Your career is like a tree. It needs roots at the foundation in order to grow tall. The roots are a your education, reputation, and experience. They are vital, but they are hidden underground. Nobody cares.
Yet the roots are only part of the tree. Your unique qualities of your career (your tree) cannot be hidden in the shade or under a blanket. If you want to expand your influence and reach for the highest levels you must do so out in the open... where everyone can see you.
Yes, there is risk if you try to grow in the open field that someone will run over you with a lawn mower when you are still just a sapling. But successful people do not live in fear of failing. They try.
I talk with a lot of professionals who have their whole identity based on the roots. They care far too much about the past, and have nothing solid in the present or future on which to weave their signature story.
But when I describe the beauty and wonderment of a tree, I might never speak of the roots. It is the trunk that grows to the sky, the branches that stretch in a variety of directions, and the leaves that glisten in the sunlight that make a tree spectacular.
I asked an attorney who was laid off from a large firm what would make him desirable to a new firm. His reply referenced his nearly perfect GPA in law school... five years earlier. He also mentioned the importance of having attend Harvard. My guess is there are lots of people who have graduated from Ivy League schools with good grades. That does not make him stand out. It makes him part of the pack. If he spends his whole life thinking he is a good lawyer because of his success at Harvard he will be mowed over and left for dead.
Think about your own career. Ask yourself what makes you a good job candidate, a great employee, or a fantastic boss (or entrepreneur). Then ask "does that REALLY make me unique or part of a big group who can say the same thing?". If you are part of a pack, then that is not a differentiators. You are plain. Plain is not bad, but it is not something that makes others talk about you in the greater business community.
Seth Godin talks about this in his book "Purple Cow". While driving through the country side his kids became bored with seeing brown cows in the fields. They no longer noticed the cows. But if there had been a purple cow in the meadow... that would have gotten a lot of attention!!!
How can you stand out from the competition? Does it even matter to you if you are unique? Are you proud to be plain? How tall do you want your tree to grow?
Have A Great Day.