The desire to be considered special isn’t something we learn; it is rather something inherent inside of us – it is deep-rooted in our psyche, just as much as the craving for food. But here is the question, are we special in any practical sense? If this desire and belief that we are special are shared by so many, is there truly any special person? And most importantly, What makes you special as a person?
Right from birth children craves the undivided attention of their parents. They would cry at every bit of inconvenience. As they grow older, they realize their parents can not cater to all their whims – because mom got her own life to live – so they begin to grow more independent, though mostly distracting themselves (from this harsh realization) with games and toys.
At first, it is all good because Mom and Dad still buy toys and games so that when the kid is not getting the intermittent kisses and hugs from them, they are enjoying their expression of love (in form of a gift and compliments). Besides, they do not have to work for anything, so the universe must truly be meant to serve them – as all good things simply fall on their laps on their whim.
Note: I know that not all children get toys, hugs, or kisses, but for the sake of this article I would assume that you did. It is important to note that not everything stated here or on some other article may apply to everyone (at least, not equally). However, my point in this article is that adults don’t get “babied”
However, as time goes on – during teenage years – when they have outgrown toys and playing in the sand; when parents can no longer keep them hidden under their skirt of protection and validation – when parents expect them to go out and face the real world – and can only support by simply feeding, clothing, sponsoring education, and advising occasionally, reality starts to set in
The reality that you do not always get what you want (because the world doesn’t revolve around you) becomes clearer and clearer. Kids now have to behave to get rewards – not even a compliment can come without proper grooming – and no one laughs and calls you “adorable” when you poop anymore.
And depending on how much time and attention parents can still afford to give their 18-year-old child, the child would be left to seek and earn validation elsewhere – amongst peers, society, or simply on social media (this is the reason “likes” are so addictive). They would do all they can to still feel special – they would sing, dance, write, code, makeup, dress, date, and do any and everything within their power and reach to stand out. Or (if they can’t win the admiration game, would) distract themselves with food, music, game, sex, drugs, VR, etc.
Because here is the thing, it is not enough to simply exist – we have a strong desire to be special – to mean something. We do not want to be motionless like the tree, bland like the rock, or inconsequential common like an insect. We want to be something – we want to be special.
Like Dale Carnegie wrote in his 1936 book (“How To Win Friends And Influence People“), “The desire for a feeling of importance is one of the chief distinguishing differences between mankind and the animals. This desire makes you want to wear the latest styles, drive the latest cars, and talk about your brilliant children.”
We do not want to be an animal of no significance. It is the reason billions of people across the globe frown at Darwin (for coming up with the theory of Evolution – hence linking us with the Apes, goats, and all other living things on the planet), and many others believe that even though we are made of exactly the same stuff – i.e. cells, blood, water, tissues, bones, etc. – as any other animal out there in the wild we are different because “God” made us – with almost every culture and religion coming up with their spin of how this happened (i.e. Mythologies and stories of human origin).
Some point to our superior intelligence, and consciousness as signs of Divinity being responsible for our existence, but when you think critically about it, you’d find that although humans have superior intelligence, there are other aspects that we lack greatly. In fact, all living things – all “survivors” according to Darwin – have something that gave them an edge – they have all adapted in their unique way, and ours simply was intelligence, upright skeletons, and a pair of useful hands.
Luckily for humans, those were the winning tickets (i.e. the attributes aforementioned), and it is those qualities that have made us stand out amongst all other living beings on the planet. It has made us gods on Earth.
But beyond that, specialty becomes a matter of making the best use of your tools (mind and body), and nothing more. Why? because every other human out there has them. Heck! I saw a mad man in the streets yesterday dancing to a song…I cannot even move my body like that. So No! Your body and mind don’t make you special.
You can be smarter than Einstein and spend your entire life mopping floors if you do not use your brains. In fact, countless people have greater IQ than Einstein roaming this world aimlessly. So don’t let features delude you. The specialty is not endowed – it never was, though genetic engineering may alter that in the future. But let’s leave that topic for another day.
…now, let’s explore what makes a person different from the other.
What Makes A Person Different From One Another?
