Jello, Diet Coke, and a Reminder About Being Different

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The best gift that I received, and the one that can teach us all something important was this:

A can of my favorite beverage - Diet Coke - encased in jello.

The best thing about this gift:

It somehow landed on my desk without my knowledge, and the student responsible kept his identity secret for the entire school day.

Not only was his gift hilarious, but he possessed the understanding and wherewithal to remain silent, thus extending the joke beyond the initial surprise. The gift itself was delightfully surprising, but then he layered on the added bonus of mystery and suspense.

A gift so perfectly aligned with my sensibilities in every single way.

Also an excellent reminder of the value of being different.
Standing apart from others.
Being memorable.

Every single gift that I received last week was lovely, and all were admittedly more valuable than a single can of Diet Coke encased in jello:

Gift cards to restaurants and Amazon. A book from an author who I adore. Movie tickets. I will use and appreciate each one of these gifts.

But the one I will remember forever will be the Diet Coke encased in jello, somehow placed on my desk without my knowledge.

When I work with clients on speeches, keynotes, sales pitches, marketing decks, and the like, I'm always pushing them to do something different. Strike new ground. Zig while others are zagging.

But the tendency is always to migrate back to the norm. Conform to your competitors. Do what everyone else is doing. So many of my clients choose to be forgettable by choosing to be like everyone else.

Fear governs so much of what they say and do.
Better to be safe than possibly amazing. Better to do the expected than the unexpected. Better to remain within the herd rather than risk being gobbled up by the critics.

I have a phrase for this:

Tragically typical.

It's a place where most people operate. It's why most people are forgettable when they speak.

Diet Coke encased in jello is far less extrinsically valuable than a gift card to a steak house or tickets to a movie theater. In fact, at the end of the day, I tossed the shambling creation into the trash can.

It lasted less than seven hours on my desk.

Yet I'll remember it forever because it was different, daring, hilarious, and perfectly executed.

My student zigged while others zagged, and that made all the difference.
It's a reminder for all of us to try to be different in a world of white, round, flavorless communication. Otherwise, we risk being forgotten, or even worse, not even noticed in the first place.

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