Truman Capote’s Holly Golightly, one of modern culture’s most iconic characters, found that “it’s useful being top banana” in this world. But in a bunch of seven billion, it’s no small feat to be brave, rise up and make a mark in a crowded world. If you crane your neck and take a good look at those rare high-flyers who always seem to perform at their best, however, you’ll see they share certain characteristics – which anyone can adopt in the scuffle to clamber out of the box.
First and foremost, they are brave.
You don’t have to go out and slay dragons EVERY day, but if you want to make things happen, you need to be pull on the armour and get ready to face off with the unexpected. Being brave sounds overwhelming but really it’s about being decisive, it’s about taking calculated risks to mix things up and innovate. Margie Warrell, the author of Stop Playing Safe says when you step outside of your comfort zone, you enter the ‘courage zone’ (which is encircled by a ‘terror zone’.) This is the place to take calculated risks, be brave and make real change.
They have a passion
Famed chef and author Julia Child once said, “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” The knock-on effect? People will become tremendously interested, and inspired, by you. This doesn’t mean feigning an interest in opera. Look for evidence of what you already love to do (hint: you might be doing it right now, over the edge of this screen). For Julia, it was mastering the perfect crème brulee. Find that thing you’re crazy about and go crazy with it, every day.
They do things differently
‘How’ you do things can make you stand out much more than ‘what’ you’re actually doing. Who wouldn’t remember the florist that delivers each bunch with a handwritten note, the barista who emblazons every coffee with a signature smiley face, or the CEO who rollerblades to work? ‘Stand out’ means ‘to be very noticeable’ by definition, and everything from what you wear to the way you sign off an email has the potential to capture attention.
They stand tall
Your mother was on to something when she nagged you to stand (or sit) up straight. And this one’s easy. Imagine a piece of string is pulling you up from the crown of your head, now let your shoulders relax and roll back. According to the experts, first impressions are based 60 per cent on non-verbal communication versus 40 per cent on verbal, and our brains are hardwired to associate power with the amount of space a person takes up. So stand tall and spread yourself that little bit further.
They read more books
If there’s one common habit among successful people it’s that they read. A lot. Bill Gates puts away around 50 titles a year, Oprah started a book club, and when asked how he learned to build rockets, Elon Musk’s response was simply, “I read books.” Readers make for better speakers and writers (just see how your vocabulary expands after turning over a tome or two) and also tend to be more focused than your average punter – all telling traits of a standout person.
They aren’t swayed by other people
What distinguishes a leader from the pack is their lack of time for those who tell them how things should be done. The late and great Bill Cunningham photographed the most fashionable people on the planet, but insisted on wearing the same old blue anorak, day in and day out, all through his remarkable career. Trends? What of them? Legends like Bill do things their own way. To borrow the words of literary icon Jack Kerouac, “Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.”
A water-tight routine, for starters, will make you more time efficient (typical of top bananas), and then there’s the fact that all of the above methods are worth diddly-squat if you don’t make them stick. As prolific motivational speaker Tony Robbins once put: “It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently,” so get predictable (even if it’s predictably unpredictable).
Now for the big one… they believe in themselves
JK Rowling did, despite Harry Potter initially being brushed-off by numerous publishers (who are seriously kicking themselves now), as did Anna Wintour, who was fired by Harper’s Bazaar before taking the helm at Vogue. Heck, Steve Jobs was sacked from his own company. Self-belief doesn’t come easy in a world of hard knocks, so keep that passion of yours aflame and don’t be afraid to fail. Mistakes are only proof that you’re trying, after all, and standout success is what happens after you’ve made them.