You Can’t Afford to Swim in an Ocean of Sameness

mocha momentsIf you haven’t already, you need to subscribe to Success Magazine. I get nothing for this promotion but I think that hands down it’s the best value for money. Not only do you get great content but you also get an audio CD featuring spectacular interviews with people who you may not necessarily come across in your day to day internet travels.

I recently “met” one such individual – Nido Qubein, President of Highpoint University. In his interview he talked about creating a “paradigm shift” in higher education. When asked about the campus improvements, Nido said that they were intended “to create an environment in which [students] aspire to become extraordinary.”

What exactly does he mean? In an April 2012 Bloomberg article, Carol Matlack provided this description:

“As our little electric train pulls away from the admissions building, it’s already clear that High Point University looks like no campus any of us has ever seen. Piped-in classical music drifts across freshly planted flower beds as a student guide, steering a golf-cart-style “engine,” tows our group of six parents and teens past statues of Aristotle, Galileo, and Jefferson. She parks in front of the Plato S. Wilson School of Commerce, and we clamber out to tour the building. Opened in 2009, it’s outfitted with marble floors, a full-size replica of a financial trading floor, and a classroom with row upon row of computer-assisted design consoles. The kids’ eyes pop as the tour continues, with visits to a first-run movie theater, a steakhouse, and dorms with plasma-screen TVs and outdoor hot tubs.”

Now I understand what Nido meant when he said “High Point can no longer swim in an ocean of sameness.”

You have to understand that NOTHING existed like High Point before Nido Qubein took the reins as President. Even his approach to raising money is unorthodox as far as Universities go. According to Matlack – “The details of his plan resemble some of the high-risk behavior that blew up investment banks in 2008. He’s following an approach that is known in higher-ed circles as the “residence hall” or “field of dreams” strategy. He’s borrowed tens of millions to build upscale dorms, used the new facilities to attract more students, and then used their fees to pay interest on the debt and underwrite more construction.”

Nido was courageous enough to step out of the ocean of sameness of Universities – how they look AND how they operate. He had a vision and he is working steadfastly to making it come true.

My friend Richie Norton talks about this kind of courage in his book “The Power of Starting Something Stupid.”  You have to have the courage to do work that matters and to do it with your heart and soul.

Forbes columnist recently shared Richie’s 5 suggestions on how to make authenticity operational in your life:

  • Break free of fear, pride and procrastination – we cannot recognize and operate from our inherent sense of direction if we are filled with fear and pride. If you regularly act on impulse, you won’t arrive anywhere good. You have to break free from self-imposed limitations.
  • Find the courage to do things you are not ready to do – Richie shares how he got this phrase from Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo!, at a commencement address at the Illinois Institute of Technology where she encouraged students to find courage to do the things you are not ready to do. Push through your uneasiness.


  • Set standards, keep them and get respect – Illustrating this section is the famous surfer Eddie Aikau. Have you ever seen the bumper sticker: Eddie Would Go. It refers to Eddie’s fame as a lifeguard who rescued many. And to his skills as a big wave surfer.
  • Trust yourself – Richie explains that even if your life has been a series of mistakes and failures, those are things you did; they are not who you are. Powerful reminder to forgive yourself and move on. He paraphrases a well known quote from Paul Boese — forgiveness may not change your past, but it sure does enlarge your future.

We have all mulled over suggestions 1 through 4 in some way shape or form. But suggestion 5 needs some contemplation:

Number 5 – Start Your Stupid Ideas

Richie asks: “Imagine what your life would be like if you were completely uninhibited by fear, pride, or procrastination. What would you be capable of? Anything is the answer.”

TJ explains “For the record stupid in the title is about crazy ideas, ideas that others find outlandish. It isn’t about true stupidity. It is about the cultural labeling that takes place and which you should fight against. The core message is don’t wait, start stuff.”

Are you delivering a unique message and product or service based on things you found that were authentic to you and your product and/or service? Or are you just mouthing words that you saw someone else deliver in a commercial you liked?  And what about your clients – would your clients say you are unique and special? Are you contributing in a way that stretches you and maximizes your talents and abilities, or are you just following the rules because you’re too lazy to do otherwise?

A friend was recounting a meeting at work, held by the Managing Director, with zero employee participation. Apparently he (the M.D) had received a book as a gift, read it, and was now trying enforce the book’s ideas. People can smell inauthenticity like a rat that’s been dead for a couple days and so everyone looked on in mock amusement as he tried to rally the troops and get them to buy in to the book’s philosophy.

Was anything wrong with ideas in the book? No. What was wrong was the approach. This Managing Director refuses to hear any feedback from his staff. It’s his way or no way. Why would they listen to him?

If we want to have any influence, and not just follow systems and rules and ways of doing things, we will have to do the work. We must be willing to receive feedback and not be so fixed that we are immovable. We must be able to step away from “this is how we’ve ALWAYS done it” and open up to new possibilities.

This is the only way we will quit swimming in the “Sameness Ocean.” If we continue to swim along merrily, we’ll be doing so at our own peril. You see once you are in the “Ocean of Sameness” Mr.Qubein says, “you are in the danger zone.”



Richie Norton bestselling author of “The Power of Starting Something Stupid”, will be coming to Trinidad in June! In this era of negativity, less, limitations and no, Richie offers hope, inspiration and profound advice for moving toward our own positive futures. In order to be one of the first to receive information about this limited edition event, send an email to

One thought on “You Can’t Afford to Swim in an Ocean of Sameness

  1. I enjoy your posts Giselle. This article in particular resonates with me. I really appreciate the links to various resources that you selflessly share. Thank you Giselle.

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