Our Difference is our Strength

Recently, I had the shocking fortune of running past a building that I thought was going to topple over on me. As I ran past the building I noticed that it was a triangle on the bottom and a square on the top. The different shapes at different ends of the building made it look like the building was "twisting." I have not been able to shake the thought of this building. As I researched the building, I discovered that it will be the 4th tallest building in the city, and the "twist" is actually supposed to strengthen the structural integrity of the design. The building has attracted a lot of attention because of it's "difference" of architecture. Critics have come out in droves to suggest that the building is sinking, or that each floor is one inch short, or that construction has been halted - all of which are untrue. 

This got me thinking about how we humans interact with one another. As a norm, the masses are more comfortable with homogeneity - sameness. As humans we tend to like predictability. Radical unexpected change has the uncanny effect of causing anxiety and upset. I was recently speaking at a conference where the audience was put through a strength finders exercise. Each audience member answered a series of questions, and based on those responses they were told what they were strong at. The obvious result was that people had different strengths. The facilitator said that one in 33,000,000 have the exact same strength analysis. The underlying theme to this exercise is that WE ARE DIFFERENT.

Sometimes we try to create groups for our differences based on gender, ethnicity, ability, economics or education. They are distinctions without a difference, because even though the group maintains a common characteristic, each individual in that group is radically different from one another. I am not suggesting there is anything wrong with affinity groups - my point is that we see difference as a negative when in fact it is a positive. And, when we look deeper than just one characteristic we are left with an understanding that we are all different in countless characteristics. The larger issue to be addressed is that we humans have a desire to create distinctions without a difference. We feel more comfortable when we are surrounded by "like-minded people." Not many of us like to be the odd-person, or not be included in the group.

But, being the odd-person is where the magic lies. We are all the "odd-person" with a unique individuality. We can all be included into some group based on a common characteristic, if that is our desire. Or, we can unashamedly celebrate our uniqueness and be one in 33,000,000 in our conversations, work-life and relationships. If in fact we really are that different, why should we ever be disappointed when we disagree with our significant other about a topic. The strength-finder analysis would suggest that our significant other is going to be radically different than we are. We should actually expect to disagree on things more than we would agree on things. The magic is to understand that the difference is the strength of the union. To appreciate the difference in another human, and resist the urge to be threatened is where true magic grows.

In work environments, athletic teams, and expeditions we need people with different strengths. We seek out people who are different from ourselves in order to accomplish the seemingly impossible. It is very easy to be critical of a difference. Insecurity, ego and pride are at the root of most criticism. The first to be different is always sure to be criticized. But, the first to succeed and be different is also praised, revered and celebrated as a pioneer. This is but another clear juxtaposition of our human condition, and our desire to have predictability and change. It is the yin and yang we must all struggle with at different points in our personal, professional and spiritual streams of life.

Whether the Twisty Tower is a sound and strong structure or not, one thing is certain - it will attract some people and it will repel other people. But this reality of difference is what makes being human so special. Our difference is our strength.


Jason is an expert at teaching people to transform Dreams into Reality. He has amassed a lifetime of expertise in the field as a General Manager for General Electric leading large teams, where he ran a $400 million dollar business, he was a former leader of Global Operations for a Fortune 100 company, an attorney and CEO of a non-profit that helps children with Autism. In addition to his professional experience, he is a US Paralympian, holds 15 world records in ultra-running and mountain biking, is an author, a highly sought after motivational and business speaker and is the 1st and only blind person to run across America - 3,063 miles where he averaged 51.5 miles/day for 59.5 days. For speaking and media inquiries visit www.jasonromero.net 


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