Written by Russell Johnson
A commodity is a product or service that’s essentially indistinguishable from its competitors. In the relentless competition of business, whatever can be commoditized, eventually will be. With intensely negative consequences for its sellers.
This fact is deeply significant for every executive and every professional, because whether we like it or not, each of us is really a business of one.
It follows that the power of your brand to keep you from being commoditized is as crucial to your personal business and your future as your employer’s brand is to its business and future.
Nothing Succeeds Like Success..
The idiom ‘nothing succeeds like success’ has been in existence since at least the 1800s. It’s still commonly used today because it’s consistently evident that success tends to beget more success.
It’s especially true in the world of jobs, where employers compete strongly to employ people whom they see as wanted by the best firms in their industry.
And there’s a natural corollary to it; employers also prefer (or more accurately, have a default position) to avoid hiring those whose record suggests something else.
Even a stellar track record in another industry can be a disqualifier. This fact keeps many people stuck in declining industries.
Few of us are satisfied to be positioned at the level of a commodity. However, without a brand that compellingly positions us for a role with good opportunities in our chosen market, this is where we’ll end up. And our options will become progressively more restricted over the years.
The longer the process continues, the more damaging its consequences become. Our options in regard to all aspects of job attractiveness will be restricted if our brand fails to position us well.
The Costs of a Disempowered Mindset
Over time, many executives and professionals become conditioned to see themselves as competitors in a race. Regardless of how hard they work, the race simply resets and repeats with every demand from ‘on high’ to do more with less. Leaving them feeling like hamsters on a wheel, that rotates ever faster.
In the fullness of time, the consequences of working at the wrong end of the continuum can adversely affect not just our income but our morale, our relationships and even our health.
Is it any wonder that so many seek to leave the game through retirement as soon as they can afford to do so?
Yet that’s a travesty of what a career can and should be.
An Unnecessary Disability
If we don’t position ourselves effectively, the conditioning that the market applies will leave us endlessly working to prove ourselves; ever seeking the approval of others with more power.
This is a dreadful disability, especially if we don’t recognize that it’s a limitation we can overcome. It begins with fragile self-esteem, which then progressively atrophies over time through inadequate skill in managing it. As it’s drained away in a demoralizing role or roles, our marketability is reduced as well. And this further strengthens the vortex in which we’ve become trapped.
Clearly, we need to know how to rise above it, and to contribute our services only to purposes that inspire and stimulate us – in other words, purposes that are worthy of the best that is in us.
Feedback Can Intensify the Problem
The feedback that we receive in our careers can be confusing and unhelpful. In a job, it’s often delivered in such a way as to keep people feeling insecure.
Additionally, it often arises in the context of a job search, for those who apply for advertised positions without a sound marketing plan or a connection with the hiring executive.
Often, feedback in such situations is used to avoid divulging any information that would confer an advantage. Or worse, it may be designed to keep candidates holding on in the hope of an offer while the employer or recruiter continues the search with others who appear more promising.
Some aim to keep several candidates ‘on the hook’ while they search for others. Just in case they don’t find someone they like better. Or in case the person with whom they are negotiating declines the offer of a job. Or fails to show up on their first day. Or even in case they fail to make it through the probation period.
For those who accept being left hanging in this way, the result is likely to be a slide into deepening demoralization. Reduced marketability follows, then eventual acceptance of a role that will worsen their future prospects.
Remember, low-quality organizations survive only because they can employ people who have never gained a proper sense of the value they are capable of adding. And who either don’t believe they can reasonably aspire to land better options, or don’t know how to.
Finding Your True Potential
The awesome power of the atom went unsuspected until relatively recent times. Now that it’s understood, we all respect it.
What about the power of the human mind? Especially when a group is aligned around a valued goal?
As the famed anthropologist, Margaret Mead said, Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
The human mind holds vast potential, that few of us even suspect exists within ourselves, let alone know how to access. For most of us, a major key lies in knowing how to find, and to find a way to work with, a harmonious group aligned around shared values and mutual liking, trust and respect.
Don’t Deny Yourself the Opportunity
Most of those who do believe they could achieve more, deny themselves the opportunity to do so. In part, this is because they don’t know where to start. Another factor is that, as a result of a series of negative experiences, they lack the confidence to begin.
Don’t let yourself settle for that. If you’re seeking a more fulfilling future, remember you can’t get it by doing the same things as the majority.
Finding your true potential will indeed be a stretch. But that stretch can transform your career. From one where you experience constant low-level stress – or distress in other words – to one of consistently experiencing the kind of stress that will uplift and energize you.
The word for that kind of stress is eustress. Keep it in mind by remembering its relationship with another word – euphoria – that shares the Greek prefix eu, or ‘good’.
A great career can deliver frequent – even daily – experiences of eustress, and even of euphoria. They feel good because they’re good for us. They even contribute to our physical and mental health.
Harnessing the Hidden Potential of Your Brand
Most of us stand too close to our situations to see them clearly. And you may have far more going for you, and a far more extensive range of options, than you realize.
Generally, spending time in a disempowering role or in demoralizing circumstances causes this disparity between perception and reality. Like water on a fire, it quenches our ability to recognize and coherently reposition ourselves around our best attributes and the kinds of contribution we are motivated to make.
We can become blinkered by our current circumstances. If this has happened to you, it may take some work to remove the blinkers. And subsequently to engage or re-engage with your potential. For some, it may require professional help. But know this: it will be worth the commitment it requires.
The results in enhanced quality of life, including improved financial circumstances, can be staggering.