Blinded By The Right

As it turns out, I’m not actually ambidextrous, as I had long believed.

Ambidextrous, as defined by, means: “able to use both hands equally well.”

That’s not me.

I don’t use them “equally well” – I use different hands (mostly my own) for different things, a tendency which, strictly speaking, makes me “Cross-Dominant.”

(Note to Mom: Don’t worry, this has nothing to do with religion.)

So, for example, I’m a lefty when it comes to throwing a Frisbee or football, playing basketball, holding a lacrosse stick, drinking coffee or speaking on the phone.

On the other hand (HAHA!!!), I’m a righty when it comes to eating, writing, shaving, bowling, throwing a baseball, brushing my teeth and, were I invited to, polishing a hippo.

All in all, I consider my cross-dominance to be an advantage.

First, because it seems to me that as long as you have two hands, you may as well maximize body performance and efficiency by distributing the workload evenly.

Second, because it forces me to think.

When I try a new activity for the first time, and because I’m not sure if I’ll be a righty or a lefty in a given situation, I’m forced to ignore convention and just figure things out for myself.

It may take me a little longer to get the hang of it, but the extra time and effort ensures that I’ve fit the situation to my particular skills and orientation. In the end, I’m always better off than if I had simply done it the right (or left) way.

Likewise, as solo professionals, we have (nearly) unlimited freedom to decide how we do what we do. The problem though, is that most of us, in most situations, simply follow the herd:

… The life coach in the process of building a web site visits the sites of other coaches, to “see how you’re supposed to do it.”

… The consultant dipping her toe into social media, first checks out how other consultants tweet, post, link and perform similarly social-media-related verbs.

… The aspiring financial planner reads the right publications, uses the right lingo and even buys the right car, all in the hope of knowing what he’s supposed to know and looking the way he’s supposed to look.

Following the pack is a strong, reasonable, natural tendency and one that I don’t claim to be immune to either. It took me over a year as a solo to realize that I didn’t have to be in my office 8 – 6 everyday, and another year after that before I noticed that my company doesn’t actually have a dress code.

But it’s a problem, nonetheless.

Because when we do things based on “how it’s done,” we give up the opportunity to fit our business lives to the way we prefer to work, think, talk and behave.

We have plenty of freedom, but if we don’t use it, we may as well have jobs (sorry, didn’t mean to scare you).

So here’s what I recommend: Spend a little less time figuring out how, and a little more time asking why:

  • Don’t worry about how to publish a newsletter until you can explain why you need one.
  • Don’t spend a year sweating over the writing of a book without first thinking about where it fits in your overall marketing plan.
  • Don’t build a web site, design a logo, craft a tag line, hire an assistant, enroll in a class, attend a trade show or spend time and/or money learning a new technology until you have a pretty good inkling as to why you need these things in the first place.

Here’s the bottom line. There’s nothing wrong with learning from the example and experience of others. But all too often, we just blindly follow the lead of those who’ve come before.

Take it from a cross-dominant solo professional and do as much of your own trail-blazing as possible. I’ll leave it to you to decide which hand you swing your machete with.

13 thoughts on “Blinded By The Right

  1. Arlene Dolin

    I am also “cross-dominant” – I write & eat with my left hand, but play tennis and do things requiring strength with my right. When I was growing up, lefties had to sit at right-handed desks, use right-handed scissors and eat next to right-handed people, so I learned very early to adapt. I look at how “others do it” when trying something new, but I always keep in mind that doesn’t mean they are the experts. Asking “why” instead of “how” is a good lesson and something I need to do more often – interesting blog.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Arlene! Sounds like we are mirror images on the dominance front. In fact, I think of myself as right-handed but left-armed, so the strength stuff is lefty for me.
      I had it easier in the early years since as a writing righty, the desks and eating were not a problem!

  2. Doug Sowerbutts

    Fear raises it’s head again here and the ‘what ifs’ and ‘what will others think’ thoughts take over holding back creative action and doing something a little different. We all need to be non-conformist at times like you Michael which I guess is not that easy in conformist professions like legal, accounting etc.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hello Doug!
      I agree, and it’s a fear I discuss frequently with clients and workshop participants. The interesting thing, of course, is that the more you conform, the less you stand out. And the less you stand out, the harder it is to get noticed and hired.
      As I like to say, I’m not suggesting professionals become “crazy.” But, there’s a lot (a lot) of running room between where they like to stand (boring, conventional) and crazy. I just want them to take a few steps in that direction!
      Great hearing from you as always,

  3. Pamela Van Nest

    I miss your photo Michael!!
    I wish I had had this audio note a year ago, when I created a website etc thinking that’s what I was supposed to do. I can now go back and ask myself if what I have works and why it works so thanks for that!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hello Pamela! I think you’re the first person who’s ever missed my photo, so thank you for that.
      On the web site thing, I was talking with a client today who’s redoing her site and suggested that she deliberately *not* look to her own industry for web site inspiration. In the group courses that I offer, we typically have a dozen people who are all over the map (literally and figuratively) and the cross-pollination of ideas from outside each person’s respective box is great!

  4. Jean Gogolin

    My husband, who was raised in Alabama, was forced in first grade to switch from his naturally dominant left hand for to his right when he was being taught to write. So all his life he was cross-dominant too. One of his students once asked him, “You is amphibious, ain’t ya, Mr. Jack?” Pretty near.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      There’s one activity where it’s helpful to use both! Happy summer to you as well, Roger.

  5. jacqueline

    I’m a strange one that is normal in my world too! I write with my right, used scissors with the left until I was terrorized by a teacher. Bowl, throw, play archery, sword-fight, play tennis, play guitar (if I did) iron, all leftie. I only brush my teeth, write and use the phone with my right. I was confused all my life off and on. My family considered me a rightie because I wrote with my right hand strangely. But one day as I played baseball with dad and my brothers, and dad told one brother to throw me ‘his’ leftie glove…I froze. I put the glove on my left hand and stood there wondering how the hell I would now throw the ball too.


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