At birth, each of us is original. Our DNA has never existed before on this planet. No one will ever have our unique set of experiences. No one will ever have our totally unique point of view.
There has never been anyone like us…and there never will be again. We have been given a complete and total monopoly over the business of being us.
Yet what do we do with this rarest of rarities? We give it up! We choose not to be ourselves. We become our own trustbuster.
That’s something I’ve always loved about the Stoics. They were characters. The Stoics were not afraid to be themselves, to be seen as weird. Epictetus tells us about the Stoic Agrippinus being asked why he was so difficult, why he couldn’t just conform to the same practices as everyone else. “I want to be the red, that small and brilliant portion which causes the rest to appear comely and beautifully…’be like the majority of people?’ And if I do that,” Agrippinus liked to answer, “How shall I any longer be the red?”
Sure, being ‘red’ got Agrippinus into trouble. It also made him great. It made him one of the only people who actively resisted the tyranny and injustices of Nero’s regime. It made him famous for all time.
When we are ourselves, we have value. When we are like everyone else…we are fungible. We are replaceable–by definition. We have little value…by definition.
Peter Thiel has said before that the only kind of business worth making is one where you can have a monopoly. The profits, he said, are in owning an entire market. So it goes with ourselves as individuals. You want to be just another investment banker? You want to be another business writer publishing the same boring books that quote the same boring studies with the same bland covers fighting for spots at the same bland conferences?
BE YOU. Be the only one of you in the whole world. Be the red. That’s where the fun is (without having to fake it). That’s where the money is (you can name your price). That’s where the value is (you can’t be replaced).
When my wife and I decided to open a bookstore, I bought a course from a bookstore consultant. One of the first things they told me was we’d have to carry…