It is true, each individual is unique and different – we all come with different bodies and minds. What this means is that there is an infinite amount of variations in our advantages, privileges, or predisposition due to tiny distinctions in how the mind and body of each individual are built, appears, and operates.
For example (when considering our bodies), we all have different
- Looks (from pretty to ugly)
- Height (from very short to very tall)
- Weight (from overweight to anorexic)
- Size (from petit to giant)
- Skin color (different shades varying from dark to fair complexions)
- Fingerprint (from Arches to Double Loops)
- Iris and eye color (from very light blue to dark brown)
- Muscle mass
- Bone density
And when considering our minds, we are all different in the way we handle/process
- Emotions (such as fear, anger, shame, pride, etc.)
- Physical Pain
So, everyone has these features all to varying extents – giving an infinite combination of characteristics – yet under the singular umbrella of homo-sapien. That’s why we have people with different looks, endurance, perceptions, tastes, and so on…
It is more or less how each Bee in a Hive, a rat in a Mischief, an ant in a colony, a wolf in a park, a flake of snow, or tree in a jungle is different.
Would you say each ant is special, or are they all the same – all deserving of getting gas-poisoned to death by your insecticide?
Humans may be unique but in the grand scheme, we are not really special, because if everyone is special, doesn’t that negate the specialty of each one of them?
If there is an argument to be made about being special, it is in an individual’s ability to take what was given to them and make more out of it: It is the tree that produced the most fruits under the same climate and soil because it learned to grow deeper roots. It is the Virus that went air born and infected more than half of the global population. It is the species that turned the elements into rockets and sent people to the moon.
Humans are indeed special, but not necessarily because a “God” made us that way, but because we are the only being on the planet who have made the most out of what was available to us. We refused to remain animals of no significance. We created our importance.
Einstein isn’t special because he kept a fizzy and bushy hair, or grew a second brain, but because he used his “ordinary” brain to figure out General and Special Relativity.
Neither are you special for simply being a human. But you too can be special if you can do something special with what you have.
You Are Not Special
What Makes You Stand Out From The Rest? [Knowledge and The 95/5 Rule]
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Having understood that you are not special simply because you have a scrotal sac or a vagina the question becomes, “how can you stand out from the rest?”, “How can you set yourself apart and truly be special?”.
The answer is not far-fetched. The answer is so simple it sounds ludicrous. What if I told you that you already have all you need to be special.
In every environment you find yourself in, there are people who are living below their full potentials – they are not making the most of what is available. It doesn’t matter where you are, if you can simply figure out a way to make better use of the resources and opportunities around, you instantly become special in that local environment.
This could be you recycling wastes, planting seeds in empty lands, teaching uneducated children within the village, using your vehicle as a taxi, dedicating your social media handle to educate your audience about a topic, or even using your voice to sing. Like Naval would argue, “Knowledge makes the existence of resources inexhaustible” – the more you can figure out how to make use of the resources around you, the more you have.
There are resources (both internal and external, tangible and intangible) that are untapped. And even in instances where it seems that everything is up and running, and there are no more sectors without someone servicing it – you can always apply the 95/5 rule – i.e. you can always look for tinny improvements you can make to already existing approaches in order to become the special one.
You can do in a video what someone is doing in a podcast. You can do in podcast what someone is doing in a blog. You can add analogies and simplify them further. You can always make tinny improvements and then improve on those improvements till something spectacular is born. What makes a supercar different (or special) from other cars is its ability to go faster and look a bit prettier.
Think of it like the Kaizen principle used in businesses. You can open a new store today that sells clothing, but you can decide to make yours better by improving the design, fabric, presentation, and overall branding.
You do not need to understand all aspects of science, but if you can figure out the part that you are naturally inclined towards, and then focus on a specific problem in that field, you may be able to improve the knowledge the world has about that aspect by a little and earn yourself a Nobel prize.
Sometimes being special can simply be about being that runner that sticks out her head at the finish line.
You only need to figure out (and do) the 5% that was left out of the 95% to be special.
How Can I Know My Special?
