Throw Out Fifty Things




You really don’t. You - we - might think we do, might want to act like we do, might knock ourselves out to prove it...but it’s just not necessary. You’ve got better things to do than to be everybody’s go-to person on every subject all the time. (“Better things” might include being the one whom other people can count on to be the expert or best-in-class person at one thing... But more of that in a minute.)


We all know somebody (maybe you’re one of them..) who feels compelled to weigh in on every subject, every question, every situation - political, scientific, medical, economic, artistic, educational, literary - as the resident expert, the one who already knows it all and has to “teach” you. The “likeability” factor for those people usually isn’t a barn burner. The extremely well-intentioned, exceptionally smart Al Gore comes to mind.. 


I was lucky. I learned the lesson early about not having to “know it all.” When I first arrived in NYC three hundred years ago I got a job at WCBS-TV as “Manager, WCBS-TV Film Library and Morgue.” Sounded good, right? The problem was I knew absolutely nothing about film, libraries (didn’t understand  the Dewey Decimal System; still  don't) or, thankfully, morgues. Or television, for that matter (although I “acted” like I did.) Not surprisingly, I was completely flummoxed the first day on the job. I’d been told the library was a “mess” and I guess it was, but I sure didn’t know how to fix it. I was terrified of making a total fool out of myself - and failing - in my first “real job.” But then fate stepped in. A wonderful guy - and mentor - for whom I’d written speeches during a brief stint in D.C., called to see how I was doing. “Well, I got a job,” I said. “But I’ve got a big problem,” and I told him of my quandary. “No problem,” he said. “It’s okay. You don’t have to know everything! You never will. But there will always be someone who knows everything about one thing. Like how to run a film library. Find the expert. Ask for their help. Got it?” “Got it!” I said. I searched around and discovered there was, indeed, a New York Film Library. I made an appointment with the director, told him my story and asked for his help. He was really great. He came to my “office” every day at lunchtime for 2 hours and together, we “organized” the film library...and morgue. Actually, we had fun. A week later, the guy who hired me came in to inspect “my” work and said, “I knew you could do it, Blanke. Maybe someday we’ll put you in the weather department...” "OMG," I thought. And he did. But that’s another story...


So here’s the thing: Whether you’re new in your first job, “old” in a newly challenging job, running a department or maybe even a company, you don’t have to know it all, or be good at everything or, as one insufferable guy bragged to me, be able to "sit behind every desk." But you do have to be secure enough to admit to yourself - and anyone else who might be interested - that you don’t have all the answers or all the expertise. Then you have to identify the specific talent you need, uncover it in someone else, hire them or empower them and above all, trust them to do the job - and finally, appreciate them for what they uniquely bring to the team.


And one more thing: What makes you unique? What do you deliver that’s as good as it gets? What’s the one thing that you can be counted on for - every single time? Maybe it’s your ability to build teams, or to bring out the best in people. Maybe you’re a visionary; great at reinventing or re-imagining the future. Or maybe you’re brilliant at operationalizing other peoples’ visions. Or...maybe you’re the one who simply “gets it done,” as one woman recently declared of herself. Whatever it is, identify it, declare it and offer it. It’s always a good idea to complete this sentence: “I’m (your name) and I’m the one who.....” Invite everyone on your team to do the same thing. (Or in your family..) It’s always good to know what you can count on each other for and to “get it”  that you don’t have to know everything, do everything or or be everything. And it's a lot more fun.


Oh, and the guy from the NY Film Library? He never asked for a fee for his work. But I cashed my week’s paycheck - a whopping 150 bucks - and gave it to him - along with a great big hug. It turned out to be a pretty “lean” week for me but boy, was it worth it...

Gail Blanke’s Lifedesigns©2013 All Rights Reserved

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