As humans, we like predictability. The reason why we find magic tricks and illusions so thrilling is because they surprise us. We willingly allow ourselves to be deceived for the stimulation that only the unexpected can provide. One moment, there is normalcy; the next moment, there is absurdity. In our day to day proceedings, we do not enjoy being surprised. Rather, we like to see a logical path that leads to the events or outcomes in front of us. Our focus is needed elsewhere, and the stimulation from the unexpected is (mostly) unwanted.
Let’s take a look at this scenario. You live in a bustling city and see a biker riding rashly down the road, weaving in and out of cars like a maniac. As the biker attempts to cut in front of yet another car, he is hit by that car and knocked to the ground. You could see it coming from a mile away. You may have even thought to yourself “He’s going to get hit if he keeps that up!” The biker's past behavior coupled with the known perils of a city make the outcome logical and less shocking.
However, let’s say you are unfamiliar with the workings of a city and you did not see the biker's past behaviors. When the biker is struck by the car, what would you think then? Chances are you would be willing to place the blame on the driver for being un-attentive and irresponsible, as common belief asserts that motor vehicles pose a threat to bikers. Additionally, the accident itself is more shocking and surprising than if you had the prior context to rationalize the event. In these cases, there is a "witness bias". The person with the prior frame of reference tends to blame the biker, whereas the person without any context will blame the accident on a motorist.
This is not unique to any one individual or culture, but is rather a basic human survival strategy. By drawing assumptions about a situation based on prior knowledge, our minds fill in the perception gaps and give us the ability to respond to situations more rapidly. The less prior knowledge we possess, the more surprised we are.
While most claim that predictability and uniqueness are opposing characteristics, I argue that predictability creates the opportunities for expressions of individuality. Opportunities present themselves to those who are prepared and positioned.
Preparation is a personal undertaking. This is where you BUILD your identity. This is where you create and wow.
Positioning is a social undertaking. This is where you COMMUNICATE your identity. This is how you build the opportunities to create and wow.
Knowing how to communicate your experiences to the rest of the world is essential to staying "predictable.” Find your identity, and create a summary that logically connects the main points. This will be the version of yourself you deliver to those who don't know you but you want to know. With every subsequent interaction, delve deeper into each point, naturally peeling away layers through the course of genuine interaction. It's not just about personal branding or marketing yourself. Rather, it's about knowing your morals and principles so well that you can honestly communicate them effortlessly in a way that people want to hear. Guide other peoples’ understanding of who you are so that they want to learn more. Perhaps most importantly, accept that your identity and how you package yourself must constantly be evolving.
First, get people to come see your show; THEN you can wow them.