In this guide, I’m going to show you how to stand out from the crowd. I want you to be exceptional in what you do.

To help me with this article, I invited Srini Rao, founder of the Unmistakable Creative podcast and author of the wildly creative book The Art of Being Unmistakable. Check out our video below:

What Makes a Person Stand Out?

Do you feel misunderstood? Unheard? Ignored?

My friend, you are so not alone.

Here’s the first thing you need to know:

Most people feel misunderstood.

In a survey of more than 20,000 Americans, 54% reported they always or sometimes feel as though no one knows them well.

How can we be more understood? More respected? More heard? What can YOU do to stand out?

4 Key Characteristics:

  1. People Skills. What’s the difference between someone who gets that promotion and someone who doesn’t? It’s often better interpersonal skills, according to 92% of respondents in a study by VitalSmarts. The more charismatic and captivating someone is, the more persuasive power they have.
  2. Creativity. Creativity is an often undervalued skill, especially in the workplace. However, creatives excel where others do not because they seek out new experiences, opening up opportunities that others can’t see.
  3. An Active Life. Do you live an active life or a passive one? I don’t just mean active as in exercise; I mean a life where you take action on your ideas. Nothing speaks louder than actions, and if you want to stand out, you MUST take action. Those who excel in their purpose and work are the ones who truly stand out. But it’s not about being a “natural genius” either. Standing out often comes from hard, consistent work.
  4. Attitude. There’s no denying that positive people have better relationships. Keeping an upbeat attitude and being pleasant to be around can really make you stand out from everyone around you, especially if you’re surrounded by toxic people.

With these 4 characteristics mastered, you won’t be just another “somebody.” Instead, you’ll be so unique that people will be leaving events remembering exactly who you are.

But make no mistake: Standing out isn’t something you can do overnight. Sure, you can put on some fancy clothes and wing it, but true transformation requires consistent effort.

Luckily, in this guide you will learn both immediate tips you can use to stand out right NOW (say, if you’ve got a pressing job interview or a big presentation tomorrow) and other long-term tips that’ll build up these 4 key characteristics.

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12 Tips to Stand Out From the Crowd

Run The Second Mile

People who stand out are willing to put in the extra work.

And they’re remembered for excellent service.

They might stay late at the office, work until midnight on their side hustle, or spend extra time with their clients to provide excellent service.

Or, in the case of Samsung, draw a kangaroo.

What Samsung did was truly amazing—when loyal fan Shane Bennett emailed Samsung and asked for a free Samsung S3, he also attached a drawing of a dragon.

Samsung, replying that they’d probably go out of business if they gave everyone a free Samsung S3, also sent back a drawing… of a kangaroo on a unicycle.

Shane was so happy that he posted the email conversation on social media and it went viral—so viral that Samsung decided to send Shane a free Samsung S3, with an engraving of his very own dragon on it. How cool!

Action Step: Think of the areas in your life where you could go the extra mile:

  • finishing your work projects
  • managing your employees
  • doing household chores
  • reaching out to your old friends
  • writing emails to your clients (even the annoying ones!)

Once you’ve got a list of at least a few items, write down how you could go the second mile. Be as specific as possible! It might look something like this:

  • proactively go to my teammates to discuss next month’s projects
  • help my partner by doing the chores that never get tackled—cleaning the coffee filter, emptying the gutters, and vacuuming under the couch
  • set a reminder to call Mom every week and visit every month
  • make sure to send thoughtful emails and avoid angry/rude words; have a friend reread the email before I send it through
  • ask my friends about their important projects or hobbies

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Be a Connector

When most people think about advancing their careers or achieving their goals, they focus on their skills and experience.

There is a side door to success: Focusing on others careers and goals.

One of the best ways to stand out is to be a cheerleader for others. Here’s how…think about 10 people in your life who matter to you AND matter to your success. Make a list:

  1.  
  2.  
  3.  
  4.  
  5.  
  6.  
  7.  
  8.  

Now next to their name fill out what you think their goal is. Don’t have any idea? This is the perfect time to reach out for a catch up.

Next think about who and what THEY might need to achieve their goals. Should they meet anyone in your network? Is there a book they might like? 

Connect them with what they need.

I set aside one hour a month to do this with my 10 people (who are always changing). I love sending books to people I care about or introductions through LinkedIn. I actually have fun doing it because it feels good to help others. And if it helps my goals, great. But either way it makes me stand out to them!

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Discover Your da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci allegedly never slept for more than 2 hours a day.

And he probably spent most of his waking hours perfecting his craft.

But you don’t have to spend countless hours perfecting one thing to stand out.

In fact, I’ve found that consistency is the #1 trait that leads to success.

“Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.” — John Maxwell

Small creative wins add up! It’s usually the mundane things you do on a daily basis that add up to life-changing success—NOT the huge, glorified wins, which are fleeting.

I want you to search for micro-wins.

And channel your inner da Vinci. What kind of art do you love to produce? What makes you feel creative? What are you passionate about?

Here are some amazingly creative ideas:

  • write in a journal
  • take a picture every day
  • learn to dance
  • sew
  • make glass art
  • practice bonsai tree gardening
  • type up blog posts
  • paint pictures
  • learn to meditate

Action Step: Once you’ve found your creative thing, try practicing it daily. Over time, your creative ability will make you stand out from the crowd.

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Find Your Contrasting Flavor

What are you known for in your community?

An elderly man in Tokyo named Mitani Hisao is known as the owner of “Bon-chan,” a giant African spurred tortoise.

This dynamic duo couldn’t be mistaken for anyone else—after all, how often do you see an elderly man walking his giant tortoise down the street?

Mr. Hisao and Bon-chan are a great example of contrasting flavors, or 2 things that you wouldn’t normally pair together.

Action Step: Take out a journal or open up Google Docs and write down the characteristics and hobbies that people would normally associate with you. If you’re having trouble, try asking close friends or family.

Now write down the complete opposite hobbies and skills associated with the words you wrote down:

  • IT guy at the office? —-> Rockstar by night.
  • Super introverted and shy? —-> Adrenaline-filled skydiving.
  • Heavy gym rat? —-> Graceful ballet and/or tap dancer.
  • No full-time job? —-> Side-income hustler.
  • Bubbly, fun-loving cheerleader? —-> Finance and data wizard.

Have fun with your list! Come up with many different ideas for your traits. And when you find something that sounds great and resonates, try implementing that new skill into your arsenal.

When your contrasting flavor becomes part of your identity, you’ll be truly unforgettable!

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Be The Diffuser

Have you ever played the game Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes? It’s a fun little party game in whichwhere the bomb diffuser (let’s say you) needs to gather instructions from friends to diffuse a bomb before it explodes.

But it’s not just a silly party game. The bomb diffuser is the most important person in the room. They’re the only person with the power to diffuse the bomb, and everyone else is countingcounts on them to do it.

In your professional and personal life, in which environments are you the bomb diffuser?

Check these questions and see if any apply to you:

____ You’re essential to the team or company you work for.

____ Your close friends can depend on you if something goes wrong.

____ You are the leader of a group of people.

____ There are others who depend on your knowledge or skills to solve their problems.

If you have a hard time checking some of the boxes above, let’s start with the 2 important skills needed to become a diffuser:

  1. doing what you’re good at, and
  2. practicing leadership skills

If you’reyou aren’t great at something, people willwon’t give you credibility. And you don’t even need to be exceptional—just better than those around you (this part’s quite easy!). The second part is a bit harder—building leadership skills.

Diffusers are experts at what they do, and everyone knows it.

Diffusers absolutely need to be an experts in their field and lead a group to safety (or, in professional settings, success!). And leading people as an expert is no easy task, especially if you haven’t led before! But there’s an easy way…

Action Step: Let’s work on building your exceptional abilitiesability and leadership skills:

  • Find what you’re the best at and work on your skills! This should ideally be a professional skill, like programming, consulting, or interior design.
  • Work on your own leadership abilities. Read up on the books, attend courses, andbut most importantly, get the practice you need to lead teams.
  • Learn the essential people skills, from reading body language to learning how to starting conversations.

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Wear Your Standout Piece

The verdict is in: you ARE what you wear.

You see, what you wear affects:

  • how much power you wield
  • how much influence you have
  • how smart you come off
  • how much you earn

And it even makes you stand out. Clothing researchers have studied the effects of fashion psychology and have determined that what we wear can change our identities (and even make us unforgettable).

Think of Harry Potter’s iconic glasses:

Harry Potter

Cleopatra’s jewelry:

Cleopatra's jewelry

Rosie the Riveter’s iconic headband:

We can do it political image

Or James Bond’s tuxedo:

James Bond's tuxedo

All these characters have their standout piece, or the piece of clothing that makes them memorable. In professional settings, this works wonders—a unique set of cufflinks or a fabulous suit and jacket can get you noticed.

So what should you do to find your standout piece?

Action Step: First, take a look at the following list of adjectives. Which one(s) do you want to convey the most?

  • formal
  • stylish
  • professional
  • edgy
  • athletic
  • attractive
  • powerful

Next, we’re going to do some Google-fu. Open up Google and type in your adjective followed by “accessories.” So if you wanted to be more formal, you’d type in “formal accessories.” Head on over to the images tab and you’ll find something like this:

Google image of accessories

Great! Now you’ve got a list of unique accessories to pick from. Choose the one you like best and incorporate it into your wardrobe.

