Awhile back Barry Hessenius asked me to write a “What I Have Learned” essay for his blog. He noted that in the past he often featured similar pieces written by people who were approaching the end of their career. This time around he wanted to feature the voices of people who were on the upward arc of their careers.
This past Sunday he posted the collection of essays. I should warn you, the post is L-O-O-O-N-N-G. I wasn’t given a word limit and I would guess none of the other 17 people whose contributions appear were either.
True to Barry’s purpose of providing a forum to some lesser known people, there were names a recognized but many I didn’t and ended up Googling. I had originally intended to provide a list of the contributors with links to bios or websites as a reference, but after opening 10 tabs in my web browers, I realized my entire post was going to end up being a list of names.
So read the post and if you see someone you like, Google them to learn more.
There is a lot to read but there is a lot worth reading. Over a couple days I made note of the next person on the list and performed a Find on the page when I came back to continue reading.
To give a small sample of what people submitted, I was really struck by this advice from EMC Arts’ Karina Mangu-Ward:
Accept offers of support, even if it makes you feel vulnerable: Early in my work at EmcArts, a more experienced colleague of mine approached me and said that if I was ever interested in developing my practice as a facilitator he’d be willing to mentor me. I brushed it off at the time, unsure of how to accept the support. But I kept in the back of my mind. Four years I later, when I was in a difficult moment of growth, I called him up and asked him if he’d be willing to to set aside two hours a month to talk with me about the big questions I was wrestling with. Now, he’s one of the most important people in my professional life.
A few contributors mentioned issues of Power, but Ian David Moss from Factured Atlas & Createquity made it his central topic. After a lengthy admonition about abuse of power which included the first sentence below, he suggests people are often unaware of the power they possess and the effective, if seemingly mundane ways, in which it can be exercised.
Power is like a precious, poisonous metal: it requires care and professionalism in handling or people are going to get hurt.
Know that speaking up is always, always an exercise of power – no matter who you are. Know that asking uncomfortable questions is a way to change the course of a meeting, a policy discussion, a decision. Know that sharing your experience in a forum where it will be heard is an exercise of power. Know that doing so again and again is more powerful than doing so once, as tedious as that may seem to you.
Know that doing your job well, maybe even better than anyone else, is an exercise of power. Know that understanding what you’re good at is an exercise of power. Know that vacuums of leadership mean more power for you. You never need to let your title and salary have the final say on what you’re capable of.
Know that charging yourself to gain more knowledge, particularly knowledge that most people around you don’t have, is one of the most valuable and impressive forms of power you can exercise. And absolutely no one is stopping you from exercising that particular power starting right now.
Taken out of context, any one paragraph might come off as advice for ruthless ambition, but he figuratively starts and literally ends his contribution with the reminder that “…with power comes responsibility.”
Each of the contributors comes from a different place with their “lessons learned” essay, but generally offer insight of a similarly high quality. Bookmark it and allow yourself to read through it over time.