Be Indispensable - 40 Things I've Learnt in 40 Years

Be Indispensable - 40 Things I've Learnt in 40 Years

In my first job - an unofficial and unpaid internship - I learned very early on, the importance of being indispensable. I didn't set out with that intention - it was actually a by-product of something else. I started out with the task of organizing an abandoned file room - a task I finished in 3 days, much to the dismay of my supervisor. I kept asking for my things to do. What I wanted was more responsibility to feed my need to be important. I figured I was smart, and I could do more, so I asked for more to keep me busy. Within three months, I had a title, and in six months, I was convening meetings (and still not getting paid).

With my increased trust and responsibility came even more responsibility. At age 22, it was exhilarating to be coordinating a major international visual and performing arts festival spread across 6 cities. I enjoyed being in the thick of it all and being the go-to person as the third-in-command. With an eagle-eye view of all the operations (and having gone through all of that information in the file room), I was the repository of all kinds of information and was given considerable authority. But things came to a head for me one day in a very embarrassing way. One of my special responsibilities was for VIPs and heads of state. I had to meet a VIP at the the airport and escort her to the main festival city two hours away. I had been awake for at least 48 hours straight, had made the two-hour trip three times in that period and the flight was delayed. I fell into a deep sleep at the wheel while I waited and only woke up hours after the flight had arrived! Needless to say, this personality felt slighted and I was totally mortified. I had taken on more than I could handle in my enthusiasm and everyone was happy to give me more responsibility - and I botched it.

But it showed me how much power I wielded. Actually, it is the 11th Law of Power in Robert Greene's 48 Laws of Power: "Learn to keep people dependent on you." I did the same at another job, going the extra mile. It helped save me through several waves of downsizing, and after I left, they went through three replacements.

Being indispensable puts incredible power in your hands. Green says, "To maintain your independence, you must always be needed and wanted". Fortunately, it doesn't apply only to work situations. You can use it in your everyday interactions: whatever you do, do it better than anyone else can. The more of those you can do, the more dependent people are on you and the more independent you become. In a subtle way, you gain the upper hand, and are potentially in the position to get people to do what you want done without having to force them to do it.

What is your secret to power? Who are you dependent on, and who is dependent on you? Where is the balance of power?