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Success Comes With a Good Story, and Becoming a Commodity Item

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Yahoo. Google. Apple Computer, Hewlett Packard. Each of these names is synonymous with two things; being successful, commodity tech companies -- and having a good story behind the person or persons who started them. In a previous post I wrote about the paradigm that every individual is his or her own company; that we are, in fact, one-person businesses who can control our business destiny, our business reputation, and our business success. But like the big tech giants, we each have a story. Think about what your story is.

Life is an existence that we typically take for granted. We're here, we live, go to school or work, eat, sleep, and generally do stuff. We tend to ignore the minutia that makes up our daily life. But if we look back in detail, we find that there are instances and situations that shape who we are, and how we treat the world around us. Everything that defines us, from that fall from a tree at age 5, to that spelling bee win in the 6th grade, to learning how solar panels work in high school, provides us the foundation for the one-man business that is within us.

Wozniak and Jobs,, much like Hewlett and Packard before them, started in a garage with an idea. Their idea caught on, people liked it and found uses for it. Success came as people saw their products as "go-to" commodity items. If you've ever "Googled" something, or printed something from an HP printer, then you understand what it means to be a commodity.

Now think about what it is to be successful in business. You have knowledge and expertise that you think is novel, in a certain area. Employers like your expertise and skills, and your work style catches on. Employers immediately find "usefulness" in what you bring to the table. And you become a commodity person in your field because of what you do.

People evolve much the same way that businesses do, for better or for worse.

Take a gander at your resume/CV, and honestly ask yourself this question -- does my resume look like the interesting evolution of a person, or does it look like a cookie-cutter, me-too document? If you were to put your resume into a book form, would it even be interesting to read? Have you taken the risks required in life to show that you are a go-getter, a learner, a solution generator, or a motivator? Or could your resume be a generic, fill-in-the-blanks template that someone could buy online for $5?

What's your story? and more importantly, is it interesting? Have you ever traveled? Have you solved problems? Did something happen in your past that helped you to learn a skill? Did you design something that was ground-breaking? Do you have hobbies or skills that drive your business persona? These are things that drive your career, and ultimately define who you are as a one-man business.

It's never too late to add to your story. Learning new skills, changing careers, or even taking up a hobby that enhances your personal abilities or even just your personality itself, can be enough to make your story interesting and attractive. But with this, you also want to become a commodity.

What you need to avoid is becoming the "oh, anyone can do that" person -- the same-old-same-old type of employee who offers nothing special, that eventually becomes expendable instead of being the high-value, gotta-keep-that-guy employee that companies desperately hold onto. Your story becomes your line card -- it reminds companies of why you are both important and interesting to them. And, like an Apple computer, a Hewlett Packard printer or a Google "anything", you want to become a commodity item -- the thing that people just go to without thinking twice. Commodities are part reliability, part good story, part great word of mouth, part plug-n-play, and always in demand.

So think about your own story; as a human being, as a person, as a skilled worker, and ultimately as your own business. And does your story help you to become a commodity, or a dime-a-dozen, me-too person? It's never too late to evolve or reinvent yourself into the person that everybody wants.

... because if your story falls flat, eventually so does your career, and your chance at becoming a commodity.