I’ve spent most of my life being invisible. Not really (obviously), but I certainly felt that way.

If I even as much as brushed my hair the other way, friends I’d known for years would pass me on the street without recognition. It’s happened as long as I can remember and it feels terrible.

Which is why last week, it was such an incredible experience to be recognized by residents of a small town I lived in for 7 months in 2011. On a peninsula that sees upwards of 5 million visitors a year, relative strangers had space in their memories for a tall American girl, who, in the words of one shop keeper, has “matured” since then.

No wonder I like it here! I’m somebody.

Which is really the secret to being successful in business too, isn’t it?

Stand out. Make yourself known. Be memorable.

Yesterday, I spent a fantastic 90-minutes helping a realtor in Auckland strategize how to distinguish himself from the competition. A born innovator and people-lover, he has all the natural gifts and inclinations to lead the pack, but he’d gotten stuck in a cycle of feeling uninspired and trapped by the same old, same old advertising practices.

So I told him about the lantern.

Each one of us is carrying a lantern in the world – our vision of what could and should be.

My lantern glows “you’re enough”, “seek freedom within”. His says “you matter” and “you’re not alone”.

When you’re in touch with your lantern’s message, it’s easy to see how it weaves through your life – the clubs you join, the friends you have, the topics and TV shows you like – the business you start.

But when you’re not cognizant of your bigger theme, it’s easy to feel lost in business. Without your lantern, you’re literally left in the dark to compete with others who seem just like you.

You end up fighting for attention on the level of execution, and that’s a stressful, constantly changing, and nerve-wracking place to work.

To be blunt – running your business by tactics is unsustainable. At some point, you will get buried by the next shiny, new thing.

But running your business from a place of vision makes you one-of-a-kind. Because no one can dim your lantern.

Others can distract from it and even throw stones at it, but only you determine how brightly your message shines in the world.

Which is why the real question to ask when you’re struggling in your business is not what new-fangled sales tactic or technology you need – but how clearly are you in tune with your message?

  • Are you showing up and showing yourself – your true self – to others?
  • Are you allowing your light to shine so brightly that people can see you through the fog of fast phrases and catchy slogans?
  • Are you continually pointing to the real reason you do what you do?

Because the higher you hold your lantern, the more opportunity you give people to join you in your vision.

When your clients align with your vision, then they like you for you. They like what you offer because they trust and believe in you. And they know you have the solution they need because they can see you down the path, lighting the way for them.

You become a thought leader in your field, not by tricking people into paying attention to you, but by allowing them to see you – the deepest, most meaningful part of you – the message you came to share with the world.

Focus on that.

Know what your lantern is shining to others. Then make it glow as bright as it can, any way that you can. Bring all your best tactics to bear – calls, webinars, books, pamphlets, talks, advertising. But make sure they enhance your glow, not cloud it over.

Because you – in all your radiance – are your unfair advantage.

Be free. Be brave. Be YOU!