If you are struggling to figure out or decide what you should do with the rest of your life; well, you are not alone. For most people, life is jarring as much as it is complex. The truth is that there are infinite possible things you can do with your life, and there are more things that would be available for doing in the future.
The problem we face when trying to figure out our lives is seldom a question of limited choices but a problem of too many options. This is coupled with the desire to pick something that we like, and that would make us feel fulfilled and special.
A lot of people complicate this already complex problem by trying to copy what others are doing – forgetting that apart from the difference in our bodies and minds, our environment (family, culture, religion, society, and country) also play a role in deciding what would be best for us.
A very muscular man may not do so well in sprint racing or swimming but maybe the best for boxing or modeling. A very empathic lady may not be the best fit for joining the military but may be the best fit for a medical profession. Even trying to launch a Tech company in an underdeveloped country may vary from very hard to impossible, whilst it can be quite easy in a developed nation.
It is true that we should learn from others, but it is also worth having in the back of our minds that we are all dealt with different cards. Perhaps the best thing you can do for yourself – when trying to figure out how you can be special – is to look closely at those who share similar characteristics with you.
In my book “My Phone Is My Best Friend“, I made mention of the need to find and connect with people who have similar interests as you do. Maybe you are naturally attracted to art, music, and the like. Why not find out those who share similar interests and see what they are doing to make the world a better place. Most times you’d find that everyone out there in the community may have a slightly different angle they are approaching things. And it is in such communities that you can stay and learn the rudiments, before going on to add a unique touch of your own.
In simple terms (if you want to be special);
- Don’t ignore or fight what/who you are – male, tall, black, handsome, Nigerian, etc. – Lean towards your natural inclination – art lover, logician, book worm, science lover, etc.
- Find and follow people who share similar features, interests, and inclinations as you. Follow role models, teachers, mentors, influencers, etc. that are similar to you, you want to be like, and that seems to have figured out how they are special. In Nigeria, we’d say, “follow who know road”.
- Take your time to study them. Look at what they are doing and how they are doing it. You would most likely find that each one of them has something a little different from the others, yet they all have something in common. Figure that commonality. Master it. Get acquainted with the rudiments.
- Start practicing. Don’t try to be special from day one. Focus on getting the rudiments right. Then, with the tools and experience, you eventually gather over the years (estimated to emerge from about 10,000 hours of practice), strive to make a specific aspect of that field 5% better.
I have always liked to think of humans as a part of nature. Though there is a lot of clear difference between how animals and plants live, there are commonalities that cut across all of life. One of the commonalities amongst living things that strike me the most is growth. Every living thing must grow. Interestingly, this growth doesn’t have to be in the biological sense alone. Whenever something better comes along, living things latch onto it – because it is a form of growth.
The idea is, if you can give people a taste of something they’ve never experienced before, or give them a slightly better flavor of it, they would rally around you. So; focus on those tiny improvements.
If you notice, your favorite social media platforms keep improving, CGIs in movies are becoming better, health care services are becoming more robust, and on it goes with all other fields. This concept of constant improvement is something Nasim Taleb described in detail in his book, “Anti-Fragile: Things that gain from disorder”.
Circling back to you. I know your concerns are not entirely allayed. For a start, not everyone can list their interests. You may be a rainbow of interests and natural inclinations, right?
Well, there are simple hacks and strategies you can implement to find out for sure where your interest lies, what your assets are, and the areas/aspects you should double down on.
How To Discover Your Potentials And Talent
George Orwell once said, “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle”. It can be very hard to know what your superpowers are – how you’re special – what your potentials and talent are – but it can be very easy for your friends, family, social media, the E-commerce store, and your browser history to tell.
Even people who are very self-aware sometimes misread themselves – they assume they are apples when they are lemons. So, what to do?
- Ask Your Loved Ones: Ask your friends and family to tell you what they think you’re good at. It may surprise you, but it may be clear to everyone else that you are good at sewing, singing, or cooking, whilst you take these things for granted. Simple observations like this can mean the difference between deciding on taking the Music career path or living the life of a Chef. You can even press on to find out what kind of dish or music they think you are better at…The more information you gather, the better. I never dreamt of being an artist, but as more and more people admired my scribbles, I decided to make them more than scribbles, and that was how I became a professional artist – earning wages for playing with art.