Pro Tip: If you have Paint/Photoshop skills, try seeing if an accessory you picked would look good on you. You can use a tool like remove.bg to remove the background from an image of an accessory and add it to your picture! For example, if you’re Harry Potter and you’ve chosen a fedora as your standout piece…

Harry Potter with a fedora

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Stop Underestimating

As you might know, I call myself a “recovering awkward person.”

(In fact, my go-to conversation exit was to immediately one-eighty without saying bye.)

Despite that, I have managed to lead thousands of students and teach corporate events on how to be slightly less awkward. Woohoo!

How did I do it?

I stopped underestimating myself.

I realized I already had the skills to take myself to the next level; I just wasn’t giving myself permission to succeed.

For many of us, we’re severely limiting our potential because we’re:

  • too afraid of change
  • not motivated enough
  • afraid of uncertainty

But that very limiting belief is like a potential-blocking concrete wall, stopping us from truly standing out and realizing our potential.

Me vs. My Goals

We need to take down this wall.

Let’s get down to action.

Action Step: The best way to break down your mental handicaps is to take action. The more action you take toward your goals, the more you’ll realize how achievable it is to overcome your obstacles.

And it doesn’t have to be large actions either. Science shows that small wins build up, creating “success momentum.” Small wins include:

  • going for a run in the morning
  • tracking your budget and finances
  • writing down daily gratitude thoughts in your journal

Want to learn more about small wins? Learn to boost your self-esteem: How to Build Rock-Solid Self-Esteem in 10 Weeks (or less!).

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Personalize Your Interactions

Over the last years, I’ve worked with big names like Google and Microsoft.

I’ve talked with world-famous CEOs and VIPs..

My secret?

As Dale Carnegie says, it’s all about winning friends and influencing people… through social skills!

“A person’s name is to that person the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” — Dale Carnegie

If you want to make an impact, here are a few quick tips:

  • Say their name. Just mentioning someone’s name has a likability effect and helps you become more memorable. Try repeating their name once you hear it (“Nice to meet you, Arnold!”). You can also associate their name with a hobby or an adjective that describes them (if you find out Arnold plays a lot of sports, you can repeat in your mind, “Active Arnold”).
  • Find your sparkline. Your sparkline is a one-liner that answers the question “What do you do?” This is your moment to say something witty/fun/interesting, and not something generic like “I fix computers to pay the bills.” Try something like “I teach soft skills in a hard-skills way of thinking.” For more ideas on sparklines, check out our guide on the best elevator pitches.
  • Body language mannerisms. How does your body operate? The body speaks its own language, and we often forget what we’re doing when talking to others. If you record yourself speaking to others, you might notice odd behaviors—like leaning away from someone or rubbing the back of your neck—that indicate insecurity or being closed off. This is anti–standing out behavior! What you want to do is open up by uncrossing your arms and legs and fronting them. What is fronting? Read more on mirroring body language.
  • Write a handwritten note. This one works especially well after an interview. Instead of sending an email like everyone else, go personal! Grab the contact information of your job interviewer and send them a short, personalized message for additional brownie points.
  • Gift-ercize. Have you ever received a generic birthday gift from someone? You’re not alone. Send a one-of-a-kind gift to someone to stand out. Think of what they like to do—if Arnold likes to exercise, try a group class membership or protein powder. For a list of more gift ideas, check out our favorites: Unique and Hilarious Gifts For Everyone On Your List.

Social interactions can be incredibly powerful—if they’re done right! Think of each interaction as a chance to stand out and make a great first impression.

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Probability Versus Possibility

We love to hear about the people who “make it” and get rich, become all-star athletes, invent viral products, etc.

However, these people are outliers. Outliers are the ones on the far ends of the curve. They’re the naturally gifted ones, the ones who got really lucky, or the ones who’ve trained in a skill since they were 3.

In other words, you can follow LeBron James’s diet, workout routine, and habits to a tee. But chances are, you’re never going to be able to play pickup with LeBron, no matter how hard you try.

This means you’re NOT an outlier.

You vs. Outliers infographic

But that’s OK! You can still achieve greatness without being an outlier.

How?

This is where the concept of possibility and probability comes in:

  • Possibility is seeing what CAN be achieved in your lifetime—becoming a Nobel Prize winner, a quarterback for the NFL, or a top-paid actor/actress.
  • Probability, on the other hand, involves what can LIKELY be achieved in your lifetime—becoming a millionaire in X years, a fantastic public speaker headlining at live events, or a YouTube star.

The point isn’t to kill your dreams and set your standards low. The point is to make your dreams more attainable and set standards that are high yet realistic enough that you can actually reach them.

