The subtle art of being different.

DO Lectures
5 min readApr 23, 2024

There are 1593 hotels in Los Angeles as of March 15, 2024.

The competition is abundant, and some have deep pockets.

Take The Four Seasons, which is regularly voted by Conde Nast as one of the top world class hotels to stay at. In 2010, it invested $33 million dollars on upgrading its 285 rooms.

It is neither easy nor cheap to be better than the competition.

  • The Toronto hotel group has over 100 hotels.
  • Bill Gates is the majority shareholder. (Deeeeeeeeeeeeep pockets.)
  • The Four Seasons doesn’t own any of its properties — it earns 3% on gross income and 5% on profits from the properties it operates.


So, how do you stand apart from the other 1592, assuming you can’t outspend them?

The Subtle art of being different?

This mindset applies to any business, and it can take you away from struggle and this kind of thinking.

  • It’s alright for them.
  • It is what it is.
  • This year, my luck will change.

Now, the important lesson to learn here is that trying to be better than your competition will mean you play by their rules. Their rules are designed so they win. It’s why they love it when you try to be better than them.

A word of caution.

You must be good at what you do. Admit to yourself this truth, you can’t be good everywhere. But you MUST be good somewhere.

Learn from the Magic Castle Hotel, LA.

It was the #2 rated hotel on Trip Advisor from thousands of reviews.

  • It is not fancy.
  • It does not have deep pockets.
  • Even the deep end of its pool isn’t that deep.

But, it did not play by the rules.

It understood it could not win by trying to be better. Instead, it chose to be different. But it realised there is an art to being different.

Being different is powerful when you understand it must come from a truth you can uniquely bring to life.

A truth.

Kids of a certain age don’t give a hoot about luxury.

  • They don’t care about the thread count on the Egyptian cotton pillows.
  • They don’t care about the muted pastel shades of wall paint that are designed to relax you and make you feel calm.
  • They don’t care about the wine cellar with 15,000 bottles of fine wine from France and beyond.

On the other hand, they do care about Lollipops. Now, they MATTER.

Which is why by the very average-looking pool at the Castle Magic Hotel, there’s a bright red phone that has a sign above it that says, “Popsicle Hotline.”

And when the kids pick up the phone, somebody answers and says, “Popsicle Hotline! We’ll be right out.”

And moments later, somebody comes out wearing a suit, carrying a silver tray loaded with grape and cherry and orange popsicles. They present them to you wearing white gloves, like an English butler, all for free.

Someone at Castle Hotel had an important insight:

  • Kids make the decisions.
  • Adults provide the transportation.
  • And, if they behave, they get to pick up the bill at the end of the stay.

If it’s down to the kids where to stay, and, OH, IT IS, they don’t stay at the boring Four Seasons.

The ‘Popsicle Hotline’ didn’t cost $33 million. The ‘Popsicle Hotline’ provided a peak moment for the kids. And you can be sure, that kids will tell their friends about the ‘Popsicle Hotline’, especially if their friends’ parents are making them suffer by staying at the Four Seasons.

How do you find your uniqueness?

Hint: It isn’t probably what you are doing now.

Right now, you are probably caught up in the trap of trying to be better. And, if truth be told, it is proving to be a right old struggle. Trying to be better is what everyone else is doing, and the competition of trying to be better is huge. And it comes at a huge price. Not just in money but in the sheer effort of it all.

The answer is to understand the art of being different.

You can’t just be different. Being different only has real power when it comes from a truth. Once that insight comes to light, then being different comes down to execution.

Shall the ‘Popsicle Hotline’ be a red phone or a yellow one?

You winning then is no longer about how big your budget is. You rise above competing. You become without compare.

Now, this isn’t easy.

That is why lots of people understand the importance of being different. Yet, only the few understand the subtle art of finding a truth that makes being different so powerful. But when you get it, you’ll never be concerned with the competition again.

  • You stop focusing on them.
  • What they have that you don’t.
  • Instead, it becomes all about how unique you are.

Post it Notes and Sharpies.

As you can see, the subtle art of being different can lead to a breakthrough that can suddenly get your business back to thrive.

On May the 4th, we are holding an event for founders to help founders do that.

  • To leave overwhelm.
  • To stop the idea working longer is the only way to grow your business.
  • To get the fun back.

It takes place in our cowshed in West Wales at the annual iconic Makers + Maverick event.

You will get the Keynotes before you arrive. It is called flipped learning.

Then at the 1 day event, it is all workshops — think post it notes and sharpies rather than keynotes and talks.

They will come to help you be different.

  • In a way that is unique to you.
  • In return, you will help them see an answer that is obvious to you, but not to them.

If you want to leave struggle, if you want this year to be different you will have to think differently, you will have to shake things up a bit and, even if you are an introvert, and you don’t like this kind of thing, you will be mighty glad you did because it’s time to get unstuck.

Learn more here:

I hope this was useful even if you can’t come along on the day.

David Hieatt