Checkerbox

The Two Keys to Standing Out.. Differentiation and Preparedness

The following is adapted from The Standout Experience.

On average, over 250 resumes are submitted for every corporate job opening. That means your chance of being the one candidate selected for each of those opportunities is less than one-half of a percent.

To succeed in this kind of ultra-competitive world, you need to stand out. 

Standing out requires two elements.

First, differentiation. If you’re the same as everyone else, you’ll blend into the crowd.

Second, preparedness. It doesn’t matter how different you are if you’re not prepared to seize opportunities when they present themselves.

To emphasize how these two factors—differentiation and preparedness—interact and affect success, I created a four-quadrant model I call the Standout Quadrants:

Understanding where you fall in this model can reveal why you struggle to achieve what you want and what you need to do to begin standing out.

The Goal Quadrant

Your best self and your specific goals reside in the top right portion of the Standout Quadrants model. This is the highest level of preparation and the highest level of differentiation for that particular moment. 

Success comes from setting goals and having a vision for what will happen, being in a high state of readiness and separating yourself from the field.

This is where standouts play and champions are born. It’s called the Goal quadrant, because you’re in control, proactively planning, practicing for the moment, and ready to display your talents. You’re on the playing field, working hard, and competing for what you want because you’re ready and capable. Operating in this area enables you to win because you’re in the game, prepared for the moment, and able to capitalize.

Examples of being in the Goal quadrant could be delivering a key presentation in front of senior leaders of your organization, completing a key project on a certain day, getting married, nailing that job interview, or raising an athletic performance in a critical moment of the second half of a playoff game. You live for these moments, know when the moments are happening, and are prepared to crush it when it matters most.

The Luck Quadrant

The bottom-right area of the model is called the Luck quadrant. This is where you might be at your highest level of preparation, but you aren’t any different than the rest. 

Because you’re the same as all the other hardworking individuals in this case, you have no control over what happens. A key decision or outcome will be dependent on other differentiating factors. 

Keeping with the sports analogy, you’re on the sidelines when the moment of truth arises, because you haven’t given the coach a reason (a differentiation) to put you in the game. 

To get from the Luck quadrant to the Goal quadrant, you need to find a way to differentiate yourself.

The Opportunity Cost Quadrant

The top left is known as the Opportunity Cost quadrant. Here, you are highly differentiated for one reason or another, but you aren’t prepared for the moment, you aren’t ready to play, and you lose the opportunity to stand out.

Like being a spectator in the stands, you’re in the arena of battle but you aren’t prepared to play. You’re watching others perform and the cost to you is the lost opportunity.

This will happen most often when you aren’t looking ahead, planning, and acting intentionally for the moment. Since you didn’t know it would present itself to you, you weren’t prepared and ready to capitalize even though you had a differentiating factor to leverage. 

To have success in public, you first need to do lots of preparation in private. What you do backstage when no one is watching and when you don’t know when your chance will come will determine the successes you have when you’re onstage. 

To move from this quadrant to the Goal quadrant, you must practice and prepare so that you’re ready when an opportunity comes up, even if you didn’t know it was coming.

The Wish Quadrant

The last quadrant is the worst of all scenarios. In the Wish quadrant, you aren’t prepared for the situation and you aren’t any different from the crowd. 

In this quadrant, you want success and happiness, but you resort to wishing that they happen to you. Year after year passes and those wishes come and go. Resentment and discouragement set in. You might be enjoying life to some degree, but your dreams and desires never come to fruition. 

In this game situation, you’re a fan at home, watching the game and wishing you could play.

We all occasionally find ourselves in this zone. The good news is that you can do something about it. If your wishes don’t come true, you know where to look and who to hold accountable. You also know what to do: differentiate and prepare.

Getting to the Goal Quadrant

You won’t be able to stand out in every moment of your life, and fortunately, you don’t need to. You simply need to stand out in those key moments when it matters most—a job interview, a big presentation, the last seconds of a tied game.

In order to take advantage of those key moments, the Goal quadrant is where you need to be. You must be unique to differentiate yourself from the crowd, and you also need to be prepared, so that you can take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.

By planning ahead, becoming your best, being different than the rest, and preparing for the moment, you can shift your life and career from having wishes, relying on luck, and losing out on opportunities, to achieving the highest levels of success.

For more advice on how to stand out and achieve success, you can find The Standout Experience on Amazon.

John Walsh is an inspirational and successful executive, entrepreneur, author, husband and dad with a passion for impacting the lives of others. John faced many challenges, uncertainty and failures early in his life but he created a purposeful and happy life with a lot of hard work and help from others. Over time, he created a playbook that allowed him to make the journey from homeless in high school to a senior executive with Disney and Madison Square Garden. He is also the founder and CEO of a company whose mission is to inspire and help millions of young adults stand out in their own lives and careers.