

The value lies in both the innovation and the ability to innovate

Being the first requires creativity, vision, and the courage to defend your idea when everyone else is calling you crazy. Following (or copying successfully) requires a different set of skills, but it doesn’t require any of the aforementioned.

So stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. It doesn’t matter that Erica from calculus class is captain of the volleyball team. Maybe that’s what she has spent the last 10 years working hard to become great at. Instead of copying her, think about what you are (or can be) better at than everyone else. Remember, it’s about finding your niche and being different. This applies to your college applications and to life in general.

Don’t let what others are doing distract you from realizing your unique potential to add value to the world. You just might turn out to be something way better than they are.

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