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Thinking Differently


Thinking differently should be a goal that everyone strives for, but most people choose not to. I wish I could cite statistics for that claim, but one only needs to look around them to see that everyone follows a very similar track.

Entrepreneurs have to follow a different track in order to be successful. Successful entrepreneurs are not successful by accident. Even if an idea is accidentally successful, an entrepreneur can kill it with mis-management.

People like Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin and Larry Page didn’t end up where they are by thinking like everyone else. They saw a problem, they had different philosophies and they fixed it. What drives thinking differently?

1. Be Discontent

Most people can identify a problem or inefficiency, but they often carry on because it’s “not their job” to occupy their time with it. Discontentment entails identifying a problem, and disliking it so much that you choose to occupy your time with it.

I’m not talking about obsessing, but rather feeling a duty to fix the problem because you know that few others will. Sergey Brin and Larry Page (founders of Google) were discontent with the methods of internet search that were available, so they fixed it.

2. Question the ordinary

Going along with discontentment is questioning the norm. Why is this inefficient process (or whatever the subject is) considered acceptable? Don’t be afraid to ask ‘why?’ Again, people can identify a problem, but few seem to care about asking why. Others are afraid of asking ‘why?’ because they might lose their job.

If a company is willing to fire me because I’m willing to question an inefficient process, then I’m not the right fit for that company. There is no room for sacred cows in business, and if you can’t bring yourself to question it, you’re a part of the problem.

Henry Ford saw potential for vehicles that were powered my machinery and not horses. He questioned the ordinary, the norm, and he eventually succeeded fantastically. This is thinking differently.

3. Don’t make mountains out of mole hills

All the time, I hear people make huge mountains out of mole hills (more like ant hills). Some use it to martyr themselves, others use it to occupy their time, but they all have one thing in common: it wastes my time.

Thinking differently doesn’t mean to bellyache and complain about the littlest thing. I try to consider a situation and ask myself “how much will this moment matter in 10 years?” If I laugh or scoff, then I know it is too little to care about.

Be discontent, but don’t waste your time complaining about ridiculous things that won’t matter. There is a difference between:

  • Noticing a huge productivity inefficiency that could cost millions, and taking action.
  • Complaining for hours and stewing over the new requirement of adding a cover page to your reports.

4. Take Action

Finally, thinking differently requires taking action. Sitting idly and complaining about the circumstances is par for the course for your average person- taking action is thinking differently.

The most successful products and services are fueled by discontentment, and someone having a strong enough spine to take action.

  • Google – Fueled by the desire for a better search engine.
  • Facebook – Fueled by the need to connect more people and open up information.
  • Ford – Horses couldn’t cut it anymore, customers just didn’t know it yet.

Success is found in thinking differently. If it helps, think of it as supply and demand. Would you pay more for someone who thinks differently, or for someone who thinks like millions of others do?

If a lot of people disagree with you, or you have a lot of doubters, that is a rough sign that you’re probably thinking differently. Do you think differently? What works for you? Let us know in the comments.

What Did You Say About Thinking Differently?

I asked what you thought on Twitter and Facebook, and here are some of the replies I received:

Max Messner from Maximizing Money said:

‘People with different opinions about life are definitely valuable, but there’s also that tipping point where they enter crazyville, at least from our own perspectives, so you have to be prepared to omit the extremes to find balance.’

Humble Laura from Humbleville said:

Resources for thinking differently

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