Be Yourself… With One Condition

By James Ahola, B.A.Sc.

I enjoy watching American Chopper, a TV show about people who build custom motorcycles. It’s packed with drama as tempers flare and egos clash every week. The drama, though, provides background entertainment – the real stars of the show are the masterpieces created by the artisans in mechanics’ clothing.

Each week, a new machine is crafted to embody the personality, style and legacy of the owner. Like a sculpture or fine painting, these pieces are beautiful to look at and generate awe and amazement. And this is art you can ride down the road.

These finely crafted machines are not twice the speed of others, they don’t corner better, or get better mileage. In many ways, they are on a par with other bikes. Yet, as fully functioning pieces of art, these bikes command prices that are five to 10 times those of a stock motorcycle. Their individuality makes them very valuable.

In the service world, we see many people who can perform a job as required. We see it with professional speakers, actors, mechanics and salespeople. Each job has its rules and proven standards of success. Added to the mix are universal standards such as honesty, respect and hard work. Like the brakes, oil filter, and other parts of a motorcycle which help it to perform well, adherence to standards ensures safety, performance and quality. A missing brake can be as dangerous as a doctor who forgets to check your blood pressure. Arguably, both render the whole useless.

Yet, in the process of conforming to standards, something precious may be lost – the individual flair and style of the service provider. A true professional can meet standards at a high level and mix things up in their own unique way, without missing a beat. These professionals stand out from the crowd. They are unique, perform amazingly, and we love them.

These people are not just the speakers and performers we pay big money to watch. They are also the wait staff we love having serve us, those who we ask for and tip generously. They are the dental hygienists and accountants whom we actually enjoy seeing. They are the professionals everywhere who draw us back, not just because they did a good job, but because they infused it with their character and personality. Like a custom motorcycle, they wow us with their flair and style while providing performance that, pound for pound, meets or exceeds the rest.

Whatever you do, you are free to be yourself. If you provide a product or service that meets or exceeds standards, you can embellish it with your unique personality and style. Some may not like it but you can’t please everyone. Most, however, will appreciate the experience and eagerly return for more.

Be professional. Be unique. Be yourself.