Barrett Jackson Car Values – Lessons in Confidence for High Achievers

It was my first time at the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction. I watched in fascination as each car came up the ramp and the bidding began. One of my clients had educated me on the specialized world of cars—the Trailer Queens which are pretty and pristine, but not driven on roads; the Kustom cars, which are modified but retain their 50s and 60s vibe, and my favorite kind–the sleek, sexy cars that scream “FAST” without saying a word.

As I became adept at distinguishing the various categories of cars, I also noticed that I could predict the bidding ranges for most of them. Even though all of the cars were beautiful, unique, and painstakingly maintained, a car that landed above the typical bidding range was special.

The “special” tasted a little different depending on the car. One car had a history connected to a famous singer, another car was a special shade of pink—a color that invoked passionate longing or revolting displeasure. Some cars were special because they had been donated for important charities. On the road, any one of these cars would stand out, but surrounded by many other unique cars, it was the ‘special’ that increased the value.

I sat in the audience, watching the cars, and thinking about the way people try to blend in, even when it’s the ‘special’ that is the most valuable. Too smart, too analytical, too quiet, too complex, too dichotomous, too passionate, too emotional, too direct…notice that these characteristics may be strengths in some settings or challenges in others. (The challenge of each strength is its shadow side).

Our economy values what is different. Everyone eats vanilla ice cream, but no one is going to build a franchise based on it. Your company assesses its unique offerings when direct competitors emerge. We follow leaders who catch our attention because they are somehow different.

A lot of high achievers struggle with feeling special. They simply feel like an outsider. On the outside, people perceive them as great leaders; on the inside, they struggle with the challenges of being different.

You can’t be a great leader by blending in. I know that sometimes you may feel isolated or misunderstood. But the special is what allows you to make the maximum impact. Your edges, your color, your characteristics that drive people crazy and make them love you…these qualities increase your value to all of us.



1.    Look for the ways in which your personality challenges can be your biggest assets.

2.    Focus on the strengths you bring to the table instead of whether you are too much or not enough.


1.    Make sure that your team is not one-note. We tend to like people who are similar to us, but teams can function at a high level when each person has a set of unique strengths.

2.    When you have a challenging subordinate or colleague, see if you can reframe the problem as a shadow side of the “special” rather than pressuring him/her to conform. For example, if someone is blunt at the expense of others’ feelings, teach him/her when to use that attribute for maximum effectiveness.


1.    Figure out what your organization brings to the table that is unique or unexpected.

2.    In times of uncertainty, use your own culture and value system as the foundation of the decision-making process rather than following what other organizations are doing.