- Look At Your Receipts: Money comes with a lot of emotional investments – people seldom spend money except they feel it is worth it. So, even if some aspect of your internal world may be hidden from your eyes, your behavior with money can expose it. Look at the things you are willing to buy, then ask yourself why you spent your money on those. Consider the things which you have spent the most money on. For example, the most expensive course I’ve ever paid for was a course that taught me how to write books faster, better, and also generate more income selling the books. Needless to say, I have a keen interest in writing, and ever since I doubled down on writing for myself (blogs and books), providing writing services (as a freelancer), and teaching writing (as a coach), I’ve found more satisfaction and purpose in my life. What have you been spending money on?
- Check The Browser History: The places we visit on the internet speak volumes of who we are. Unless you’re a writer who has to Google a myriad of bizarre topics, you probably have a few topics that you search about on the regular. You may be the type that loves searching about health-related content, or maybe you’re more of the tech person, or the arts, or something more niched – like Pokemon, ceramics, Tilapia fish, and antique watches. What is it that you research about the most? Maybe that is the things you should meditate, and work more on.
- Scrutinize Your Social Media Feeds: If you are intentional about your life, chances are that your social media feeds are not a shit-storm. If you’re interested in fashion and design, you would have a lot of posts suggestions and page recommendations in line with your fashion interest. It is also expected that most ads that would be served to you would be fashion-related. Hence, by going on your social media feed, you can have a sort of virtual depiction of what your interests are. And the more you find a specific type of fashion content repeating itself, the more you know that it is what you truly love. Maybe you’re into Ankara and wedding gowns. Maybe you love jeans, or maybe you’re all about shoes. Those are exactly what you’d be served on social media platforms because the algorithms on those platforms are built to stimulate your interests – not get you interested in something else. what have you been seeing online lately?
- Reminiscing On Past Exploits: Sit back and think about all the things people have thanked you for doing. Maybe you helped them paint their room, explained a maths problem, or simply fixed a light bulb. I recall how I and my roommate went on a painting rampage after we painted our room and had lots of neighbors and friends come and admire it. We started off by painting the rooms of those neighbors and friends, then friends of those neighbors and friends, and on and on. Soon the Engineering Department in my School reached out to us, and we were awarded the project of painting the Engineering lecture halls. The thing was, we didn’t just paint, we painted artistically – we did art on the wall – and that was the 5% we added to each room we left [I added some old pictures below]. Sometimes it was a simple pattern, and other times it was really a masterpiece. So, think back on what you did so well people started giving you accolades. Maybe you should double down on those.
- Take A Personality Test: Now, this might be strange to you, but a personality test can help you figure out what your personality type is better at doing. It is like perusing Horoscopes (in hopes that you get a boyfriend this month), only that this time around it is fully backed by science and statistics. I’d recommend 16personalities.com because of its friendly interface, stunning visuals and animations, and use of simple words in explanation. It’s really cute, and I think you should check it out. Besides, you also get to know some great people who share the same personality as you. For instance, I share the same Personality as Einstince – because we are both Logicians (and that is why I have been making hints on Einstine all these while). Anyway, remember, the aim is not to be like someone else, or fight who you are, but to embrace it fully in order to maximize your potentials and talents. So, take a personality test today to better know who you are.
- Disregard Money Momentarily: Think to yourself, “what would I do every day if money wasn’t a factor?”. This requires you to think critically about the things that light up your soul – not just the things that pay the bills. The truth few people would tell you is that for you to make headway in any direction there must be challenges. This means you would need more than just the need to pay bills to drive you if you intend to go the extra mile. You need passion – a motivation that springs from your soul. You should be able to do it whether you are getting accolades or mockery. This is one of the strongest lessons I learned from Charles Bukowskis – perfectly painted in his poem “So you want to be a writer?”. You have to be able to do “it” even if it would cost you money, time, food, love, admiration, sleep, etc. It should be something beyond you – something you want to spend the rest of your life doing – something you may even be willing to die doing.
