Embrace Your Unoriginality

We believe in embracing who you are and what you believe fully—even if that part of you is a little weird. CJ Casciotta does too. CJ’s a brand enthusiast, a dad and the author of . CJ has helped a number of brands embrace their Uncommon and reap the benefits.

CJ shared with us a number of Uncommon Principles that he follows to help brands Get Weird and gave us a look at the 4-step process he adheres to that make those principles successful. 

“Every movement begins with an invitation to embrace something different—a unique point of view that stands in direct contrast to a bunch of other similar ones. On the one hand, this gives movements a unique advantage—a distinct identity—, on the other, it also gives them an undeniable vulnerability.”
Before movements are remembered for being extraordinary, they’re questioned for being weird. You can take any movement and filter it through that two-part narrative: Christianity, Democracy, Women’s Suffrage, Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Civil Rights Movement, Punk, Disney, Apple—the list goes on. Before any of them changed culture, they were met with varying amounts of skepticism and concern. This is because, while we’re wired for ‘weird’, we feel safer with ‘same’.

“As we get older, that notion seems to inevitably leak into our companies, our teams and what we communicate to our audience. It’s much easier to model what seems to be working for others instead of doing the hard work of finding (and owning) what we uniquely have to say.”
Apple never epitomized another computer company and Charity: Water never sought to resemble another non-profit. What made these movements so groundbreaking (and ultimately effective) was that they knew what problem they wanted to solve, discovered what the market was missing, and owned what made them uncommon amidst a sea of similar thinking.

“The act of articulating exactly why that unique thing we offer the world is different and therefore valuable to others becomes necessary if we want to build a movement, something meaningful that gathers others, grows, and eventually creates long-term cultural change.”
While getting your culture right might seem like a victory and as CJ points out, “in many ways it is,”  it should never be viewed as a finish line. Your culture is always a work in progress. Once a culture becomes normal, stagnancy sets in and irrelevance inevitably follows. In order to keep growing, a movement must begin to find what’s weird again. That’s most obviously true for a non-profit, enterprise or political office, but it’s equally true for a friendship, marriage or family. Regardless of what context we find ourselves in, if we bank on things to constantly stay the same, we’ll be disappointed at one of two inevitable outcomes—either they will (or we will) become bored, ineffectual and distant, or they won’t and we’ll be confused, disappointed and unprepared. 

“Weirdness is a muscle that needs to be flexed.”
After a movement has successfully hacked into the very culture that once doubted it, it’s left with the often, scary task of taking a step back, looking inward and reimagining what’s possible. For weirdos to keep their movement sustainable they must always find the courage to roll up their sleeves, erase the whiteboard and go back to the beginning—away from the turning tides and trends that clamor for our attention.

The 4-step process CJ follows to help people and brands get weird:

The late Italian semiotician, Umberto Eco, proposed that every cultural phenomenon could be studied as communication. Throughout history, virtually every movement has followed a basic method for effectively getting its message out to those they seek to reach.

  1. FIND THE WEIRD: Every movement has something completely unique about it that makes it stand out in a sea of same. But, it’s not until it can discover and define exactly what it is that things begin to snowball.
  2. GATHER THE WEIRDOS: When a movement owns what makes it weird, a crazy thing happens—others start to join in. These like-minded people who act as partners, patrons and participants are often fellow misfits just waiting for someone else to say, “I’m with you.” (e.g., the apostles).
  3. MAKE THE MANIFESTO: Next, it’s time to share “the weird” with the world. The greatest movements accomplish this through well-designed manifestos and stories (e.g., “I Have a Dream”). These movements learn how to take their weirdness and translate it in a way that makes sense to others.
  4. HACK THE CULTURE: Finally, movements hit a stride when they’re able to make believers out of those who initially overlooked them (e.g., podcasts). This tough act of changing minds and permeating culture is only accomplished after completing the first steps.

CJ’s weird-thinking approach helps movements (1) harness what makes them weird and (2) gather people around them by (3) creating a manifesto that (4) leads to cultural change.

At some point, every last one of us needs to Get Weird.

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