In 1990, Jerry and Monique Sternin were given six months to figure out why children in Vietnam were starving and start to fix it. Extreme poverty was obviously the cause, and no one thought any progress could be made in just a few months.

Instead of using common sense or their own previous success methods, they did something very different. They decided to find out if any of Vietnam’s poorest toddlers were not malnourished. When the search team reported back with “‘Có, có, có'” (Yes, yes, yes), they knew it was possible.

Instead of just feeding their children rice, these mothers were mixing in sweet potato greens and shrimps so small they were tossed aside. They were also feeding their children small portions throughout the day, accommodating their tiny stomachs. The differences were so small, they could have easily gone unnoticed.

But these children were not starving, and their solution could apply to all families.

Jerry and Monique were looking for the positive deviant – individuals whose exceptional behaviors or practices enable them to get better results than their neighbors with the exact same resources.

“All the Sternins did was find the mom with the healthy kids. And then they helped the others in the village notice what she was doing. Then they gave that mom a spotlight, encouraging her to keep it up and, more important, encouraging others to follow her lead. It’s simple, but it works.” -Seth Godin

It’s almost ridiculously simple.

And it’s exactly what we should be doing too.

As the old saying goes, we won’t live long enough to make all the mistakes ourselves.

Searching & Applying

In early 2011, I decided to see if there was anyone without a gallbladder that was not having digestive problems. After eating “healthy” for two years, my issues remained. Sure enough, there was. They were eating something called “paleo” and taking inexpensive digestive enzymes. I made those changes and my problems cleared up. Voila!

Had I adopted that approach in 2002, I could have avoided nearly a decade of discomfort and distraction.

I didn’t know the term “positive deviance” until last week, but it succinctly explains much of the foundation that this Habit Chef Project is built upon. I realized that it is possible to find others that are succeeding despite the same challenges we face and learn what they are doing differently.

What Do You Want to Do?

Do you dream of achieving financial freedom for your family? Learn exactly how Brett Kelly did it.

Do you want to write a book, but can’t quit your job? John Grisham can show you how to pull that off.

Want to quit your job without going bankrupt? Farnoosh Brock can walk you through that.

Struggling to keep improving your business? Carlos Miceli or Dan and Ian with Tropical MBA can tell you what they did.

Got a great business or career but falling apart physically? Joe Bauer and Joel Runyon have figured that one out.

Want an incredible marriage and a life of adventure? Melissa Leon can tell you how that works.

Want to be Mom and CEO? Diana Schultz has you covered.

Want to change the world? See what Rosa Parks did before the bus boycott. Learn how Nan Palmero and Gary Vaynerchuk connect incessantly.

Forget normal. It doesn’t exist anyway, except in mediocrity.

Look for weird. Find the deviant. And then become one too.


Photo Credit: Suresh Eshawan