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  • 07.09.10

Standout in the Crowd–Mark Levy’s Accidental Genius Helps You Find Your Special Sauce

The world is literally awash with ideas and information.  How do you standout?  What makes you unique and different to clients, in a book proposal, in a blog post or to prospective employers?

The world is literally awash with ideas and information.  How do you standout?  What makes you unique and different to clients, in a book proposal, in a blog post or to prospective employers?mark

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What’s your “special sauce?”  Mark Levy, marketing strategy expert and author of the updated and newly re-released, Accidental Genius, shows you how. 

I’m a living case study of Mark’s magic.  Last fall I spent some time working with him, and the process not only transformed the way I think and talk about my business, but also helped me finally take a book idea I’ve had for years to the next level. 

His unique approach to problem solving helped me find my “special sauce.”  And I’ve incorporated freewriting into my day-to-day decision making and blogging.  Now, with Accidental Genius, Mark’s skill is available to everyone.

I recently spent time with Mark Levy talking about:

  • Why it’s more important than ever to find your “special sauce” and standout in the crowd,
  • How Accidental Genius and the process of free writing can help, and
  • A trick to craft a distinctive elevator speech! 

CY: Welcome Mark!  Why is it more important than ever to find your “special sauce” and standout in the crowd?

ML: You’re at a networking meeting and someone comes up to you and asks, “What do you do?”  You know you do great work, but as you’re talking, the stranger begins to look over your shoulder because what you’re saying doesn’t get at the magnificence of your work. 

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Not only do you lose a potential client, but you feel bad about your business…and life in general.   This actually happened to me years ago when I worked for a book wholesaler and I vowed it would never happen again.  Now, when someone asks me what I do, I describe one of my areas of expertise by saying, “Consultants and entrepreneurial businesses hire me to increase their fees 2000%.”  Very clear and vivid.  Like an elephant gun. 

Finding what makes you different is your competitive advantage.  It means getting very clear in your mind about where you are delivering meaning and value for others. 

Most people base their work (e.g. business, writing, etc.) on commoditized, 10th generation thoughts and “me too” ideas. 

We all need to be thankful for the ideas and thoughts of others. Even if you start with someone else’s idea, make adjustments.  Add the work you’ve done and your own experience.  Those adjustments become your unique quotes, stories, and philosophy.  You don’t need to make it gimmicky.  You simply standout, if you are very clear.   

What do I mean?  As you know, I encourage people to “open up” words.  This involves looking at and writing about common words that have become jargon.  What are the images when you hear the word?  What’s happening?  Go from jargon to the story ideas behind the word.  So let’s start by defining “special sauce.”

To most people, special sauce is what makes you distinctive, standout, and memorable when other people aren’t.  Not surprisingly I have a slightly different take (as you would expect from me!). 

My take is that some people try to contrive how they are different based upon what other people are doing.  Really they need to create a new, standout angle or need. 

The intersection between the things that have personal meaning and that have meaning for whomever you’re trying to reach, that’s your special sauce. 

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CY: How can Accidental Genius help?” 

ML: Accidental Genius releases the grip of your internal editor.  You can access more raw, honest and pure thinking.  Outrunning your internal editor requires attacking the problem with speed and intensity. 

The “internal editor” is a metaphor I use to describe that voice inside or that part of our brain that dresses up what we say and write so that others will think of us as smart and consistent, “Oh, that’s got to be a Cali thought!”  The internal editor is important.  It helps society run but it hinders you when you’re trying to come up with a unique solution and the normal way isn’t working. 

Unless you find a way around it, the internal editor will truncate your thinking because it wants you to be consistent.  For example, you’re trying to write a standout book proposal or blog post.  Your internal editor says, “That will make you sound weird,” and pulls you back to those 10th generation, unoriginal thoughts because it doesn’t want you to be ostracized or cast out. 

I’ll work with clients with internal editors that are so strong that they can’t even finish their responses to my questions.  They aren’t able to go there.  But “going there” is exactly what they need to do to find their special sauce! 

So, you need to turn off or get past the internal editor by entering a different level of thinking than you would normally achieve.  Accidental Genius shows you how.

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CY: Accidental Genius is full of clear, step-by-step, easy to follow strategies based on the concept of freewriting.  What is freewriting and how does it work?

ML: Whether you are finding your unique angle or solving a difficult problem, Accidental Genius helps to approach it in a capricious, roundabout way.  It helps you move beyond the point where problems seem locked in place, and unchanging.  Ideas need movement because if the normal, logical way was working, you would have found a solution.  Accidental Genius helps you trip over the “great,” using freewriting. 

It’s very simple.   Take a problem and write for seven minutes as quickly as you can.  Set a timer.  No one will see what you are writing other than you.  Feel free to go anywhere.  Disagree with yourself, ignore punctuation. Write about when you first saw the problem, the roadblocks you’ve encountered…whatever!  Write as fast as you can because as Ray Bradbury said, “In quickness, is truth.”

After seven minutes, turn the timer off.  Look over what you’ve written.  You may have a solution, or it may require more exploration.   One method of further exploration is to pick a false idea and look at the problem from that angle.  For example, if the person in the scenario you are trying to resolve is arrogant, pretend he or she is generous.   This, along with all of the other tricks and techniques in Accidental Genius, forces you to jam together ideas that don’t usually go together and unlock unique solutions. 

Communications expert, Thomas Clifford (click here for his interview with Mark) asked me, “How fast do you have to write?”  My answer was if your internal editor operates at 5 miles an hour, than you need to write at 6 miles an hour to outrun it. 

CY: Can you share any other tricks to help entrepreneurs, authors, etc. vividly articulate a new stand out angle or need? 

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ML: Here’s a good one.  The key to a good elevator speech is to look for the “distinctions” in your business.  But typically when I explain to an entrepreneur, “Tell people what’s distinct about your business in your elevator speech,” they freeze up.   But if I ask them to describe their business to me like they’d tell a friend about a movie, it’s easier. 

For example, your friend asks you about a movie you’ve just seen, you might say something like, “It’s the new Daniel Day Lewis movie,” or “It’s the best police movie with robots I’ve ever seen.”  Distinctions.  Now, do the same for your business, “Clients work with us to keep people they can least afford to lose.” 

Another method is The Fascination Factor.  To learn more, check out the manifesto I just published at ChangeThis.com called The Fascination Factor (and how you can use it to write books).

CY: I love that.   Thank you, Mark.  You helped me articulate my “special sauce.”  Now, with  Accidental Genius, the Fascination Factor manifesto and your blog, you can help everyone create their standout angle.    

For more about Mark Levy, his work and Accidental Genius:

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