Growing up in Houston, one of my weekly chores was mowing and edging the yard. At first, I didn’t like the boring task of going back and forth across our yard. By high school, I welcomed the mental alone time to work through what had happened during the week or to solve a homework problem.
Finishing the yard was satisfying. Work completed. Today, I continue to mow our yard, even though my teenage son has a lawn service business.
A couple of weeks ago, while thinking through one of the book chapters, I thought about where we are today. I thought about work. I thought about how we all need to build a sustainable income. I thought about what should I tell my son when I see so many more changes coming.
As digital knowledge workers, we are all a commodity in the digital economy. Every time, I scroll through LinkedIn, the job titles and words used to describe our work is the same.
I thought about what do I tell the readers of the book while another voice said – what makes you different from the other strategists?
The first to word pop in my mind was experiences – all of them from elementary school to now.
What makes us different are our experiences and personality. In everything we do, it comes down to the decisions we made when faced a challenge or problem. All of our experiences matter, as they seamlessly incorporated in our brain for future reference.
The knowledge gained is cumulative and transferable. Too often we copy thought leaders whom we seek to emulate instead of being ourselves. But the real competitive edge is our unique experiences and personality. No one else on this planet has lived your identical life or has had to solve the exact problems. There are people who may be close to you but there is no one exactly like you.
We allow fear to keep us stuck from being who we are. What would you do if you were not afraid?
I think about the people who tell me they feel left behind. I think about how do we create a personal brand that ensures long-term sustainability. I think about these questions because they need to be solved.
Then I think about the students at speaking events, what do I tell them when we all know the old story “go to college and get a good job” is almost obsolete.
Here is what I thought of while mowing two weeks ago. I will tell them to focus on obtaining real experiences where you solve human problems, where you gain an understanding about yourself in difficult situations and then determine how you can use this experience in your career.
This is not about solving pre-canned problems to pad your resume or college application; this is about doing the real work. To have the guts to be yourself.
I will tell you to do the same. The world needs us to be ourselves, not a carbon copy of someone else.
Instead of using another buzz term to describe what makes you different – share an experience instead.
When we have more time to chat, I’ll tell you the story about what I learned from removing wildlife from the backyard.