Lessons to My Younger Self #3: Get in the Game

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

As the daughter of Chinese immigrants, I grew up respecting elders and not questioning authority. I was supposed to be obedient: do what I was told, don’t fight back. And I was told that if I worked hard, everything would work out.

As I entered the working world, I had to train myself to push back, to stand up for myself, and to advocate for my interests. This has taken me a long time to learn (still working on it), and there’s one career experience that I often reflect on related to this:

I was deep in a role that I loved and enjoyed. A new senior leader (“Michael”) came into a different functional group and he started to challenge my team’s ownership over a key marketing channel. He wanted to pull it into his own organization as one of their responsibilities. It didn’t seem right to me; we had grown the channel into one of the most successful levers in the company. I resisted, and we went back and forth. Soon, my manager, who was a peer of Michael’s, came into the fold. I was tired of fighting at this point and so, I abdicated my voice to my manager, who I hoped would act in my best interests and fight on.

I lost the fight. And it was the first in a series of losses that ultimately resulted in me leaving a team, role, and company that I had worked really hard to build.

I wish that I had had the resilience to stay and keep fighting. Had I kept going, the outcome might have been the same, but at least I would’ve known that I had tried my best to make it different. And maybe the outcome would’ve been different — I’ll never know.

So my lesson is this: Get in the game. If this is something you care about, stay in even if you’re tired and weary. And don’t let someone else fight your fight. Your manager is there to support you but he/she also has individual limitations and motivations that may not be fully aligned with yours. You can’t control what he/she does, but you can control your own effort. Don’t regret not fighting harder.

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