I’m not exactly proud of this story…
In fact, looking back, I’m a bit sickened by my behavior. We all do stupid things when we’re young. Thankfully, with reflection and considerate action, most of us evolve. But, I need to share what happened, because I still see a version of it unfolding in people’s lives every day. Yet on a far bigger, far more insidious scale.
When I was a kid, there was a member of our crew who’s nickname was Tool. He never really knew why everyone called him tool, he was just happy to be hanging out in our little group and not be the one everyone was betting would end up either dead or in jail. Truth be told, Tool’s nickname came from the fact that most in the group considered him a tool. Someone to be used. A hanger-on who was there to serve us. If we wanted to hit Burger King at midnight, but nobody had wheels, we’d call Tool to drive us. If we were hungry, we would stop by his house to empty out his snack drawer.
We were happy, because we got chauffeured around and fed. He was happy because he’d become an accepted, seemingly prominent member of the crew. Someone who kicked around with us and was called upon for important missions. Or so he thought.
In reality, Tool’s place in the group, his perception of power, was an illusion. Because, at least in our teenage minds, he didn’t add much to the mix that couldn’t be easily replaced.
And, I’m sad to say, when it comes to the way most of us earn our livings…the world today is filled with Tools.
We spend so much of our lives in a quest to gain prominence in a ny number of communities and organizations. With each advance to the next rung on the communal ladder, we accumulate what we believe to be an increase in power. From assistant to manager to director then VP. From pledge to sister to Grand Poobah. From rookie to slugger to captain.
But, in the end, if that path has been bound by a set of rote tasks, responsibilities and actions that facilitate another person’s or organization’s agenda without you expanding, evolving or improving the process, without you moving the line of what’s possible forward, without you adding in some unique way to the very fabric of the tribe, you’ve got to wonder….
Have you become a power source…or a power tool?
Because if you’re not defining or expanding a pre-existing role in a way that nobody else before you has done or nobody else after you can, if you’re not creating, your power is fleeting at best. You’re replaceable. Fungible. Dispensable. No matter what illusion of control you’ve come to believe you have, you’re not a power source, but a power tool.
Or maybe even, just a tool.
There to be turned on and used to accomplish someone else’s agenda…then turned off at will.
That doesn’t mean we should all run out and start our own businesses. Or that we should abandon a path, a job or a role tomorrow. But, it does mean we should seek to contribute in ways that move beyond the tight constructs of what we’re told to do. Ways that change the game. Ways that expand, rather than conquer the market. Ways that make patently obvious our unique contribution. Ways that make us irreplaceable.
Not because we want to feel secure, thought that will be a likely fringe benefit. But, because we want to add value to the experience of those we serve in a manner that touches them profoundly. And, in doing so, elevate our own experience of work and of life.
So, I wonder now, looking at your own path…
Have you become a become power source…or a powerless tool?
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