Sitting At the Cool Table


When have you “arrived”?

Were you part of the “cool table” in school? You know, the table that the kids that had it all together —it was like their lives were a J.Crew ad. Smiles, laughs, not a care in the world. I remember that table. That table is probably very much the same. The food may be different, the tech may be different, but “the table” remains the same.

And it is amazing how that metaphor has followed me throughout my life. When I think about it, I’ve sat at that table — in every decade of my life in some capacity. Once was at my graduation from Auburn University, the next when I finished up my MBA at the Citadel. Both times I had earned my place at the table. Since then there were times when I was “invited” to the cool table by different companies and then for one reason or another, I figured out “cool” to me, was “not so cool” to those companies.

But I’ve realized, that in this decade, waiting to get invited or earning my way to the table (the dance, the meeting, the promotion, whatever the hell you want to call it) is basing my valuation as a person, a professional by someone else’s tape measure…and to be honest, I’m pretty sick of it.

I worked at a place where my boss actually told me to be “less spectacular” at what I do. I’m not making this up. I mean really? I get to what I thought could be the best table I’ve ever been invited to and then find out that the only way to stay there is to do as I’m told and wallow in mediocrity.

I worked at a place where my boss actually told me to be “less spectacular” at what I do. I’m not making this up.

Now I’m working with people and organizations that aren’t trying to get invited to the cool table — I’m working with them to help them build their own damn table, sometimes from scratch, sometimes with reclaimed wood, and sometimes with “0″ instructions. But it will be their table, their rules, and their dreams. I can’t tell you how different it feels to be a part of building something that helps others achieve rather than doing something hoping to get noticed.

The take home message here — don’t wait for a spot at the cool table. Build your own. If not you may only be keeping the seat warm for the next guy who is willing to put up with more shit than you.

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