There have been several times in my life when I’ve thought that I’d like to be the best in the world — at something. I’ve never really know what that “something” is, but I’ve wanted to be the best. Shoot, I’d even settle for top 10 in the world. I’ve been in positions where I’ve felt that it was possible. I’ve sung with at top 10 in the world Barbershop Chorus: The Saltaires. I’ve have moments when greatness seemed like it was right there. But, I’ve never really felt like I was the greatest. I’ve never been Muhammed Ali.
I just had the chance to talk with someone who may just be the greatest in the world at what he does: a self-described wholesale publisher. That may not be the exact job title that I would have given to him, but it’s what he used. He produces an entrepreneur training curricula that can be taught in colleges, or through local small business development centers. (Full disclosure, he also happens to be my neighbor and a great guy.)
He shared with me the history of his company, and how he makes his money. As we talked, he mentioned that it’s being able to know something and use it that can create a great opportunity and work experience. Not in so many words, but essentially that. That got me thinking, wondering actually: what unique knowledge do I have?
This is an intriguing question. What unique knowledge to I have? I know a lot of things. I have a lot of experience. I’ve done a lot of things. I know that my life is different from anyone else’s. But what of it is truly unique? What do I know that I could sell to someone else and it would be of value because they don’t know it? Just last night I told my wife that I’ve forgotten more from an MBA than most people will ever learn. However, there are others out there who haven’t even forgotten that stuff.
One challenge lies in that I am aware of my knowledge set, but I am not aware of the knowledge that others have. I’ve thought about the job interview question – which I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid thus far – of what makes me stand out against the other people applying for a job. I really don’t know. I could be smarter, or not. I could be more motivated, or not. I could be a worse sales person, or not. I could be better at getting the best for other people, or not. I don’t know about the other people. And, when I try to apply that to a business market, or a state, or a country, or the world, I really don’t know all of the other people to be able to compare myself.
So, how can I discover my unique knowledge? I’ve worked in a small company since I graduated from college. There’s not a lot of comparison to happen there. The last place that I could compare to a large group of peers was in college. Unfortunately, I was too clueless and focused on grades then to think of comparing my strengths to those of my classmates, or to think about what was being taught that I had a particular knack for. (Note to self: Unique weakness is getting too caught up in the details of something and missing the bigger opportunities all around it.) I also missed a lot of opportunities to explore various lines of work at that time, and to “network” – or just spend time with – my MBA classmates. Had I acted as emotionally smart as my grades said that I was intellectually, I would have a much better picture now of my relative and unique strengths.
I think that this is also a question more easily answered by someone more naturally extroverted that I am. I love social media because it allows me to stay holed up in my basement, away from crowds, and still communicate with the world. (I am kevintcom on most major social networks.) I love sharing ideas, but I don’t naturally put myself into group situations. (My own mother recently questioned my introversion by saying that I am not socially inept, but the two are different. I may address some of that later.) Because I shy away from interacting with groups, I also lose the feedback that can come from so many members of the group.
There’s the knowledge built from my work experience of the last 15+ years. However, much of that is industry specific, and I have a non-compete agreement that means I can’t just take that experience wholesale and apply it. I need to glean from that experience specific pieces of knowledge that I can apply.
So, what is my unique knowledge? I don’t know yet, but I think that the answer to that will be critical to me as I find my next place in the world. As I’ve sometimes joked: I’m ready to start a great new business; all I need is a great idea. If I can find my great idea, then I’m set.
So, now I’ll ask you: What unique knowledge do you have?