December 15, 2006 12:50am CST
medium & its imp?????????? Consider a physical recording medium like a CD or DVD. By itself it's an empty vessel. The "message" is the information contained within that medium, whether it be music, a film, software, or some other information. The message is what provides the value -- the actual recording medium is often inconsequential. You may pay $20 for a CD that contains music, or you may pay $300 for a CD that contains certain software. But the physical CDs are essentially identical except for the information they contain. This price difference isn't due to a difference in the medium but rather due to a difference in the message. Now let's extend this concept of the medium vs. the message and apply it to your career (or any other part of your life for that matter). For example, in most cases your job title represents the medium of your career. Career media include being an attorney, a salesperson, or a computer programmer. Think of your career medium as the vessel through which you work. Much like a recordable CD, your career medium is an empty container waiting to be filled. If you identify yourself as an attorney or a salesperson or a computer programmer, that doesn't give you any sense of the value your work provides. Those professions are conduits for providing value, but they contain very little value in and of themselves. Some attorneys earn $100/hour while others charge $1000/hour. And you'll find tremendous pay differences in other fields as well, even among people who appear to have the same job title, whether it be secretary or CEO. The medium of the career (i.e. the job title) cannot account for these differences. It isn't hard to recognize that the primary value comes not from the medium of your career (i.e. your particular job) but rather from the message of your career. The message is what you bring to your career. It's what fills the otherwise empty container. For example, I can identify my career as being a writer, blogger, speaker, web developer, entrepreneur, computer programmer, etc. Or I can more broadly say that I'm a communicator. But that would mean defining my career as a medium -- an empty container. It's like saying that I'm a microphone. The message, as opposed to the medium, is what specific information I communicate through these various vessels. What am I saying? What information is traveling through the microphone? In my case the message is that I'm here to grow and to help other people to grow. The media I use to convey this message will change and evolve over time, but the message is a constant. And the message is a much better description of my true career than the media that I currently use to express it. Changing Perspectives Chances are that you currently think of your career primarily in terms of the medium (i.e. your particular job) rather than the message (i.e. the unique value you bring to your work). I want to dive a little deeper into this distinction with you and show you some perhaps unexpected benefits that may arise when you shift your focus and begin thinking of your career primarily in terms of the message. There are two significant risks that come from defining your career in terms of your primary medium (i.e. "I'm an attorney" or "I'm a programmer"). The first risk is that you'll unnecessarily limit yourself. You will only recognize opportunities that present themselves in the form of a nail because you've defined yourself as a hammer and nothing more. You'll fall into the trap of thinking, "Dammit, Jim! I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!" As a human being, there are many ways for you to express and deliver value to others. The current medium of your career is only one of them. When you think of your career as being greater than any single medium, you'll open yourself to new opportunities that lie outside your current primary medium. The second risk is that by focusing too heavily on a single medium, you're likely to lose sight of your message. Your message is far more important that any one medium, so by putting the medium first, you're likely to suffer from a gradual decline in motivation regarding your work. You begin a new job, and it's very exciting at first, but the longer you work at it, the less enthusiastic you become. Does this seem familiar at all? For example, today you'll find people who define their careers as professional bloggers (the medium), and so they blog about anything and everything. But after several months or perhaps a year of this type of work, it isn't uncommon to see them becoming apathetic and even depressed about their work. Why? Because the medium (in this case, a blog) is hollow by its very nature, and something hollow cannot provide lasting motivation.