At the beginning of your career, you practically have to beg for an opportunity to show what you can do. Because you have no experience, no contacts, and no juice. No one looks for a specialist with no experience. A person with no experience and no skills is the easiest thing to find. Which is why no one would watch a show called America’s Got No Talent.
When I first began my career I asked for informational interviews, because there were no job openings for advertising copywriters with no experience. But as I developed my skills and gained knowledge and experience everything changed. I became an increasingly valuable resource to my employers, coworkers, and clients. Suddenly, my time and my attention were in serious demand.
Eventually, my clients encouraged me to start my own business. So I opened the advertising and idea agency The Weaponry. Today, clients, employees, interns, and partners seek us out. Because we add real value to all of those groups.
As you grow and develop, ask yourself if you are becoming sought after. (The FBI’s Most Wanted posters don’t count. But a ‘Yes’ to any of the following questions does.)
Questions To Ask Yourself.
Do people seek you out?
Is your time in demand?
Do people want to get your phone number, email, or social contact info? (Even if it is because you are a hottie with a karate body.)
Are people willing to pay a premium to work with you?
Do you have a non-ironic fan club that you didn’t start yourself?
Who is Seeking You Out?
If you are being sought after, ask yourself the next critical question: Who is seeking you out? Do people seek you out who have no other options? Or are they people with means and resources? The more options the people who seek you out have, the more it says about you, your value, and your skills.
Commit to a career of continuous self-improvement. Develop your skills until people come looking for you. Then keep developing your skills until everyone is looking for you. That is the surest sign that you have developed rare and valuable skills. Which gives you maximum control over your career.
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There is a natural order among all humans. Put any collection of people into a room and that order will be revealed. It happens in businesses, schools and volunteer organizations. It happens in clubs and meetups. It happens in families and fraternities. It happens in the military and in mall food courts.
Like wolves in a pack or lions in a pride, we naturally sort and arrange ourselves. It’s as natural as the separation of oil and water. Yet our natural hierarchy is not arranged by height or weight. It’s not alphabetical order. It’s not by the color of your hair, eyes, skin or teeth. Actually, the color of your teeth may play a role. #keepbrushing.
Humans are sorted into their natural order by other humans based on their character and skills. This intuitive ranking system is as old as time. And it is baked into our DNA.
You are valued and appraised for the content of your character. And for the quantity and quality of the skills you bring to the table. Even if there is no table. If you want to change your position within any group, focus on improving your character, and strengthening your valued skills, McGill.
To push yourself to the highest levels surround yourself with those who outrank you on both measures. There is little value in seeking out those with less character and skills than you. It is far better to sit at the bottom of the best collection of humans. Their character will strengthen you. Their skills will sharpen you. Just as iron sharpens iron, nothing improves humans like time spent with better humans.
To improve your standing in the world focus on your character and skills. Seek out those you admire. Spend time with the most capable and the most respected. They are the greatest teachers. They are the greatest guides. They hold the greatest influence. Not because they want influence. But because they have earned it, through their character and skills.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
My son Johann has always been musical. He hummed before he could talk. He sang before he got his first haircut. And he memorized lyrics to songs before he started preschool. Thankfully, my wife and I were smart enough to pick up on this. We started Johann on piano lessons when he was 5 years old. He took to it naturally. Before he even outgrew his baby lisp he was pounding out songs on our piano at home.
A few months after Johann started playing piano I was tuning a guitar at home. 5-year-old Johey walked past as I was strumming and said ‘That sounds like a G Dad.’ I stopped what I was doing and looked at him and said, ‘It is a G!’
But the question was, how did this 5-year-old piano player know this was a G on a guitar? And could he recognize other notes? I then plucked the other strings of the guitar and asked Johann if he knew what they were. Sure enough he named them all with ease. E, A, D, G, B, E.
I quickly researched perfect pitch. I learned that it is the ability to identify musical notes. People with perfect pitch can typically create the sound of a note perfectly without assistance or reference, and they can dissect the notes in a chord. In other words, they are freak shows.
I went to our piano and asked Johann if he could make the sound of middle C. He quickly produced a hum. I hit the middle C key on the piano and had a perfect match. Weird. Then, I tried what seemed really far-fetched. I asked him to face away from the piano. I then played two notes at the same time and asked him what notes they were. He nailed them both. I played 2 other notes. He nailed those too. Then I tried 3 notes together, and he named all 3.
The Secret Language
It was then that I realized that little 5-year-old Johann spoke a language that I don’t speak, and very few people do. In fact, only about 1 in 10,000 people have perfect pitch. That’s one for each lake in Minnesota. Typically, people who develop PP (#snicker) have musical training before the age of 6. Unfortunately, we lose our ability to develop perfect pitch after the age of 9.
Recognizing his unique musical abilities and interest, we have leaned into his natural skills and talents. He is now 11 years old, and plays the piano, violin and saxophone. He performs in state piano competitions. And he can do things with a harmonica that make me think he could follow in the lip steps of Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan or John Popper.
Your Special Language
We all understand a secret language that most others don’t. Music is just one example. For others it is finance, or sales, or compassion. For still others it may be baking, sports, mechanical interactions or makeup. We all have at least one rare language that we are born with a natural ability to speak and understand.
The key is for you to identify what that is, and lean into it hard. Become fluent. Add value to the world through your mastery of that language. And it is likely to bring you great happiness, and wealth.
Discovering My Language
Johann speaks the elegant and beautiful language of music. God gave me the ability to make wordplay out of anything. Which feels more carny than Carnegie Hall. But hey, I’ll take what I can get.
I knew as soon as I learned to read that I had the innate ability to create headlines. I loved reading them in newspapers and magazines. I loved the way they quickly summarized stories, with a clever twist. I always thought headline writer would be the perfect job for me. That and chocolate milk drinker.
When I took my first advertising class at the University of Wisconsin I was completely hooked. I got straight A’s in everything advertising related. I enjoyed the strategy and the creativity of it immensely. My college professors recognized my abilities and connected me with Paul Counsel, the CEO of Cramer Krasselt, one of the greatest ad agencies in America. Paul hired me, and I got my start as a writer.
Creating a Career
I have spent my career speaking my secret language. I have enjoyed it tremendously. Clients and coworkers value my thinking. As a result, fun and interesting opportunities keep coming my way.
In 2016 I launched my own advertising and idea agency called The Weaponry. We doubled in size in 2017. We doubled again in 2018. And we have unlimited potential ahead. All because me and my teammates are specializing in our secret languages.
Your Secret Language
You can do the same thing with your secret language. Pay close attention to that thing that comes easily to you. Discover it. Develop it. And do amazing things with it. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old. Tap into your secret language and you will have tapped into your path to greatest happiness, value and financial success.
You have a secret language that has been programmed into you. It enables you to perform at a very high level. A level that most people have no chance of ever achieving. Specialize in your secret language and play to your strengths. It makes you feel smart and strong. It makes you feel comfortable. It makes you valuable to others. And when you provide great value to others, it translates to both happiness and wealth. Which are two powerful forces we can all understand.