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2-Cent Rant

The 80/20 Rule of Standing Out

With a little preparation, you can definitely stand out from the rest.


This article was first published by Cheerfulegg.

So, do you have the floor plan and the guidelines that I sent you last week?”

The Interior Designer shakes her head. “Sorry, there’s something wrong with our email system.”

I sigh. “Actually, I texted it to you too. It’s ok, I brought another copy along with me.”

I pull out the floor plan and we start talking. It’s obvious that she has given this zero thought before our meeting.

I know where this discussion is going. She asks about “what we want” in the living room (even though I gave her that information a week ago). When we ask her about how to best make use of the kitchen space, she looks at us blankly.

She insists that all future meetings should be held in her office, because “sorry, it’s company policy we cannot meet outside until we sign the contract.

10 minutes into the meeting and I’ve already written her off. Another one bites the dust.

Where Have All The Good People Gone?

They're not here!

They’re not here!

Here’s one thing that struck me: Most of them were terrible.

I’m not referring to their technical skills – I’m sure most of them are pretty competent. But based on our limited experience, the majority of professionals we met:

1. Didn’t show up on time

2. Didn’t come prepared

3. Didn’t have an opinion

4. Didn’t even get the meeting dates right

Which really got me thinking: Wow, if everyone is so terrible, imagine how awesome you’d be if you simply got the basics right? 

I like to blog about aspects beyond just personal finance – things like your career and business. Because if you excel at adding value in these areas, the money will come.

Many people assume that excelling at business means improving their technical skills: How fast they can code, the quality of their reports, how smooth they are at presenting, etc.

But from my experience with so many crappy “professionals” in the past few months, I realised: You can stand out from the crowd without much effort at all.

Here’s what I learnt.

How To Charge A Premium

cash register

I used to be a boy scout in secondary school (yeah, go on and laugh). The universal motto for the Scouts is: Be prepared.

By simply following these two basic words, you can immediately stand out. In fact, since virtually NOBODY does this, you can raise your value and command a premium: Raising your price, negotiating your salary, getting a bonus.

Let’s take my search for an Interior Designer, for example.

If an ID simply showed up on time, demonstrated that he/she looked at the floorplan before we met, and had some rough design ideas, this ID would immediately stand out from everyone else.

Of all the IDs we met, only ONE did this. And that’s enough for us to already be more likely to hire him/her.

The professionals whom we eventually hired may not necessarily be the cheapest or the most competent; they’re the ones who – at a minimum – were prepared when they were pitching to us. Because we know that if they put in the effort to think about our needs, we can trust them with larger things.

Everyone else got rejected. And the sad truth is, they’ll never know why.

This Isn’t Very Hard To Do

Working on laptop

Think about it: An ID is 80% more likely to get hired if she spends just an hour of preparation before a client meeting. If you were rewarded with tens of thousands of dollars for just an hour of work, would you do it?

Of course you would!

This is known as the Craigslist Penis Effect, coined by Ramit Sethi. It describes areas where everyone else is SO TERRIBLE that if you simply put in a bit of work, you’ll immediately stand out from everyone else.

When it comes to job interviews, most people answer the interviewer’s questions But what if you demonstrated that you’ve thought about the company’s problems and came prepared with some proposed solutions (even if they’re completely off-tangent)?

When it comes to your job, most people simply work and hope their boss notices their diligence. But what if you took the initiative to set a meeting with your boss, lay out your goals for the next 3 months, and a plan to achieve them?

When it comes to networking with VIPs, most people struggle to come up with conversation topics. But what if you checked out their LinkedIn profile beforehand and came prepared with a list of questions about their career? (I’ve personally used this one technique to meet dozens of VIPs over the past few months)

This is a BASIC level of preparation – which takes a couple of hours at most – but it’ll give you way better results.

It’s a classic 80/20 Rule. Put in 20% more effort, but get 80% more results.

How Can You Apply This To Your Life?

Today, I want you to think about how even basic preparation can help you stand out in your field.If you’re trying to improve your personal finances, can you spend one hour making your savings automatic?

1. If you’re interviewing, can you spend time thinking about your dream company’s business problems?

2. If you want a higher salary, can you take the initiative to pitch a project to your boss and deliver?

3. If you’re pitching a client, can you honestly say that you intimately know your client’s needs?

4. If you’re campaigning in this GE, do you have a well thought-out policy proposal?

Any of these can help you to immediately stand out against your competitors. (Especially in that GE example, when the majority of your competition is uhm, questionable at best).

Just because everyone else sucks, doesn’t mean you have to. By simply being a little more prepared and getting the basics right, you can stand out.

Now, I’d love to hear from you. Which area(s) have you encountered where everyone else is so terrible, that it’s not hard to stand out at all?

The inspiration for this article comes from Ramit Sethi, who taught me the importance of putting in extra preparation to get disproportionate results.

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