That Thing

That Thing by Dr. Robert Gerwig

Do you have a “unique selling proposition”? … Do you even know what that is (or care)? A unique selling proposition (USP) is basically a marketing concept. A USP sets your product or brand apart from the competition. It is a differentiator. It is what your product is “known for.” People in business, and rightly so, believe that a strong USP can lead to increased market share and possibly a higher price point than competitive products that have a less attractive USP.

Regardless of your role(s), thinking through your USP has value. You don’t have to be a marketer or product manager to have a USP. In fact, each of us should think about “that thing” (a non-technical term I kinda made up) which sets us apart. What is “that thing” you’re known for? “That thing” you do better than others in your class? In your neighborhood? In your state? In your school? In your office?

“That thing” sets you apart. It makes you different, unique and special. This article is not about your spiritual gifts or your value as a child of God. This article is about “that thing” that sets you apart in a secular manner so-to-speak.

Think about it. Who can do everything? … Think about it. What famous athlete, business person, politician, educator, military officer or “fill-in-the-blank” does everything well? … Think about it. What stay-at-home parent or retired person or grandparent does everything with excellence? … Answer, no one.

Yes, there is the occasional “renaissance” man or woman who does many things really well. But for all practical purposes, the people who are the “best” in the world, the true exemplars, focus and have a specialty, a USP. It’s “that thing” they’re known for.

For example, how many world-class sprinters are also world-class marathoners? How many world-class history teachers are also world-class biology teachers? How many world-class entrepreneurs are also world class day-to-day managers? … I might even go so far as to say that many world-class exemplars seem a little “strange” (in a positive way of course) at times. Come on now, you know what I mean.

It’s ok to be balanced and to do everything “average.” But if you really want to excel, really want to be world-class, really want to be amazing, you better identify, hone and stick with “that thing.”

I’ll illustrate with a cooking example, since I don’t cook much. I used to think that all “cooks” were kinda the same. Either you know how to cook or you didn’t. However, that is not the case at all. One time I received a 30 minute lesson (read lecture) from a certified German Master Baker on baking. It happened to be “that thing” he was known for. It was his bailiwick, his USP. He made it clear to me that he wasn’t renowned in other areas of cooking. He was renowned as a baker. … To me, he was a great chef/cook who could prepare amazing dishes, but to other culinary experts (including the German Master Baker himself), he was an average chef and a great baker. Baking was “that thing” he was known for.

The picture above shows a Toyota Prius. A Prius is known for its gas mileage. The USP for a Prius is gas mileage. It’s what separates it from other autos. If you want to haul a half-ton of gravel, you better get a Ford F-150 or a Toyota Tundra. If you want to accelerate really fast, you better get a Bugatti Veyron Super Sport or a Hennessey Venom GT. But if you want to get great gas mileage (because you’re “green” or “cheap” or both), you better get a Toyota Prius (or a motorcycle/scooter).

As always, the point of these articles is “application.” … How does this apply to you, in your life, wherever you are? What is “that thing” you’re known for? What really sets you apart from the competition? What makes you unique? Special? Different? … What is “that thing” in your life? How did you identify it? Was it obvious at an early age? How have you honed “that thing” through the years?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]


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