How to stand out in a crowd like Brian Wilson

James with baseball star Brian Wilson (left)
James with baseball star Brian Wilson (left)

LAST night I went out with some friends to a Bondi Beach bar in Sydney, Australia and ran into famous American baseball player, Brian Wilson.

If you don't know anything about Major League Baseball in the US, Wilson is a very good pitcher renowned for that black beard and his “fear the beard” catchphrase. If you DO know something about Major League Baseball in the US, you'll know that Wilson won a World Series with the Giants in 2010, and recently signed a $10 million one-year-deal with the LA Dodgers.

But I initially didn't notice Wilson as the famous baseball player last night. When I first saw him, all I noticed was the peculiar-looking man with a long, black, straggly beard and shaved-on-the-sides but long-on-top hair style. This man stood out. And I stared.

It got me thinking about how we human beings stand out in crowds. My journalism students all want to stand out in crowds when going for jobs. When the competition is fierce, the ones how stand out the most are the ones who get the jobs.

Baseball star, Wilson, clearly has a wild, non-conventional look that demands attention. But if growing a long, straggly beard is not an option for you (ladies), how do you stand out in a crowd? Well, you could jump up and down. Take your top off. Make annoying noises.

But those strategies usually create short-lived interest or ridicule. And they're not going to get you a job. Instead, there are ways to stand out in the crowd in a professional way and be noticed in a dignified manner. Here are three of them:

Have impeccable manners.

I've noticed a deterioration in basic manners over the years. Too many people check their phones over lunch, arrive to scheduled meetings late, don't call people by their first names. I give away my Winning With People notes when people subscribe to my website at Read over those notes before new year's eve to remind you how to have impeccable manners. People always respond to people with impeccable manners. After I got my job hosting SportsCenter on ESPN, my producer later told me one of the reasons he hired me was because of my manners. I was polite, courteous, on-time and followed up with him. Manners goes a LONG way.


The absolute easiest way to stand out in a crowd and have people like you is to smile genuinely. People want to be around people who are fun and happy. You'll make them feel good just be you feeling good. Smiling is the first indicator you are a person they want to be around. So smile. Sometimes, when I'm feeling a little down, I'll go to the local supermarket and force myself to smile at other shoppers. Within moments, my mood changes and I go back to being happy. Oh, and other shoppers smile back at you.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

You will make mistakes. It's how you handle it that will make the difference between standing out and not. Learn to laugh at yourself. Laugh when others make fun of you. Don't take yourself too seriously. Sometimes, I write a blog post or an email to you, I read it back and think to myself, “This is embarrassing what I'm saying. I'm telling them too much about my life.” But then I say to myself, “Stop taking yourself so seriously, James. Get over yourself.” And I hit send. I almost always get positive feedback. Most people DO take themselves too seriously. And those people are usually NOT popular.

So there are three ways to stand out in a crowd. And you don't need to look like Brian Wilson to do it.
What do you think?
What ways do you know to stand out in a crowd?
What's worked for you?
I want to hear from you so leave a comment in the comments section below.

Author, Insider Journalism Secrets
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