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  • Writer's pictureWILLIAM A SLOAN


Mutual is the operative word

Some years ago, in an interview situation where I was a finalist for a job I wanted, one of the interviewers asked if I was at all concerned about being so much older than the team that would be reporting to me.

And pause...imaginary daggers thrown...

My response was,”If they can’t keep up, I’ll teach them how.”

He said,”You’re very confident.”

And pause...inappropriate words come to mind...

So I said,”I look at it this way – I’m about to turn 50, my doctor tells me I’m physically 35, intellectually I’m 19 with advanced placement. You’re getting 3 generations for the price of one. It’s a bargain. And it won’t be available for long.”

I got the job.

But I never liked it. Well, that’s not totally true. I loved my team. Still do, in fact. But I never liked the situation. Because the decision makers played mean and not smart. Because with comments like that, they showed their own insecurities. So, mutual respect was never an option.

And without mutual have you got? An imbalanced rowing team where one side of the boat relies too heavily on the other, and that other side knows they’re on their own. End result is a rowing team rowing in circles, constantly trying to straighten itself out. And while that might be very good for the back muscles and posture over all, it’s exhausting and counter-productive.

That was a couple of years ago. Now, in a very different situation, I find myself interacting with a group of people I trust and continually learn from and, as a result, respect. And I like to think that respect is mutual. But that’s their call, not mine.

I firmly believe that respect is earned, not deserved, and it’s earned continually, on a daily basis. You show up, you perform, you share, you contribute, you stand up for what you believe and you do it all with grace. And then you do it again. And again. You teach what you know and have the humility to admit what you don’t.

Life to me is a familial sit-down dinner for 12, it’s not an anonymous networking party for 300. Because everything truly worthwhile happens face-to-face, up close and personal, when your guard is down and you feel comfortable enough in the best possible way, to let the real you show up and do their thing and ask questions and learn, and share the magic that is you.

If you’re wondering where this blog trajectory came from, it came from several overlapping conversations I’ve been having with much younger people who are building their legends. And whenever I hear doubt in their voices, I‘m reminded of the naysayers who have crossed my path – have crossed everyone’s paths – along the way. And I always say to these younger people, and to anyone else who’s ever been confronted with a negative force, “Consider the source.”

Believe in the best you. Believe in the best outcome. And surround yourself with people who believe it for you. Then say a big, heartfelt, internal “Thank you” and lead with that.

Be strong, be fearless, be beautiful. And believe that anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you.

– Misty Copeland

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