…you will know how to live.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
For this week’s quote we can thank German writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. I’m sharing it because it articulates one of the more transformative realizations I’ve (recently) come to in my life.
Sometimes, you’re the subject matter expert.
For many people, this is and always has been obvious. But – on a personal level – I can say this is a pretty big breakthrough.
…I am very good at executing. If you tell me what you need to have done, and by when, I will almost always find a way. I am resourceful, hard working, and have a knack for identifying who I need to influence to accomplish my goals and how to win them over.
…But I don’t question directives often. This isn’t because I don’t have my own thoughts on how to get things done, but because if someone is put into a position to make decisions I generally trust that they have the subject matter expertise to make the right choices.
I have always been an emergent leader – I step up to lead initiatives only when it is crystal clear to me that I am the best person for the job. Conversely, if I perceive someone in a leadership role to be competent I’m perfectly content to let them do their thing. I want to generate the best result, and I’ve never been concerned with credit. Playing in my lane and doing good work has served me well to date, and so if someone else is doing a good job running with the ball I’ve always been fine staying in the background.
…With that said, lately I’ve started to find myself in situations where *I* am the subject matter expert. In a room full of people with much more experience, sometimes *I* have the best ideas. And as someone that has spent his whole life trusting in experts, perpetually seeking knowledge from those that have been where I am before… it is more than a little jarring to suddenly find myself in a position where I’m sometimes the one in the best position to lead.
But it is also liberating.
…So I’ve decided not to just be a person who executes on other’s strategies anymore – at least not all the time. Going forward, if I think there’s a better way to do something I’m going to trust myself and just go for it. I don’t know how this shift in approach will work, but I’m going to find out.
As we get started this week, I will not tell you to replicate my new approach, because I don’t yet know that it’s the right one. I am 27 years old, and as a practical matter have quite a bit more to learn. With that said, I would encourage everyone reading this to think critically about the directives you’re given, and if something doesn’t make sense have the courage to push back. Believe in yourself. Have an opinion. And don’t be afraid to act on it if your gut tells you to do so.
You just might be more ready to make that decision than you know.