One crisp Manhattan evening, I found myself at Totto Ramen deep in conversation with a strange man about coin collecting. I was there for the Spicy Paitan and looking forward to the tranquility of eating solo, but was led by my natural curiosity down a rabbit hole to a subject that has stuck with me since: mules.
A mule is a coin with a unique flaw that makes it very rare. Often, according to the man at the ramen restaurant, these coins have the most worth. Why? It is rare that a coin would be produced with an error in the first place, and even more rare that the coin would be released to the public. The premise behind the mule coin is something that can be applied in many areas of life. Uniqueness adds value.
Think about the most successful businesses or people you know. Chances are, they all have a unique characteristic, skill, or product that makes them the best. They are the mules of the real world. While these things aren’t necessarily flaws as they are with the coins, they are something rare within that business or person that is sought after by others.
It is likely that you have a unique skill or characteristic as well, or the ability to develop one. In rifle shooting, I was great at shooting in adverse weather conditions. During the 2012 Olympic Trials, we faced horrendous weather that altered the course of the competition. While most shooters waited out conditions and progressed cautiously, I proceeded forward quickly, undisturbed, and with confidence. Shooting skillfully in adverse weather conditions was obviously not something I was born with. Believe it or not, I was not born wielding a rifle. Shooting well in tough conditions was something I developed through consistent and intentional training specifically for those conditions. This is good news. You aren’t screwed if you weren’t born with a unique ability, they can be developed.
So, you want to be a mule? Here are 3 simple tips:
1. Capitalize on and embrace your unique characteristics, even if they seem like flaws to you.
2. Develop expertise in a distinctive area, something different from the majority.
3. Avoid groupthink – play devil’s advocate and stop making decisions based on norms.
Think about how you can apply these tips in your day-to-day life or in business. Maybe become the go-to person for a specific task. Your legitimacy comes from your skills and expertise, it is your uncommon qualities that will set you apart from the rest.