Action Step: Time to nail down the probabilities. What CAN you do that others can’t? What are you so exceptionally great at that if you gave it your all, your chances of succeeding would be higher than most others’? You might find one or two things in particular stand out to you the most. If this happens, it’s a good sign you’ve found your one thing. Now ask yourself—are your goals within the realm of probability?

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Have Realistic Role Models

Who do you look up to?

Whether your role models are influencers, like Oprah, or real-life heroes, like your mother…

To achieve true uniqueness, you need to separate your realistic role models from your outliers.

Here are some examples of realistic role models:

  • your millionaire friend who runs a 7-figure digital marketing company
  • the popular professor who is a fantastic public speaker and is well loved by his peers
  • the single mother who raises 3 kids, runs a successful side hustle, and still manages to keep a full-time job
  • your distant uncle who is a retired soccer coach and has won various medals and awards

Action Step: Write down a list of your realistic role models. Once you have that down, come up with a list of WHY they are your role models. Are they entrepreneurial? Disciplined? Intelligent or compassionate? These characteristics are the values you admire. Try to write down at least 5 values.

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Create a Game Plan

If you’ve been following along so far, you’ve got a list of your own traits and a list of values you admire.

Now ask yourself: Do these 2 align? Do you “match” with your desired values? If not, that’s OK! Most people’s lists don’t match.

Here’s where it gets juicy…

Take the values you’ve written down in the previous step—it’s time to create a game plan in just 5 steps.

Your 5-step game plan will help you get to where you need to achieve your realistic goals.

“How are you going to make a large, unignorable statement?” — Ryan Holiday

  • Break down your values. Let’s say you are “hardworking” and “independent.” Remind yourself why these values are important and how they will help you stand out.
  • Create action steps. If you’ve labeled yourself as lazy, how do you get to a place where you’re hardworking and independent? What exact steps do you need to take, and what habits do you need to build? It could be things like work on your side hustle an extra 30 minutes per day, make your bed every morning, go to the gym 3 times a week, or plant tomatoes in your garden.
  • Set accountability. Start a task list, download a to-do app, join a mastermind, or donate money to your best friend if you don’t complete your goals. Whatever your actions are, find a way to be accountable.
  • Start a success journal. Write down the actions you’ve successfully completed in a journal or your phone notes. This step is crucial because it’ll help you visualize the progress you’ve made so far.
  • Keep playing ball. As Brian Fabes, CEO of Chicago’s Civic Consulting Alliance, says, “If a leader isn’t reaching toward big goals, which is core to getting ahead, he or she will soon find himself or herself behind.” And in order to truly stand out, you’ve got to keep at it, one day at a time.

Now that you’ve got your game plan, no excuses! Give it all you’ve got. I know you got this!

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Don’t Copy Others

Imagine you’re at your high school reunion.

You see all your old classmates and everyone’s doing well for themselves… except that one person.

That one person who always copied others’ styles or attitudes, or copied their attitude, just to blend in. And even after all these years, they’re still trying to copy others.

And now, at this reunion, they’re going on about some “wild new invention” they made that spins effortlessly on your fingers.

Hmm, that sounds familiar…

Here’s a confession: I was this person.

Well, without the fidget spinners. I was trying so hard to stand out copy others, that I impressed no one.

Have you done this before?

Put it this way: —If someone copies a website word for wordword-by-word, block for blockblock-by-block, and doesn’t change a thing… doesDoes that truly make them stand out?

I don’t think so!

Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seekto not take inspiration. As Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist, put it:

“Don’t just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style. You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes.” — Austin Kleon

Action Step: Are you trying too hard to stand out, but stealing someone’s ideas? Don’t live someone else’s reality! Be aware of who you’re copying and if you can just slightly tweak their ideasit. For example, if your favorite CEO wears black turtlenecks all the time, why not switch it up to a blue plaid teeT?

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Bonus: Being Unique in America vs. Japan

Did you know where you stand out makes a difference?

A 2014 study by researchers at Shiga University in Japan found that being unique can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on where you are.

Americans, for example, value uniqueness. Americans thrive on being unique because our culture is more open to replacing social relationships. That uniqueness helps people stand out and make new friends.

In other words, in countries where relationships have a higher turnover rate, uniqueness helps people develop their unique “selling points.” Contrast that with a more closed society like Japan, however, and those selling points may cause someone to be ostracized. Yikes!

So how do YOU stand out? What makes you unforgettable? And do you feel amazing about your uniqueness?

Let me know in the comments below!

To your uniqueness,

Vanessa

About Science of People

Our mission is to help you achieve your social and professional goals faster using science backed, practical advice. Our team curates the best communication, relationship and social skills research; turning into actionable and relatable life skills. Science of People was founded by Vanessa Van Edwards, bestselling author of Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People. As a recovering awkward person, Vanessa helps millions find their inner charisma.

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