My boss, who was demanding and gruff but a good guy deep down, got wind I was hurt and angry. He wrote me a long single-spaced email that I've carried with me ever since.
These notes were addressed to me and my particular situation. But I've found through the years that it comes in handy to re-read this note once in a while. I'm at a different place now, but the words still work.
I've excerpted some of it below:
"Look, you have to have a certain amount of faith in the power of two things: creative work that is genuinely insightful and well crafted and the willingness to put in the time to do things right.
If you do those things, smart clients love you because their work gets results. And the others fall by the wayside because hard work trumps a title in the long run.
It can be a tortuous path, I admit. You are envied for your portfolilo and envied because the people with money and influence look to you for help - and they can't figure it out (because if they did, they'd have the same relationships)."
"But it's better and more rewarding than people who walk around with big titles and empty portfolios. (Or even worse, the terrible sycophants who glue themselves to a higher up and walk around kissing somebody or other's ass because it's all that stands between them and unemployment.) If you have the work and the integrity, you get more options. You have smarter clients. You have more integrity. And, if you save your money, you can always walk away and find gainful employment in any number of forms. The privilege of the righteous or something."
"Do you care what he thinks about you and your work? No. Why? Because his title is bigger than his accomplishments. You don't care what he thinks because you think you could outperform him. And you think he's advanced because of the relationships he's cultivated and not because of things he's actually accomplished.
You might well be right - and that's not a happy position for him to be in. Because if you are right, it will catch up with him."
"After a year of walking around with a big fucking deal attitude, it's put up or shut up time. Where are the awards? Where are the case studies that bring in new business? Where are the clients who've ascended to power on the backs of _______ success - of those things are careers and reputations made. And if he keeps posturing and not delivering, he'll wind up being thought of as just another asshole with a Titanic attitude and a Minnow in the engine room. That's not a formula for career success and personal fulfillment. It does catch up with you. Believe me.
And there are plenty of people here with more wind in their titles than in their sails."
"In any organization of any size, there will always be naysayers and doubters and obfuscators and people who want to distract you with nonsense. They will find fault with what you do and how you do it - but they will do nothing themselves. They don't know how. And they fear people who do.'
"He used to talk about how there are two kinds of people in this business - the ones who are in it for the work and the ones who are in it for the lunches. And he used to talk about the politicians and how what they really wanted to do was distract you, bog you down in a mess, keep your mind off doing the work and solving the problem - because as long as they do that, they're even. The one thing that will kill them is if you get some good work out there and it works.
You have to have a certain amount of faith in what you're doing and how you're doing it - and you also have to figure out who it is you're going to partner with and who has enough integrity to let you speak your mind and fail occasionally. Those people with brains and integrity are hard to find. But find them and deliver for them and you will learn and prosper. You must have faith."
"But there will always be annoyances and distractions in large organizations - keep your eyes on the prize, make the work great, and the world will be your oyster. If we don't right the problems here one day, we'll all go elsewhere and be successful for somebody else. That's the ultimate power of knowing how to make things happen."
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