Welcome to Gate Keepers Life — Editor’s Note
It was a beautiful summer’s day in Southern California. My girlfriend at the time, our rambunctious pit-bull, a cooler full of snacks and beers, a frisbee and blanket were all in tow to the beach to enjoy some much needed R&R. It had been a stressful week of chaos for both of us at work, and we were looking forward to basking lazily in the sun while sipping Modelos in the sand.
We pulled up to the parking lot and began looking for a spot when I got a call. It was my boss. He needed me to come over immediately, with a case of his favorite coconut water, to fix the AppleTV. It wasn’t working the night before and he was having a date over to hang out and it was mandatory that the device was accessible. He hung up. My heart sank.
This is the life of a Personal Assistant. 24/7, round the clock service to someone who pays you (hopefully) handsomely for the privilege. As this boss once told me, “Of course I can pack my own luggage. But if I can pay someone else to do it for me, I am going to”. That someone else, was me. And not only packing luggage but picking up food from the only good Indian restaurant in town, stocking the house with favorite specifics like Amy and Brian’s canned coconut water (no pulp, in the short cans. NOT the tall ones), and fixing AppleTVs.
The difficulty of living and planning your own life, and the life of your immediate inner circle, can be a fool’s errand at times because your plans are only second to the moment-to-moment happenings, impulses or cravings of your employer.
That is why I created Gate Keeper’s Life. This is a platform to help Executive Assistants, Personal Assistants, Office Assistants, Administrative Assistants and any other support position find solace and space to support themselves while supporting others. We in these roles are usually nurturing, people-pleasing, thoughtful types who are most of the time thinking of how we can make situations pleasurable and easy for others. This is an important quality and one that is needed in society. For things to get done, there needs to be the people who create order in which the done can get doing!
However there are two common misconceptions when thinking about these support roles. The first, is that people in support roles are less important or less valuable than those they are supporting. The idea of having “assistant” in your title can commonly be conceived as being lesser or inferior. Just ask Dwight Schrute, Assistant to the Regional Manager of Dunder-Mifflin (Scranton Branch). He fights tooth and nail to have the ‘to the’ removed from his title, feeling as though it is degrading or belittling. I have fallen victim to this ego-based conundrum, myself. I long wanted to twist the phrase so that my title more professionally reflected the work I was doing. ‘Call me Chief of Staff! Call me Operations Manager! Call me Executive of Special Forces!’ ‘Steerer of the God-Damn Ship!!’. All of those titles accurately and absolutely described my role to that of ‘Assistant’.
But the truth is, we are Assistants. Hell yes, we are! And you know what an assistant is? They are the Gate Keepers! The decision makers of who gets entry into the castle we maintain. Who gets to sit where at the dining table when the mutton and wine is served. Who gets an audience with the king, for how long they get that audience, and in even in what mood the king will be in when the audience occurs. All of this is in the hands of the Gate Keepers. So let’s celebrate the title, Assistant, not scoff at it. We are the closest part of the inner circle, the epicenter of action, the hub of knowledge and information.
The second common misconception, mostly held by assistants themselves, is that we, too, don’t need support. Assistants spend their entire work day (which can sometimes be 24/7) making sure all of the details and happenings of their boss’s life are in order and as hiccup free and stress free as possible. And if that run smoothly, then that is enough for an exhale and a pat on the back. A day with no errors or blowbacks is enough of a reason to feel at ease. The problem is, that is bullshit. Just like anybody, assistants are in sincere need of finding ways to relieve themselves of stress in healthy and supportive ways.
I was so fortunate in one of my early assistant roles, that my boss was a meditator. He would meditate twice a day, no questions asked. While in a rental home in Austin, TX on a six-week project, my boss was furious at the architecture of the home. Specifically, the fact that there was no door at the bottom of the stairway that led to the upstairs, which entirely consisted of the upstairs bedroom. It did not matter that my boss was the only resident of this rental home, thus a door serving as a barrier between himself and empty downstairs of the home. Regardless, this unacceptable design flaw was reason enough to walk away from the entire project. “If we don’t have a door installed in this stairway by the end of the day, then I am leaving New Orleans and this job is over”.
So, four pleading favors, one lie to the homeowner, two failed attempts and seven hours later, a door was installed (talk about Gate Keeper, here I was a Gate Installer!). Out of great pleasure in the completion of this highly unlikely task, and the gratifying feeling of slamming a door, my boss congratulated me on a job well done. “You know, you have a stressful job, Shane. You should meditate!”
Yes I do, and yes I should! So thanks to this gifted meditation course from my then boss, I learned one of the most crucial tools in my life to date — meditation. Meditation, while an incredible practice that has helped me in every facet of my life (work, relationships, efficiency, productivity, health) it was also an entry point for me to discover healthy stress relief tools to even out my work-life balance. It is just one of many ways to recalibrate the brain and bring necessary calm to our busy, society-and-work-driven lives.
Here at Gate Keepers Life, we will build our community to support each other in ways creating stress relief in the workplace, supporting ourselves in healthy and empowering ways, and share tricks of the trade to help each other thrive as Gate Keepers. Our community has its finger directly on the pulse of what is happening in the world. We are the pathway to the decision makers of the future. And since we are the decision makers to the decision makers, it is imperative we unite, challenge, motivate, inspire and support each other.
I look forward to building this community with you and strengthening our work and finding optimal enjoyment and fulfillment in our lives.
You hold the key! Together, we will break down the doors of success.