Just An EA.
I'm always amused when I hear people refer to me as "just an EA." In their heads I'm just the coffee getter or the guy who calendars and books travel for a "boss" and gossips about The Real Housewives at the watercooler with all of the other (perceived) underachievers who are wasting their advanced degrees in a subservient role like the one they see on Mad Men. I'm the background singer too afraid to step into the spotlight. I'm the dancer in the corps who's happy to not shine and simply collect the check supporting the prima ballerina. I'm less than because I don't actually provide the same tangible value to the company as the crackpot, 20-something Product Engineer from MIT who now asks me to schedule his meetings. Hilarious. And still frustrating AF.
To be clear:
I'm just an EA who now commands a deep, 6-figure salary. I'm just an EA who has helped to scale and build the culture of several, now ubiquitous, social media companies whose policies I created and are still in place to this day. I'm just an EA who is requested by name by at least 3 billionaires as someone who MUST be invited alongside my "boss" as an attendee to their events. I'm just an EA who has counseled countless key contributors and reeled them back away from the exits who have gone on to create some of the apps we all use as part of our everyday lives. I'm just an EA who ratted out a cancerous C-level trying to overthrow my female CEO who, in turn, fired him the next day and went on to dominate the news with her brilliance AND broker the sale of her company for tens of millions of dollars. I'm just an EA who was retaliatorily fired because I reported an abusive "Golden Child" to HR...but went on to create my own small business and grew revenues 3x my salary in only 3 months. I'm just an EA who claims a seat at the same Boardroom table as my Exec and contributes my opinion and research findings as a member of the Executive Leadership Team. I'm just an EA who probably cost you your dream job with our company because you were being a dick to me throughout your interview process and I told my CEO as much...and he listened. I'm just an EA who gives up 40 Saturdays a year traveling the world teaching other "just EAs" that they are so much more than just EAs and to keep fighting for parity and inclusion. I'm just an EA who is redefining the role and making it his mission to force people to rethink the way they see, respect and empower EAs going forward. And for those who still choose not to get it...
I'm the EA with a Master's Degree from F. U. #magnacumlaude
For those of you who still have no clue what an Executive Assistant or Personal Assistant is capable of all you have to do is study the most successful people in business or entertainment. Watch how they move so gracefully from point to point. How they travel. Their demeanor. The restaurants they hold their gatherings in. How together and prepared they are when they're on air or giving a TED Talk. Do you think that shit just magically happens when they roll out of bed? Chances are they have an Assistant in the background who is puppet mastering the whole thing from the most minute detail all the way up to the countdown before going live to millions. That's what we actually do these days, folks. MASTER and RUN IT. Sure, there are likely a few Starbucks trips and lunch reconnaissance missions thrown in. But they're to help keep our bosses in seats, continuing the discussions that move the needle for the company vs. "white or wheat" or "would you like whipped cream on that?"
In my travels I continue to run across Assistants who struggle with the "Aww...you're just an EA," or "Why are you settling?" commentary from uninformed, idiotic nitwits who are likely in stale, middle-management-piranha-tank jobs of their own. Assistants put up with this tired thinking and associated condescending treatment all the time and it's truly doing a number on their confidence and self-worth. But those of you who know me from my LinkedIn posts or in person know that I don't suffer fools gladly. And I'm also apt to call you out on falling for the BS of others and letting it affect you any deeper than surface level. So let me break this down for anyone allowing themselves to feel "lesser than" because of the opinions of others.
- No one in life can do what you do in exactly the way you do it. You are unique by design. Your contribution to this earth is unique and can't be replicated. You are the one who conceives of the exact way and the exact thoughts of how you will contribute. Therefore, nothing anyone says about what you do and the way you contribute to this world is relevant...beyond just words. They have their own unique way of doing things, just like you. Stepping outside the safety of their own uniqueness to comment on yours is a bold move, and immediately subjects them to the danger of a random punch in the throat often attributed to caring too much about everyone else's unique contribution vs. their own. (Catch my drift here?)
- Start focusing on YOU and what you, alone, offer to the world in your own, unique way. In short, "care less." Specifically about what anyone else has to say about you, your profession, or the way you're doing YOU. The only person living your life is you. Period. As long as you are doing the very best you can, EVERY DAY, with what you have at your disposal, nothing else in the world should matter. Especially the opinions of others. Remember this: Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has has them and they're mostly full of shit. (Thanks, Gramma! Miss you!)
- Subscribe to "radical consciousness." I'm writing a book about it now so you'll soon have a reference guide. The idea is to really reel in your focus and concentration and strip it down to the very basics. In other words, becoming truly conscious again. Conscious of every thought, every bite of food, every action you take. In business, it's focusing on the objective and stripping away all of the emotion, opinions, and "non-facts" and striving to simply achieve the objective with laser focus and no fear of circumventing the time wasters and naysayers in its completion. Being radically conscious is the ability to be 100% in the moment, conscious down to every inhale and exhale, with full clarity of thought and intention, and executing from a place of calm, focus, and unflinching resolve. It's a muscle so it's going to take a lot of practice and repetition. But your professional and personal lives will change dramatically from the practice. And the BS opinions about you, your job, or the way you do things won't even register. Enjoy your new teflon shell. Looks good on you.
So, yes. I am "just an EA." In their eyes, perhaps. But, I really don't care how they choose to see me. In fact, it's none of my business. I know, with certainty, who I am and the intention and spirit with which I contribute to this world. Their opinion is cute, but it's of absolutely no value to me. Until it pays my cell phone bill each month or magically morphs into a million dollar bonus check it's simply a bad breath wind spewed from someone far less conscious in their intent and, particularly, in their own life. It. Doesn't. Matter.
Tune it out. Get focused. Get conscious. See you at the top!