“The best way to silence your critics is with commitment.”— Srinivas Rao
When Srinivas Rao started his website in 2009, he was unemployed and podcasting was in decline. His only goal was to interview one person—any person—in order to draw traffic to his new website. Fast forward 9 years later. Rao has interviewed more than 700 unique voices in the world, become a thought leader in creativity, and knows what it takes to differentiate yourself in the world’s crowded marketplace.
In his book Unmistakeable, Rao uses the metaphor of surfing, his life experiences, and the voices of the unmistakable creatives he interviews to explore what it takes to be a one-of-a-kind voice. For Rao, unmistakable means your work could only have been created by you. Effectively, you will never have competition because you’re NOT the best option—you’re the ONLY option for what you do.
Here are six principles from his book to make your business unmistakable.
1) Avoid the echo chamber
If you want to be a true “one-and-only,” you have to carve your own path. You can’t follow someone else’s map and expect to be unmistakable.
When Rao was unemployed and searching for work, he saw designer Jamie Varon create a viral search campaign called “Twitter Should Hire Me,” which resulted in Varon getting hired by a tech company. So Rao created a campaign called “100 Reasons You Should Hire Me.” But Rao’s campaign was just an echo of Varon’s, it didn’t stand out, and he remained jobless.
2) Commit to the process, not the outcome
Validation from external sources is a hole that can never be filled. How many likes, shares, or views do you need to be happy? If you define success by something you have no control over (such as likes), you will never be pleased with your work.
Rao suggests you focus on the work process and not on how the results are received. If you focus on how well you do your work, you will find success in the process of doing something well, and it will show in your work.
3) Seek to affect hearts and minds
People who create unmistakeable work seek to do something meaningful, not to be famous or receive accolades. Unmistakable people produce work that affects hearts and minds, whether it’s seen by one person or one million. If your work is meaningful to you, your results will also be more authentic, genuine, and distinct to others.
In 2013, everything changed when Rao decided to do something meaningful with his work. He asked himself: “Have I created the most audacious and ambitious pieces of art and started the most daring projects that I want to see exist in the world?” When the answer was no, he changed his approach to work, wrote books, and staged a conference to help others become unmistakable.
4) Start before you feel ready
People don’t feel comfortable unless they know the answers. Comfort is the enemy of being unmistakable. You could fall pray to paralysis by analysis and never get started at all.
When you are doing something that hasn’t been done before, there is no map and you won’t have all the answers. Rao didn’t know everything about podcasting when he started, but he knew enough to start. Rao suggests you start your project (business, novel, social movement) before you know all the answers. You will learn by doing and find your distinct voice along the way.
5) Use time as your ally
So many people expect to find a large audience overnight. Fueled by media stories that make success seem one upload away from worldwide discovery, people often get frustrated and give up when their work isn’t immediately recognized after a few months.
When Rao started publishing on the internet in 2009, he didn’t start getting lots of notice—or have many external markers of success—until he published his first book in 2014.
Most people give up before they get good enough or distinct enough to get noticed. It takes years before you become good at what you do. If you persist and become better, people will eventually notice your work. This is why time is your best ally.
6) Let failure be your teacher
Don’t expect everything to go right the first time. Or the second. Or the third. Success in being unmistakable is about course correcting.
At the end of 2014, Rao faced failure. He thought his podcast was doing well. But then his show started to bleed money month after month. Filled with anxiety, he woke up at night with heart palpitations. He was worried he would have to shut down the show, disappointing all his friends and investors.
Faced with financial disaster, he course-corrected. He went surfing to clear his head, did a gratitude journal, and reached out to a friend for support and guidance.
By taking steps to overcome his crisis, he learned from his failures and made his show stronger and more unmistakable.