The single biggest career advantage you have (but aren’t using)

If you and I were sitting down inside a Starbucks and you told me you felt unhappy and disengaged with your career, chances are I’d get upset and start shouting.

People would stare at us, especially because we’d be in Minnesota, where unexpected, public outbursts of emotion are frowned upon unless it involves booing the Green Bay Packers football team when they visit our stadium.

With that reality aside, here’s why I’d be so mad: We need you!

No matter what station you are at in this life, we need you. You have something unique to offer this world, and I mean it when I say that the rest of us are being deprived if you don’t offer it!

Your life, your career and the type of unique, incredible work you are capable of cannot be replicated!

Here’s why: Unless human cloning becomes a reality, there’s only one YOU, and that means your personality, impact and contribution to our planet cannot be replicated. You have a unique (and important!) role to play in the larger story unfolding around us.

One of my favorite quotes is attributed to a 1st Century writer named Irenaeus, who said this:

“The glory of God is man fully alive.”

If you’re a man (or woman!), I need to ask: Are you fully alive? Are you living out your passion, doing work you love and impacting others as a result?

Uncertainty is not an excuse

When people email me their answer to that question, I often hear something like this: “What if I’m not sure what my passion or calling is? How do I figure that out?”

I’m going to spend the rest of this post answering that, but first I need to give you a quick summary:

When I was 16, I was sure I wanted to be a sportswriter.

When I was 25, I was sure I wanted to write music, play in a rock band and tour.

When I was 28, I was sure I wanted to write novels.

When I was 31, I was sure I wanted to do freelance writing for a living.

When I was 35, I was sure I wanted to do PR and Social Media marketing for a living.

When I was 37, I was sure I wanted to run my own marketing agency, doing creative projects for clients.

Today (age 39), I’m sure I want to be a professional speaker, author and 1-on-1 business coach. I want to get people fired up. I want to move others off the sidelines of life and into the game! I want to inspire others to Live, Risk and Lead. I want to get others to step into their true calling. I want to show others how to ignite their passion and light up this world like the Fourth of July as a result!

Will I be “sure” of something else when I’m 40?

Maybe, but that’s the point – our passions can change as we move through life!

What’s YOUR Passion?

If you’re not sure how to answer that question, start by looking for common themes in your life and career.

For instance, in my story, I realized I’ve always loved being creative. I’ve always loved being in front of people and I’ve always loved firing them up. Most of all, I’ve always loved the power of crafting and sharing a powerful story.

Those passions and desires took on various forms as I went through my professional career, but in one way or another they revolved around those key themes.

If you need to, go back to your childhood – what did you dream of becoming? What movie characters or superheroes did you most identify with? Look at your outside hobbies or volunteer activities – is there a passion or activity in your life that never feels like work?

You need to start there. Identify those common themes, the things you love, and I’ll show you how easy it is to begin monetizing them.

Say your passion is gardening. Why can’t you create a gardening blog or podcast or video series on YouTube and build an audience? And why can’t you then leverage that audience to sell sponsorships or advertising to companies wanting to reach that demographic?

Say you live to play ice hockey. You’re never going to make the NHL, but there’s no better feeling in your life than being on the ice, hearing the echoes of the puck as it rings off the boards inside a large arena, or feeling the crisp sensation of catching a perfect pass. Maybe it’s seeing a play develop and squeezing the puck between two defensemen to spring your teammate on a breakaway.

Can you turn that passion into coaching? Running a league or a training center? Creating and promoting local or national tournaments? Landing an office or promotional job for a professional team? Or perhaps going online, tapping into your creative abilities with writing, video or audio to develop content that appeals to hockey players and fans?

I promise you this: Whatever it is that you truly love to do, there are other people out there who feel the same way.

Why else would complete strangers don leather chaps, tie on bandanas and drive Harley Davidson motorcycles to places like Sturgis, South Dakota, for rallies and rides every year? Why do Star Trek fans still gather all across the world, dressing up like sci-fi extras and fawning over William Shatner more than 40 years after the original TV series was in its heyday?

No matter how obscure or niche you think your passion is, the advent of social media and the Internet make it easy to quickly find a community of others who feel the same way.

If you want to work for a certain company or have a dream position, use tools like LinkedIn to instantly locate, engage and develop relationships with the key decision makers at those organizations. Dazzle them upfront by providing passion, ideas and insight specific to improving some area of their organization and do it without asking for anything in return! Start acting and believing that you already work for that company, and keep sending those decision makers your self-starting ideas, analyses and detailed plans and watch what happens!

If I ran a business, and someone was passionate about working for me and kept sending me great ideas and demonstrating up front value of how he or she could immediately bring massive benefit to my organization, I’d be a fool not to hire him or her!

Your audience is already out there, waiting and willing to spend its time, attention and money on what you have to offer. So what are you waiting for?

It’s Never Too Late!

One objection I always hear is “Well, somebody else is already doing that” or “Somebody else already took my idea and ran with it.”

That’s like saying Pepsi should just concede the soft drink market to Coca Cola. Or that Burger King should just give up, because McDonald’s has the market cornered on French fries.

I don’t care what type of product or service you want to offer – there is plenty of room in the market. We live on a planet with billionsof people, and you now have the ability – thanks to the Internet and Social Media – to reach these global audiences instantaneously and at zero cost.

What’s more, people love variety! Not everybody uses an Apple computer. (Though they should!) Not everybody drinks Coke. Some like Pepsi. Or Sprite. Need I go on?

Now, all this comes with one key caveat. Your market or niche will never be too crowded if you adhere to one simple principle: Be yourself!

The biggest mistake you can make is trying to copy what everyone else is doing and hope you get noticed. Yes, you can scratch out a living or build a career by copying someone else’s product, style or approach. But being original – and unconventional – is what takes you from starving artist to superstar!

So how about it? Are you ready to step into your passion and start the journeytoward transforming it into a sustainable income and career?

If you’re not, we should probably avoid having coffee for the foreseeable future. I don’t want to make a scene at Starbucks! 😉

Your Turn

What’s the single biggest characteristic that makes YOU different/better than your competition? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! (It’s also a great personal branding exercise if you’ve never done it before!)

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