The Medium vs. The Message

This article is designed to get you thinking about your life from a new perspective. For the sake of clarity, we’ll focus primarily on your career, but by the time you’re done reading, you should be able to apply these ideas to other areas of your life as well.

Consider a physical recording medium like a CD or DVD. By itself it’s an empty vessel. The “message” is the information contained within that medium, whether it be music, a film, software, or some other information. The message is what provides the value — the actual recording medium is often inconsequential. You may pay $20 for a CD that contains music, or you may pay $300 for a CD that contains certain software. But the physical CDs are essentially identical except for the information they contain. This price difference isn’t due to a difference in the medium but rather due to a difference in the message.

Now let’s extend this concept of the medium vs. the message and apply it to your career (or any other part of your life for that matter). For example, in most cases your job title represents the medium of your career. Career media include being an attorney, a salesperson, or a computer programmer. Think of your career medium as the vessel through which you work. gbwhatsapp

Much like a recordable CD, your career medium is an empty container waiting to be filled. If you identify yourself as an attorney or a salesperson or a computer programmer, that doesn’t give you any sense of the value your work provides. Those professions are conduits for providing value, but they contain very little value in and of themselves. Some attorneys earn $100/hour while others charge $1000/hour. And you’ll find tremendous pay differences in other fields as well, even among people who appear to have the same job title, whether it be secretary or CEO. The medium of the career (i.e. the job title) cannot account for these differences.

It isn’t hard to recognize that the primary value comes not from the medium of your career (i.e. your particular job) but rather from the message of your career. The message is what you bring to your career. It’s what fills the otherwise empty container.

For example, I can identify my career as being a writer, blogger, speaker, web developer, entrepreneur, computer programmer, etc. Or I can more broadly say that I’m a communicator. But that would mean defining my career as a medium — an empty container. It’s like saying that I’m a microphone.

The message, as opposed to the medium, is what specific information I communicate through these various vessels. What am I saying? What information is traveling through the microphone?

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