5 Key Skills That Help You Stand Out

December 15, 2023

At Scatter, we’re equipping you with the tools and resources you need to thrive in the ways God has uniquely designed you to contribute. We want to see you leverage your personality and passion, your talents and training to bring real and lasting impact to the world around you.

In 1853, two major events happened that would go on to define New York City in separate but magnificent ways. The first was done by Frederick Law Olmsted and it involved the New York Legislature setting aside over 750 acres in downtown Manhattan that would go on to be called ‘Central Park.’

The second event came at the hands of tinkerer and inventor, Elisha Otis. You may or may not recognize his name, but you have likely stepped into his handiwork within the last few months, and it’s safe to say that no modern city would exist if it were not for his mechanical genius.

Otis, along with his family, was the first to implement the elevator safety break, giving rise to the secure transportation of passengers in elevators up and down taller buildings. Even today, when you step into an elevator, you’ll likely see the word “Otis” on the door or floor frame - the mark of a legacy passed down from generation to generation.

But what do elevators have to do with helping you stand out? 

Research has found that the average elevator ride in New York City is 118 seconds long, or just under two minutes. Like that elevator ride that takes you to the top of a magnificent skyscraper, you don’t really need a lot of time to stand out. You just need to be able to push the right buttons and then let the pulleys do the rest of the work as you’re propelled upwards.

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We’re in this series of learning what it means to live a “worthy” life. This is part two and if you missed part 1, this would be a good time to pause this read and go back to pick up that piece titled How to Live a Worthwhile Life. That will help you identify the right targets for what “worthy” means and how you can begin to pursue that kind of life.

In this piece, we want to spend some time looking at how to stand out, because there seems to be this underlying tension that we want to live worthwhile lives, but we think that requires the sacrifice of personal ambition or professional success. After all, doesn’t the bible say to aim to live a “hidden,” or a humble life?

To be fair, it’s far too common to idolize success and to put identity and fulfillment in career aspirations. Especially in the rising generations. But that’s not what I’m getting at with this idea of standing out. A pride-fueled push towards societal standing is the opposite of humility and we know that God opposes the proud.

I spend a lot of my professional time engaging with young leaders and time and time again I see young leaders who want to stand out and differentiate themselves. But they go about it using the world’s ways and the world’s words. 

The reality is that you can aim to stand out in ways that are rooted in humility.

You can live a “worthy” life by identifying and pursuing the best version of who God called you to be. This is what it means to be excellent: to be actively demonstrating the highest level of our ability to glorify God and to point those around us towards his power and provision in our lives.

So how do you stand out and become more excellent? You show up with the right set of skills. You prioritize the work that comes before so that when you step into your office, your company, or your classroom, you are ready and geared up for all that God is going to do in and through you. 

That’s why I’ve identified 5 skills, that if embraced, will help you show up, stand out, and will lead you to a life of excellence and worthiness.

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Skill #1 - Timeliness

Perhaps more than anything else we do, the way we manage our time communicates to others how much we value them. And very few leaders, especially young leaders, really embrace this skill.

You’ve heard the cliche that if ‘you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re ______.’ Most of you could finish that phrase with the word “late.” And yet, go to any meeting of young leaders, and you’ll see people scrambling in through the doors right as the gathering is about to start.

Be punctual. It sounds easy, and in some regards it is. But in many ways, it’s incredibly difficult to master because being early means that you have come to know that your time is not your own. At least not as it relates to your interactions with others. 

Timeliness shows that you are willing to set aside yourself for the good of someone else and that is a skill that helps you stand out and showcases excellence. 

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Skill #2 - Preparation

Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” Again, we inherently know that planning is important and sets up better outcomes, so what deters us from putting in the work to plan well?

I could list many things, but I’ll focus on this: distracted priorities. If you ask 100 people on the street how they are doing, you’ll overwhelmingly get these three answers: good, tired, and busy. 

Everyone has a full calendar. That’s become the norm, not the exception. So how do you find time for planning? You have to create that space. You have to structure your priorities. You have to kill pride’s voice in your mind that says, “You can wing it, you know it good enough.”

