You want one thing? You already have it.  Question is…are you using it?

I was having coffee with a friend a few weeks ago.  This friend happens to be a millennial.  She also happens to be a gifted writer who, instead of flexing her award-winning literary muscles, is flexing her biceps and triceps doing backbreaking work in the fields of her organic farm in Eastern PA.  She’s also getting an intense workout in the business world as she is building her “Lady-Run, Earth-Friendly Vegetable Farm” brand as well as her strategic partnerships in Philadelphia.  She works harder than anyone I know.  She still writes when she has time, and you can read her story in her own words at her Farmer Liz blog.

We were talking about how it can appear that people who have successfully changed careers or started a business had something in their corner that made it easier for them to get a leg up; a spouse to cover expenses for a year, a key contact at a dream company, a mentor who seems to appear and take the person under their wing.   Farmer Liz said, “But everyone has one thing.   My one thing is that my relationship with my parents is great and I can be a transient there when I need to be.”  This allows her to be mobile between Philly, and her farm and her part time gig as she grows her full-time business.  She went on to talk about a few of her friends and their respective ‘one things.’   She was right; they all had something.  And they used it. 

Sometimes the thing is easy to see – the trust fund, the free ride to college, the friend who knows a friend, etc.  Sometimes, sheer determination, courage, desire or intuition are not as tangible and, therefore, more difficult to recognize as a competitive advantage.   And, believe it or not, sometimes we see it, but we don’t use it.

So, in the world of formulated how-to posts, the obligatory bullet point for career shifters, industry jumpers, new grads, business starters or dream builders is:

  • Identify your one thing and leverage it.

There are people who don’t understand why you wouldn’t use something (ethically, of course) if it helps your career along.  But, in another corner, are folks who are wired to turn a blind eye to a helping hand or to exercising an advantage; believing it will devalue any achievement.  They don’t even need their peers to resent them for it; they are more than happy to discredit their own progress.  It sounds like this:  “It’s only working out well because…, People will think I only succeeded because…, It won’t really count because…”  So, as Farmer Liz would say:

Give freely, and accept graciously and with gratitude. If you really want it, you’ll swallow your ego and go for it.

Stop feeling guilty about your one thing and stop apologizing for it.  Your peers had something in their corner, too, and maybe they didn’t use it or never took a helping hand when it was offered; and maybe they are all still stuck.  Success doesn’t only count when you work tooth and nail to earn it.  It counts just the same when you acknowledge and leverage your one thing and work hard too.  Because, to launch in a new direction, there will always be plenty of hard work.  Just ask my farmer friend.

Go ahead and feel free to walk uphill, in the snow, for 20 miles, with no shoes, carrying a 100 lb. backpack every day for 10 years until you make it to your destination. Or water, care for and cultivate the one thing that just may make the trip a bit easier.  And then use it.

Barbara reveals people to themselves. - TG

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