From Catherine: Erika Napoletano may have written The Power of Un-Popular, but her post was definitely popular on this blog. We had 108 comments on this post! Think you will enjoy this one.
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Not so long ago, I had a date with a man so good looking that it was criminal. Clive Owen would have kneecapped him in the parking lot had he been in a 300-mile radius, purely on the basis of job security. We’d met on some dating site or another and shared an email or two, deciding to leap in and get the do-you-look-like-your-pictures dance squared away.
He looked like his pictures. Better, in fact. It was tempting to reach across and touch his face to see if live airbrushing were possible.
After an hour of conversation, I thanked him – for his time and the cocktail. He followed up asking if I’d like to have dinner the next week. And I declined.
Because this man – oh, he was sexy. But I was looking for dead sexy, which is why I have a thing for geeks.
On Being Unpopular
Let’s face it – geeks have a higher propensity for entrepreneurship than any other breed of human. Why? Because we were never one of the cool kids. We were slapped with that “unpopular” label and left on the sidelines of the school cafeteria and commons areas to bask in its juvenile rancor. But all of that unpopularity? It made us pretty damn adept at (more than) a few things (all of which are incredibly sexy):
Being resourceful: Our formative years weren’t about following a herd. They were about finding ways to get what we needed when there were few around to help us on account of our uncool footwear choices.
Developing a cohesive, meaningful audience: To hell with the jocks and cheerleaders who didn’t want to hang out with us and our kickass superhero lunchboxes. We found people who were like us and took the next step – invested in them. If anyone can attract an audience that will stick around even on cloudy days, it’s a geekpreneur.
How to innovate: All of that unpopularity taught us a very beautiful lesson – we couldn’t accept someone else’s definition of awesome. We had to establish our own. That makes the geekpreneurs out there infinitely more adept at finding discrepancies in the marketplace and creating products and technologies that fulfill true needs.
The Value of Relationships
We really should thank all of those popular kids for not sitting with us and our superhero lunchboxes. I’m firmly of the belief that geeks like us were taught a better way of building relationships. Since we didn’t have that “ready made” audience, we realized that relationships worth having must be earned. Once earned, they have to be cultivated and then nurtured. It’s a never-ending cycle and one that can only make our offerings even better. We’re taught not just to value relationships, but that if they’re not properly tended to, they can disappear at any time. That’s something the popular kids never got.
The ability to build, nurture, and maintain relationships? Incredibly sexy. And in the business realm, it’s one of the sexiest abilities we can have, as our audience will love us for it.
Seductive or Successful?
Our younger years were spent being told that popularity was the equivalent of success. Seduced, we were (insert Yoda voice) by artificial metrics that told us what was good and bad. Today? We know that the sexiest thing we can be is unpopular. Building for everyone means building for no one – and we’re not in this gig to waste anyone’s time.
So, should we choose popularity’s seduction (and all of the plastic trophies that accompany it)? Or are we better off with understanding the true nature of success – the ability to create a business that we not only love, but build it for the people who will ultimately love us? I’ll stand by my assertion that geeks are dead sexy and there’s a fierce need to embrace our respective inner black sheep. We’re not followers – we’re leaders. We’re not popular – and never want to be. But we are determined, resourceful, and something none of those popular kids will ever be: Dead sexy to the people who matter most – our customers.
Erika Napoletano – the creator behind the RedheadWriting online persona – is the Head Redhead at RHW Media, a Denver-based digital strategy consultancy. In English, that means she spends her days keeping companies from looking like assholes online. She’s the author of two books, an unapologetic blogger, and a monthly columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine. A lover of banana milkshakes in spite of a lactose intolerance, you can learn more about her at ErikaNapoletano.com and check out her newest book – The Power of Unpopular at UnpopularBook.com.