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Bonus Focus - Become the Positive Deviant


By Jeff Kosor

OK, what the heck is a positive deviant? According to Wikipedia, it is "an approach to behavioral and social change based on the observation that in any community, there are people whose uncommon but successful behaviors or strategies enable them to find better solutions to a problem than their peers, despite facing similar challenges and having no extra resources or knowledge than their peers”. Simply put, a positive deviant is the higher performer in any organization.

"How do I become a positive deviant?” you are now asking. The answer is not necessarily an easy one. On top of that, knowing is one thing, while executing is quite another. Let’s talk about some of the strategies employed by positive deviants in the past.

I will put forth the idea that the single most important strategy utilized by the positive deviant is that of collaboration. This is the idea that "two heads are better than one.” Well if that’s true, then four heads are better than two and eight heads are better than four, and so on. I couldn’t agree more. You see, by sampling the collectively intelligent minds around you, you are gaining a very diverse insight toward the situation that you seek to defeat. It is open to debate, but it has been said that the most successful lifeline on TV’s "Who Wants to be a Millionaire” is the "ask the audience” option. It is not verified as far as I can tell, however this strategy has a claim of a 95% success rate.

By tapping into the collective intelligence of those around you, surely you will benefit from the individuals who have encountered your situation in the past. You can thereby benefit from their success and learn from their mistakes.

I will illustrate this concept with a story related to me in the past. I know a person who at an early age entered a career in pharmaceutical sales for a large company. After experiencing many setbacks and roadblocks set in his path to success, he took a step back to assess the situation. In telling me his story, he explained that success couldn’t be completely elusive as others were succeeding and perhaps he must just be missing several key elements in his approach.

He explained further that he decided that he would talk to a cross-section of coworkers who had been with the company as long, or longer, than he and learn from their answers to his question of "What does it take to be successful in this organization?”

He told me that he was able to gather a vast list of tips and pointers all aimed at becoming a success in his new endeavor. His most important tip came from the person who had preceded him in his territory. This savvy mentor counseled the newer apprentice to "get his name in lights.” Anytime there was a contest or metric to be measured it was crucial to place in the top spots with #1 being the ultimate goal. This was not done for superficial notoriety, but more so to be vital stepping stones on the path to the success. Interestingly enough, the young sales representative went on to become a measureable success due in part to his collaboration with his contemporaries. I am certain that he employs this strategy even now.

The next piece of advice that I would give anyone seeking to become a positive deviant would be "Do your homework.” There is not shortcut here and cutting corners will not suffice. Immerse yourself in the subject matter that stands in your way. Research your situation from every angle that you can. Look at both the problem and every possible solution. Read. Learn from every published subject matter expert that you can. Search key words on the Internet. Leave no stone unturned. Then put your ideas into motion. Practice your approach to the situation. Think of all the possible outcomes to all of the possible angles to your dilemma.

The next step to elevate you to the status of positive deviant is to practice having a positive mental attitude. It can truly be said that you are only defeated once you admit that you are- so don’t give up! Surround yourself with positive people and avoid negativity. Take time in your day to study the words and quotes of famous inspirational leaders like Norman Vincent Peale, Mother Teresa, Vince Lombardi, John Wooden and Sir Winston Churchill. Yes, I know that this sounds overly simplistic, but if you try this, it will most assuredly feed your internal momentum.

Visualize what your success looks in the internal images of your mind. Eat, drink and sleep the vision of yourself winning! This is only more fuel for the engine that is your vehicle to success. Celebrate small wins that act as milestones along your path. Pump your fist in the air and say, "Yah!” It will get your adrenaline flowing and that is not a bad thing! Mistakes will happen and when they do, take careful note and learn from them. It is written that Edison had many failures prior to landing on the prototype for the light bulb. When he was questioned about how he did not allow these setbacks to stand in the way of his success, he replied, "I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” This quote truly defines the word persistence and a steadfast determination to turn a vision into reality.

Keep a journal. Use this to organize your thoughts. Write down your short-term and long-term goals. Just the act of writing makes your ideas real and actionable. Make lists for all that you wish to do and check off your progress one point at a time.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself. To be your best at facing your obstacles, you must not neglect the physical aspect of all of this. Eat right, exercise every day, and don’t skip your much needed rest. I sound like your mother, right? People that say, "I’ll sleep when I’m dead” have no idea how prophetic that might really be.

One last ingredient in your recipe to become a positive deviant: get a mentor. While you’re at it get two, or three. Make certain that it is someone who can look at your situation with an unbiased perspective and offer the feedback that we need to feed our self-awareness. Along these lines, you should also be a mentor and pay it forward, so to speak.

Here are some things to avoid in order to become a positive deviant:

· Settling for the "Status Quo.”

· Resting on your laurels.

· Allowing negativity to occupy your thoughts or company.

· Operating in a vacuum.

In closing, I want to share with you my "Rule of Ones.” If you received just one pearl or idea from my ramblings, then I have been successful in my writing. I sincerely wish you much success in your quest to become a positive deviant.

Jeff Kosor is global director of sales for Command Post Technologies. Email Jeff at


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