Beyond Average: How to Harness Your Unique Value Contribution

Average – in all contexts – is officially over.
Does that statement seem a little dramatic to you? I hope you said “no” – because if you did, that means you understand today’s reality. You understand that you can’t depend on mediocre work. You understand that you can’t find satisfaction in run of the mill results. And you understand it’s impossible to simply coast to success.
Last month I attended (co)lab: A Collaborative Leadership Summit, where keynote speaker Thomas Friedman (watch his full talk here) shared these words:
“Average is officially over. In a world where average is over, everyone needs to find their ‘extra’ – their unique value contribution.”
You might be thinking, “Well, that’s easy for him to say.” Yes, Friedman is one of the most well-known columnists for the New York Times with an immense comprehension of foreign affairs and globalization. And yes, he is a best-selling author who has won the Pulitzer Prize three times. That’s incredibly unique.
But that doesn’t matter.
Over time, Friedman has learned how to set himself apart from the rest by discovering his unique value contribution. To maximize our potential on a personal level – and also companies, for that matter – we must simply do the same thing.
I read an article this week from a business software company via Forbes BrandVoice, and the paragraph that stuck out most to me focused on the idea that many of us find it hard to discover our unique value contribution.
“We often get stuck in a rut of who we are and what we can offer without really grasping the greatness that is contained in our uniqueness. We often fail to capitalize on our unique abilities. What limits us is a lack of understanding of our unique gifts, the community we create around us, and knowing the value of our role in life.”
That kind of failure is scary, isn’t it? So then, how do we ultimately discover our unique value contribution? Answer these questions.
1. What are you really good at? We each have talents and skills that come easily to us. While we should continue to develop the talents and skills that require practice on our part, when it comes to our unique value contribution, we should place a strong focus on what comes easily to us or seems innate. 
2. What are you passionate about? Your passion will never fail at driving and motivating you. That’s why I’m a strong proponent for the idea that chasing your passion in your daily work will bring opportunities and successes that you may not experience otherwise. There’s no question that your passion should be an important part of your unique value contribution.
3. What makes you indispensable? There are situations in which people deem our presence and input absolutely necessary. Identify those situations and the reasons why people feel this way to fully realize your uniqueness.
If you’re unsure about your personal — or your company’s – unique value contribution, take out a piece of paper and jot down some answers to these questions. After that, reflect on your answers, find the intersection point that determines your unique value contribution and own it. That’s your “extra.” That’s what will continue to push you forward and keep you motivated, ultimately helping you surpass the average state Friedman discussed.
Remember, you are the only one who can take control of your future – so take this seriously. You are the only one who can make sure average is completely out of the question for your legacy.