A 15 Minute Thought: A Strategy to a Clear Path
I was a teenager when I entered my first paid job in politics. It was a junior role in a municipal campaign where I was maintaining data lists and making cold calls for fundraising. In the political realm, it entailed pretty mundane responsibilities, but it was still better than most of the jobs my friends were working outside of politics.
It was here that I vividly remember being told by someone that the best thing I could do in that role was make other people see me as a resource. Generic- maybe, but in retrospect it wasn’t bad advice.
I see the words through a different lense now that I’m older and much more jaded. I wanted to take a moment to pay homage to the role these words have played in my professional (and otherwise) life.
Realistically, if you‘re around my age, it is highly likely that you don’t know what you’re talking about.
I would say that the grand majority of people that I encounter in the day-to-day are either apathetic or wildly misinformed, or (even worse) both. I’ve found that there is one terrific way to work around this: giving a nudge to the people who I know are already good, and then learning from them as they work.
Or, maybe they’re an outlier or a sort of prodigy. From experience, this doesn’t make much of a difference. As a young person, you’re already fighting against this annoying little bias called the value attribution which dictates that we allow context to command our subjective judgements surrounding the value of others.
To put that in basic terms, you’re either perceived as the token ‘young person’ or you’re ignored entirely because you don’t have the ‘experience’ or ‘perspective’. The solution for that is the the same as above — pretend that you’re humble while you build an arsenal.
In Ryan Holiday’s words, “Be what the Romans described as anteambulo, the concept of a person who clears the path for their patron”. If you do this successfully, you can rise through the ranks and be trusted as a resource.
The point here isn’t to simply suck up to people and make others look good. Instead, you need to find people who are building to be great and help them move upwards. When you are the resource, you are freeing them to focus on their strengths. That also means putting your efforts towards making them better as opposed to just looking so.
To achieve this:
a) Think differently and provide others with that insight. I don’t mean just handing over your feelings and ideas that you’ve developed organically. People tend to see through this and often perceive it as egotistical. Rather, you should be focusing on tracking down philosophies, analogies, angles, and contradictions that they can use moving forward.
b) Find new outlets. It doesn’t matter who you know and what they’ve done, you should always work to expand your associations and connections. Then let them intermingle so that you are the root of any product that is derived from that relationship. Ex. “Hey, I know ___ and I think you two should talk. Have you considered meeting over ___?”
c) Kill off redundancies. You need to work to identify leaks and free up resources. Improve processes so that you can tell people they don’t need to spend anymore time on a task that provides less value than the time it takes.
In summary, encourage creativity, provide outlets for collaboration, and elminate the limitations that hinder progress. This will create a scaleable power strategy that isn’t limited by your age. The person who clears the path ultimately controls its direction, it’s simply a matter of choice on whether you become that resource.