And Oh, the image I promised…
The truth is that not so many people figure this out early. Not so many people ever take the time to consider their natural inclination – to know what they should invest their time doing. And even fewer ever get to the point of discovering their passion. As a result, they live a life that is not fulfilling, because they never maximize their full potentials – they hide under the safety of their families, jobs, or countries.
Like David Goggins said, “You are in danger of living a life so comfortable and soft, that you will die without ever realizing your true potential”.
It is true, you do not have to discover what makes you special. In fact, you can live your entire life without ever figuring out your passion, and you may even find that life to be quite comfortable, and pleasing compared to someone who discovers that their passion and life purpose is to fight forest fires, feed children in war-torn and impoverished countries or go to remote villages saving people from the onslaught of natural disasters.
But, as Jeff Bezos once said, “You can choose a life of ease and comfort or you can choose a life of service and adventure. Which one of those, when you’re 90 years old, are you going to be more proud of?”.
What Should I Focus On In My Life?
You are not special, but you can choose to be – you can do something remarkable with your life. However, the path can be confusing to figure out, and harder to tread.
One thing I always tell myself is that I am built to survive. I am the result of thousands of generations of survivors – survivors who have distilled their very best genes into me. I am no small creature. I am a force of nature. I am Dick David. But then again, there is nothing special about Dick David. Anyone can insert their names there and the statement would still be 100% correct.
You too are a result of thousands of generations of warriors, geniuses, and brave men and women.
Perhaps the question shouldn’t be “how can I be special?”, but rather, “how can we do something special?”, “How can we work together to make the world a better place?”, “What new thing can we invent or dream up?”, “In what way can we improve upon the efforts of our forefathers?”
For me, everything is about improvement. And anything that doesn’t lead to growth and expansion is anti-life – because all living things must grow.
To the question, “what should I focus on in my life?”, my answer is simple: having figured out what your inclinations are, all you have to do is make things a little better wherever you are.
This is something (almost) all successful people in the world end up figuring out. The more you make things better for everyone, the more everyone benefits (especially you).
All Bezos had to do (at first) was make accessing books easier for people. Elon was making payment easier. Mark helped keep people connected. And Bill, well, he made computers easier to use. Really think about it.
They are all special today because they dedicated their lives to making things a little bit better – by adding the missing 5% to the 95%. It is always about improvements.
And it is no mystery that the Mantra of Pawns (i.e. this website, brand, and philosophy) is “Grow up, level up, Step up”.
So, when you step out today, don’t wait to be told this is your destiny. Don’t wait for a prophecy. Don’t wait for the Horoscope. Don’t wait for any person to come to tell you that you are special in any way (because that would be another lie, platitude, and insult to your intelligence, engineered to make you feel good). Pick up yourself and realize that it is your hands to be special or not to be.
Look at yourself, analyze yourself, and understand yourself. Be realistic and pragmatic. Be brutally honest with yourself. Carry out the SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat) Analysis of your life. What is your inclination? what are the opportunities available? what can you do to make things better? how can you serve?
Go and dig deep. Get a journal and write down the answers and feelings as they come. And when you feel that yearning for expression…for discovery…for building…for being…when you feel the passion, or even purpose, do not suppress it.
Let it grow like a wildfire and consume you.
Let it keep you up at night, and wake you before the rays of the sunlight pierce through the blanket of the twilight.
Let it be your north star guiding you through the dark and black night
…leading you through the rejections, setbacks, delays, mockery, humiliation, betrayal, fears, abandonment, distress, discomfort, sacrifices, losses, heartbreaks, and madness…
…leading you through the cold and silent nights that linger without affection or hope. Let it lead you from obscurity into the light – into the light of success, and a life you would be proud of…
…just like the Wise Men followed the Star till they found Jesus [Merry Chrismas ;)]
I would have loved to end on the note that you are special, but that is not true.
You are not special.
But you can be.
So…if you care enough – if you want it that bad – come and show us what you’ve got.
Meet you at the top.
A Self-Help Writer And Editor Who Keeps It Simple (Yet Elegant)