I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t know Prince!
You might not be able to name his albums, and you might not understand his lyrics, but I bet you will recognize him when you see or hear him.
He is a unique human being. Despite the gossip about his flaws, you can’t deny that he was among the most talented musicians of his generation (I would argue our generation as well).
By managing to stay in the limelight since the 70’s, he earned the right to be examined and learned from as a public figure, entertainer, and performer.
I will share in this post the biggest lesson I learned from him as a public speaker and presenter.
The biggest lesson Prince taught me is to be myself.
Be Uniquely Yourself
There are 7 billion people on earth. We will have 10 billion human beings by 2050. That’s just around the corner!
How will you stand out and rise above the masses if you chose to keep blending in? The blending in strategy might have worked when you were in elementary school as a survival strategy. Standing out from other students made you a target because it marked you as different.
But now, your survival and success depend on you standing out. You are not in elementary school anymore: you are a smart and capable professional in a very noisy workplace among other many intelligent and capable professionals. Your promotion, raise, and recognition depends on your visibility and memorability.
The best way to stand out is to be yourself and express your unique identity. Prince did this very well. You don’t have to be like Prince; you have to be yourself.
From showing off his thin mustache to displaying his hairy chest and embedding statements like “I’m not a woman. I’m not a man. I am something that you’ll never understand” in his lyrics, Prince was putting himself entirely in the open.
Are you doing the same? Chances that you are not. I know because it took me a very long time to open up. Because there are two factors here: One, what is my unique self? Two, how can I express it without being pointed out and ridiculed.
So let’s take them one at a time: What is your real identity?
I don’t know what your true unique identity is. It’s for you to figure out. I am still figuring out mine. All I know is that the closer I get to it, the happier and the more successful I get.
Discovering your unique self is a slow process and starts with small acts of expression. Don’t rush it, and only welcome what comes out. Start by expressing yourself honestly and authentically every once in a while. Then when you feel safe, expand and do it more, and then more. This process will allow you to find your voice and opinions about things vs. just regurgitating what you hear in the news and social media.
In addition to verbal expression, look for visual expression opportunities: for example the jewelry and clothes you wear. Do you dress like everyone else at work or do you dress uniquely? Don’t worry; you don’t have to dress like Prince to stand out in your corporate job! How about wearing a unique pair of glasses, a scarf, or a different bracelet? Of course, whatever you wear has to fit who you are.
Slides are another visual expression of identity. Do you use the corporate stock slides for your presentation? Yes, that blue background with stripes. Everyone uses that! It’s annoying, it’s vanilla, and worst, I guarantee it’s not YOU. Why not get your unique slide background? One that expresses your personality.
Find safe places to express yourself
In the beginning, it will be difficult to express your unique self. Your mind will be worried about rejection, ridicule, and the self-rightness from your audience. That’s normal. That’s why you need to find a safe place to experiment and build confidence when expressing yourself
A good place is always Toastmasters. It’s a non-judgmental place where you can practice speaking and presenting without being judged. At Toastmasters, you can experiment, practice, and try different verbal and nonverbal expressions until you find your voice.
Other places are improv classes – There are lots of improv in the Bay Area. We even offer an improv class ourselves on Wednesdays that you can attend and practice being open and comfortable with yourself.
I don’t know if you know this already – but you are one of a kind. So stop hiding, stop blending in, and start expressing your uniqueness when you present. Start slow and practice in a safe place like improv classes, public speaking classes or Toastmasters. The moment you find yourself hiding in the crowd, remember Prince, and find your way to shine through!