When someone is prepared, they stand out, because their preparation communicates a rightly-ordered priority list. 

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Skill #3 - Curiosity

I had lunch with a friend recently who said something profound about this upcoming generation of leaders. He said, “People are so quick to say a statement and so slow to ask a question.” Ouch.

One of the most amazing ways to stand out is to be the best question-asker in the room. But it’s not just asking questions for the sake of asking questions. Everyone knows that person who sits on the front row and is the first to raise their hand any time questions are being called for. 

You stand out by asking the right questions. That’s how to truly showcase your curiosity. 

The right questions imply that you listened well to what was said, you valued what was shared, you contextualized the content in a meaningful way based on your knowledge and experience, and that your aim in contributing was to sharpen the speaker and to get him/her to go deeper or wider than they went before.

If you’ve spent time around a curious person, you know the rarity and joy of someone who makes others feel interesting. Aim to be that person.

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Skill #4 - Initiation

There are two components of initiation that I try to instill in every young leader who joins our team, especially leaders who have been contributing at high levels before coming on board with us.

The first is that excellent initiation requires a willingness to do work without having to be asked. That’s the baseline of a good initiator. Are you actively thinking about the gaps that could be spanned and then moving your resources toward building bridges over those gaps? I would hire that person a hundred times over someone I have to pull behind me to get them to tackle a problem. 

But excellent initiation requires a second component and this is where the hook comes in. If you want to initiate well, you have to also exude a willingness to let go of that initiated work when it’s not needed or accepted.

This all boils down to the question: Where is your identity rooted? If you place your value in your initiated bridges, then when those inevitably get burned, you’ll fall into the chasms you were attempting to span.

Rather, excellence initiation that stands out is both willing to do the work and is also willing to let it go, knowing that no work is ever truly wasted.

You, or your company, might not cross over that bridge you made, but someone might come behind you and be set up for success because of your excellent initiation.

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Skill #5 - Remembering

In an age of instant search and near limitless information at our fingertips, memory and the skill of remembering are becoming a lost art. 

Joshua Foer talks in his book Moonwalking with Einstein about the decline of memory and how thousands of years ago, Roman Generals would have memorized the names of every soldier in their armies. Yet today, it’s hard to remember your friend's Starbucks order, let alone their phone number. Heaven forbid someone ask you to memorize a poem, the Scripture, or your company’s cultural values. 

It’s such a simple skill, but you’d be shocked at how much practicing remembering things about people will help you stand out. What should you remember? It doesn’t have to be their whole life story. But start with their names. 

It’s frustrating when someone says to me: “I’m just bad at remembering people’s names.” What I hear is: “I haven’t figured out how to practice adding value to my relationships” (granted, I know and realize there are exceptions). But on the whole, make a point to remember someone’s name. From there, try to remember if they have kids and maybe even what their names are. Perhaps an interesting fact about who that person is? Or where that person came from?

Being intentional with remembering details about people will absolutely help you stand out in significant ways.

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118 Seconds

There’s a temptation to read through a list like this and to say, “That’s so much to put into practice! How will I find the margin to improve in each category?” 

The simplest and best way to tackle these skills is to simply pick one and get started. And as you go, keep in mind that you don’t need to become a master in a day. You say yes to small steps of progress, elevator rides that only last 118 seconds but that lift you to a higher floor of excellence.  

What does this tangibly look like? Maybe one day, you commit to showing up early. One day, you work on remembering the things people share with you. You ask them their names and when they respond, you intentionally listen. Maybe for a series of ‘elevator rides,’ you practice curiosity. Or you come prepared for your next interaction with some ideas. You initiate a conversation at work but hold the work with open hands.

Ultimately, you stand out the most when you are actively growing in how you stand out.

No one is living a perfectly worthy life, so focus on making progress and not on reaching perfection. Take steps each day, and you’ll find that you are standing out from the crowd around you.

Article by Jake Daghe, writer and director of discipleship at Passion City Church

Tagged as: Personal Life  

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