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Do you have what it takes to be unique?

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Creating an Entrepreneurial Mindset
This is a guest article by Bookboon author Roger Cowdrey

Writing on any subject for public consumption is always hazardous as there is a danger that your audience knows more than you. That is why I have chosen a subject where I have intimate knowledge because I am truly unique.

Saying I am unique normally elicits one of two responses. Either people assume that I am conceited or else they feel sorry for me for being different to everyone else.

What people do not understand is that my uniqueness does not come from my three careers in teaching, computing or consultancy; my various offshoots from my careers including radio, TV, motivational speaking and writing; or my other pursuits such as soccer referee, ballroom dancing, bus driving or rock-climbing.

I am unique because all of us are unique. We are all born with unique skills and gifts. Unfortunately, a large number of people are never able to open and use those gifts. This results in too many people feeling disaffected, disillusioned and marginalised.

What is so disappointing is that the raw material that we start with has all of the characteristics necessary to unpack those gifts. Young children are born with a natural desire to explore and to communicate. Young children want to try things and they are not afraid to fail, to fall and to get up and try again. So what goes wrong that creates a society that is suddenly afraid to try and possibly fail?


1. Qualification obsession

The education system has long been criticised more eloquently than me by people such as Ken Robinson. However, the first thing that goes wrong is that children move from their natural exploring mode to one where they are told to sit still, be quiet and listen. Recently the chief inspector of schools in the UK stated that children should have learnt to sit still, be quiet and understand ‘stop’ and ‘no’ before they even start school.

Once in the system they are tested at regular intervals against some bogus norm hence creating successes and failures at several stages throughout their education. So some get labeled failures as early as seven years old.


2. Poor careers assistance

I find it absolutely amazing that careers teacher is the only position where there is not a qualification requirement despite future careers being one of the reasons for the existence of schools. Indeed, my experience is that careers teacher is a long service medal for those teachers that do not have the leadership qualities to run a department! Moreover, most teachers have flown from pupil to teacher without ever touching any career other than education.


3. The Beatles

By the Beatles I mean the effects of the 60’s and 70’s. Suddenly children became an accessory rather than a responsibility. Smoking weed and listening to pop concerts led to a belief of freedom from everything including childcare. Suddenly the state became responsible for the children rather than the parent.

Despite the need for a child to develop a vocabulary of 2500 words before they are ready to read, parents preferred to put children in front of a video of Bart Simpson night after night!


4. Lawyers

By lawyers I refer to the massive increase in legislation and the culture of making a legal claim for everything that can produce money. Gone are the days when accidents just happened and we accepted them as such. Now there is a need to find someone to blame and then to sue him or her. In other words someone failed.


5. Reality TV

Across the world now people are fed a diet of reality TV that leads them to believe that the best way to instant success is to audition for one of these shows. Unfortunately, very few realise that the general public are being manipulated and that producers have probably sought the winners out long before the auditions start and that most contestants are there for the audience to witness failure.


Getting back uniqueness and getting to use your gifts

The starting point for anyone is to recognise that those who can change the way we bring up our young people are unlikely to do so. These people are the successes of the system that made it to the end of the education factory and see nothing wrong with the system.

Although it may come as a shock to find out that the adults don’t know best, it is no worse than discovering that there is no Father Christmas, so get over it and move on.

The world is changing at an ever-faster rate and we need people that can adapt to that change and can maximise the opportunities of such change. That means creative people; people that DO understand the potential of the changes.

Most importantly, we need to remember that failure is an event and not a person. Failure is also a key component of learning. We need to get rid of our fear of failure.

We also need to dream again. Don’t let people tell you that you are wasting your opportunity if you don’t stay on the education conveyor belt. The only way to get to use those gifts you have is to dream of ways to use them; instead of saying ‘no’ start saying ‘why not’.

I personally have had a wonderful and varied life. Some people have told me I am lucky. However, I prefer to point out that, despite humble beginnings, I have had the same opportunities to do things as others have but I have grasped those opportunities regardless of what others thought. Yes my life has been unconventional and you could say unique, but all it took was the willingness to try and not to be afraid to fail.

Yes I am unique, but you could be too. My favourite quote at the moment is: You laugh at me because I am different, I laugh at you because you are all the same.


About the author: Roger Cowdrey is an international business consultant, writer and motivational speaker with a passion for encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation in young people. He is the Bookboon author of “Creating an Entrepreneurial Mindset“.