In my game, you run workshops and host webinars and give a lot of people free advice and post stuff all over LinkedIn and at some point someone needs more than what they get through your free stuff and they pay you for access to more of your brain.

After a while the posts and workshops and classes melt into each other and you forget the names that match the faces and you move on to the next thing.

And you really do hope that somewhere, someone has made some use of all the information and energy that you’re putting out there, because the thought that it’s going to waste is just something you don’t want to think about.

But it’s not going to waste.

Sometimes your words land on the right person at the right time.

And that’s what happened with a young guy at a conference I attended on Thursday.

He came over to the stand I was minding at the time and introduced himself. He said that we had not met, but that he follows me on LinkedIn and had seen me at a workshop I hosted once.

He started telling me about how he had struggled to get work once he graduated, but finally landed a short term contract role. But it wasn’t really in doing something he loved. He knew he wanted more. But he couldn’t get anyone to even acknowledge his job applications, let alone score an interview.

He told me how he’d read what I had been posting on LinkedIn and what I was teaching in a workshop about working on your cover letter and resume to better link who you are with what you know. And how gaining extra skills that workplaces desire doesn’t need formal study. And finally how completing your profile with all the things you’ve learned, the projects you’ve worked on and the volunteer opportunities you’ve taken up can set you apart from every other international student graduate pouring into the market.

He put it all into action. And I mean ALL of it.

And he got the callback.

And he got the final interview round.

And he got the job.

And he wanted to come to the conference to tell me about it.

And I broke a little inside and cried.

It’s been a bit of an emotional week.

A group of people half your age smile and call out your name across the street when they see you.

A lonely guy who’s new to town reaches out via LinkedIn to ask you if you’d be up for grabbing a coffee.

Sitting down with a young fella starting his career, telling you that you helped make that happen.

That’s not how the work week usually goes for most of us.

But it’s been happening to me a lot lately. And it’s making me pretty emotional.

I think all our lives we’re on a search for significance. Kids these days want to grow up to be famous YouTubers. I wanted to grow up to be a famous speaker or singer. And it’s easy to sweep aside these dreams of naive kids as silly and unrealistic.

But I don’t think you have to scratch too far beneath the surface to find a deeper desire in these childhood fantasies.

Our ancestors lived in small groups or small villages where everyone knew everyone and we all had a role or place. We knew who we were and never had too many reasons for doubting that.

Then our worlds got bigger.

We were suddenly exposed to more information in one year than our ancestors would have seen in a lifetime. And in 2024, I’ve seen estimates that say that we take in more information in just one day than they did in their lives.

That kind of change in just a handful of generations does something to us.

Our brains and genes have hardwired us for social cohesion, a sense of belonging and a predictable path through life. Yet our contemporary reality has little of any of those things.

Once we were told what we would be and do. Now we mostly make those choices for ourselves. Or at least we try.

We knew our significance to our siblings, parents, cousins and fellow villagers. We knew what value we brought to their lives.

But now we’re not 100% sure that we are significant at all.

After all, our personal worlds contained less than 150 people just several hundred years ago. Now we’re exposed to billions of lives and the mess of humanity that comes with knowing that you’re not one in 150, but you’re just one in 8 billion.

I think I got emotional this week because I worked out my place in the village.

I’m not a blacksmith, fishmonger, menhir-carver or magical potion mixer.

And while I’m not sure what my role is called, I know my role. If that makes any kind of sense.

Knowing who you are impacts how you express yourself.

To cap off an emotional week, I had breakfast yesterday morning with Libby O at a wonderful, peaceful little corner of Northern Territory Parliament House called Speakers Corner.

I’ve known Libby for quite a few years now and we’ve both watched each other’s businesses and profiles grow in what we do.

Our conversations are always interesting, but this one took a great turn towards the futility of marketing a business that doesn’t know who it is, what is stands for, who it’s for or what’s important to it.

And what is true for business here is true for individuals.

A fresh graduate who has no idea who they are, what their worth is or what they stand for is unlikely to express themselves in a way that is meaningful for anyone at the other end of a recruitment process.

A new arrival on LinkedIn is not going to have any impact on the platform when they have no point of view because they are scared of saying anything at all for fear of repercussions at work.

And a potential political candidate with no strong policy positions or any kind of personality beyond that of a mid-level administrative public servant will struggle to even be noticed , let alone be voted in.

  • Knowing who you are gives you a starting point.
  • Knowing your values and what you stand for gives you a frame to work within.
  • Knowing who your people are gives you a direction to face towards.
  • Knowing what’s important to you gives you goals.

Without all these things, you are just flapping about in business and in life.

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