Fly Your Freak Flag

Let’s face it. Most professionals are afraid to fly our freak flag. To clearly and baldly show our clients what makes us uniquely compelling. It feels safer and more comforting to be like everyone else.

But those who make a lasting impact in their field, who we remember fondly, are often those who are authentic, even if that makes them a bit of a character.

In the last week, we’ve lost two of these characters: Leslie Nielsen and Ron Santo. Consider what being authentically different—and taking some bold risks—won them.

Before breaking into comic actor status, Nielsen was a serious dramatic actor. He had the look, the bearing, the hair. Remember The Poseidon Adventure? He was a workhorse actor who probably would have quietly filled small dramatic character roles until retirement.

Instead, in his mid-fifties, he took a career-bending risk appearing in Airplane! Becoming “the Olivier of spoofs”  gave him entrée to a whole new generation (and genre) of fans. Not to mention extending his career (and earnings power) by a good 20 years.

Which leads me to Ron Santo, the legendary 3rd baseman for the Chicago Cubs. Despite (because of?) battling Type I diabetes, he tended to live large and exuberantly. On the year leading up to the infamous black cat incident at Shea Stadium, this macho guy jumped and clicked his heels after every victory.

But it was his second career in the announcer’s booth where he let his freak flag fly. Santo regularly butchered names and let his attention stray strictly from the game. Hardly top credentials for a radio sports announcer. But his sheer delight in all things Cubs (he kept working through double leg amputations) won him a new set of fans who had never seen him play. He prolonged his career, and as he often professed, his life, through his extended Cubs affiliation.

So. What’s it gonna be? Dare you risk flying your freak flag?

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12 Responses to Fly Your Freak Flag

  1. One of the best, Brooke! John Candy was another 🙂

  2. Freak flag flying proudly over here! Loved this post.

  3. Ed Rosenbaum says:

    You selected two outstanding celebrities to make your point. I happen to have been fans of both and liked the performances they gave especially the second part of their careers.
    Bob Ueker (sp?) iand Terry Bradshaw are two others to add to the list. And how about a man who passed away today, Dandy Don Meredith.

  4. Hi Lise–good for you. I love it!

  5. Good additions, Ed! I thought about Dandy Don (celebrities do seem to pass in 3’s don’t they?) His comment when Vice President Spiro Agnew visited the Monday Night booth: “I didn’t vote for you, but you do have a nice suit on.”

  6. Katie says:

    Love the advice! I once told a group of colleagues that I had a secret desire to go through my college calculus book and do all the problems in it. A moment of silence was followed by an outburst of laughter that I don’t think they’ll forget.

  7. Hi Katie,
    Calculus huh? Guess you are flying your freak flag for sure 🙂 I love that it was unexpected and I bet you’re right–it was unforgettable.

  8. Hey Todd,
    I know what you’re thinking…..
    open; undisguised: a bald lie.
    Having little or no hair on the scalp: a bald head; a bald person.

    I meant the former 🙂

  9. I enjoyed reading this post. Made me think about how reserved we can become not wanting to offend anyone or being seen a weird.

    Yet letting the authentic you off the leash once and awhile could become a habit that becomes not just a standout, but others will see you as outstanding.

    Thanks Rochelle

  10. Thanks Stephen! You realize everyone will assume we’re related since we both like to let our freak flags fly now and then 🙂

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