Five ways to stand out from the crowd in your career

Mentalist Larry Soffer. Photo: Supplied

Mentalist Larry Soffer. Photo: Supplied

Published Jul 14, 2023


Like most of us, Larry Soffer used to believe that his success, both on and off the stage, was all about getting that one lucky break. But then he had a revelation - realising that success is not a one-time wonder, but a continuous process of seizing opportunities and making the most of them.

Soffer, one of the leading mentalists in Africa, shares below his life lessons and insights with the world.

Whether you're a stage performer looking to make it big, an entrepreneur trying to stand out from the crowd or a small business wanting to keep your head above the competition, these five tips could be a game changer.

1. Know your market

Yes, you read that right. Even as an artist I study my audiences with a fine lens to better understand their likes and dislikes. That’s because, just like in the business world, the principles of supply and demand are very much in play - and to be successful, you need to give the audience what they want without stripping away your personal style and expression.

I am always looking for ways to make my acts and performance more powerful and engaging for my audiences. I pride myself in having a sophisticated brand, which I have carefully curated and that appeals to my audience. When people recognise me, usually at the airport, and come up to say hello, I always ask them where they watched me perform and what they enjoyed most about the show.

2. Strive for perfection

Life, and everything in it, is a work in progress, so it’s essential that we continue honing and excelling in our chosen craft. Whatever your profession, being mediocre is just not an option. To be successful, you need to be one of the best in your field, and that requires commitment and perseverance. Remember, practice makes perfect so find your niche and own it. If there are only a few people that do what you do, it immediately makes your brand unique and difficult for others to compete in that space.

In the entertainment world, perfection comes in different shapes and sizes. I think it is important to be likeable, relatable and grounded, so that the audience likes you as a person in addition to what you do. The more barriers between yourself and your audience, the less likeable you will be. You must also be willing to evolve and stay relevant and consistent.

3. Find your why

Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life. I think one of the main causes of a short-lived career is that people start out for the wrong reasons. In the entertainment world, some performers are simply seeking fame, while in the business sector it’s all about making lots of money fast. I strongly believe that those artists who really stand the test of time are the ones who do their job because of a higher calling. Perhaps they have a message they want to share with the world, or they want to give something back. Adjust your purpose so that it focuses on what you offer others, rather than on what you will gain as an individual - you will be more likely to fight harder for success.

Having a big ego can easily be the death of an artist. You often see people attain a bit of success and then develop a bad attitude. No one wants to have a reputation for being a diva or entitled. Fame brings ease, but also a lot of pressure. Once the world is aware of your established brand, then expectations are high, and it requires hard work and dedication to maintain this momentum.

It is essential that you are always on the top of your game. I believe it is important to stay humble and to always treat people with respect. Good manners will get you far in a highly competitive industry.

4. Make your brand your business

If you want to do business, you must know business. I enjoy doing courses and reading books about running a business. I manage my brand how a CEO would run a big business. I have expert service providers like accountants and publicists to help me, and I spend a great deal of my time canvassing clients and guests after the show to find out what they liked and disliked.

The biggest barrier to growth is thinking you know everything. I am always willing to step out of the box and look at my business and brand from a different perspective, and then make necessary changes. I especially look at the performances from the lens of the audience.

We live in a time where information is just a click away, so there is no excuse not to start learning now. Investing in your future is so important, but you need to be willing to learn and make the time for it. Reach out to people who are more successful than you, ask them questions; and surround yourself with friends who also want to grow their businesses and careers.

5. Don’t be afraid to fake it till you make it.

The hustle is hard, so be prepared to do whatever it takes to make your dreams a reality. When I was starting out, I was invited to be a guest on a popular TV show in Johannesburg. I was young and broke, with no money for flights or a new suit. Instead of turning it down, I took the bus to Johannesburg, and asked an upcoming fashion designer to sponsor my outfit. I also had no money for accommodation so when I arrived in Johannesburg, I changed in the bus station bathroom, did the interview, and took the bus back.

Everyone must start somewhere, and it usually is not as glamorous as people perceive it to be at first. However, you must do what you can to make yourself seen, heard and remembered.