In some areas of life, we get used to a certain predictable standard. The formulaic approach becomes 'good enough.' Then along comes a maverick, who displays ludicrous and disproportionate levels of artistry where we’ve rarely seen such artistry before, and in doing so, carries the genre forward. Such people are not just a ‘slightly better version of.’ They really become a new level entirely.

Take the example of rock super-group Linkin Park. In a genre often populated by fun-seeking adolescents, Linkin Park was comprised of serious-minded musicians. Oh, there was all the usual screaming and thrashing guitars. But there was also advanced melody, harmony and studious attention to detail. They were the first to blend techniques from metal and rap in a way that not only worked, but was even suitable for mainstream radio play. They created something entirely new.

Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda (the two lead singers), and the members of Linkin Park have been declared ‘The Biggest Rock Band in the World,’ ‘the best-selling band of the 21st century,’ and a handful of other such honorariums. They sold more than 68 million records and won two Grammy Awards. They were also the first rock band to achieve over one billion hits on YouTube.

The average rock group typically comprises two guitarists, a drummer, a bassist and vocals. Linkin Park felt beholden to no such formula. In their third album, they even incorporated flutes and orchestral instruments alongside the guitars and synthesised effects.

Their lyrics, too, displayed greater depth and range than the stock fare. Consider these lines from ‘Iridescent, off the album, ‘A Thousand Suns’:


‘…And in the burst of light that blinded every angel

As if the sky had blown the heavens into stars

You felt the gravity of temper grace falling into empty space

No one there to catch you in their arms

Do you feel cold and lost in desperation

You build up hope but failure's all you've known

Remember all the sadness and frustration

And let it go, let it go.’


That’s a far cry from the sort of ‘Yeah, baby. Let’s go, uh-huh!’ that one might typically associate with mainstream rock.

Their inspiration, too, was unique. The album Meteora was inspired by a region of Greece by the same name, where monasteries are built into the rocky hills and escarpments. For a rock-band to draw on something so exotic clearly hints at very active minds, in search of something above and beyond the obvious stereotypes of their genre. There was more there, and it showed. These were no mere thrill-seekers. These young men believed that they could take things to a completely new level, and indeed, before the tragedy of Chester Bennington's death this year, they truly did.

When we first enter an industry, it is immensely tempting to try to look and sound like everyone else. Just follow the formula. And doing so is certainly one way to learn the basics. But beyond the level of essential competence, you must start breaking away from the norms and seek distinction. You must begin to explore ways in which you can be unpredictable, unique, disproportionately brilliant. That is not an outcome guaranteed by a formula. That requires your own creative fingerprint. 

It all begins when you stop copying others, and start making the argument from your own love of the thing… Display disproportionate excellence, and you could become the greatest in your game. 



Douglas Kruger is a business presenter and author of 5 books with Penguin Random House, including ‘Own Your Industry - How to Position Yourself as an Expert’, he speaks locally and internationally on the topic of disruptive innovation and the differences between amateurs and experts. Douglas is also a multiple award-winning speaker, who was inducted into the ‘Speakers Hall of Fame’ in 2016. See him in action at  


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