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
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
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
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 email@example.com.