I was a reporter in a newspaper bureau, covering the county school system and writing stories about things like dress codes, standardized test scores and school board politics.
I enjoyed it but grew bored after a couple of years. I was pretty sure I wanted to be an editor. Or, more specifically, in charge.
When one of the designers in the office built an internal website for employees to get to know each other better, she had us fill out a survey that included our plans for the future.
I answered, “The boss of you.”
I cannot imagine what people thought when I actually became their boss. Had the roles been reversed, I would have done all manner of creative things to make “the boss of me” miserable.
Fortunately for me, my first employees were patient and forgiving, finding ways to teach me how to teach others.
That was more than 10 years ago and I have held several other positions between then and today. What I’ve learned as I’ve matured is that being the boss is not synonymous with being in charge, and being in charge is not synonymous with being happy.
In a culture that financially rewards “the boss”, it is difficult to come to this conclusion. Even more so to hold onto it. When Facebook’s Sharyl Sandberg tells us to “lean in” in the boardroom so we can ultimately direct it, the assumption is we wanted that position in the first place.
What if we don’t?
As a culture, we need to redefine what it means to be successful. Living a successful life should be about living an inspired one. Ambition should come in the pursuit of happiness. Men, women, all of us. But women, in particular, are in a good position to lead this charge.
Because we have had to struggle for our place in the workforce, many of us have become myopic. We have had to make choices. We have had to let go of some of the things – including our own families – that bring us the most profound joy. We are trying so hard to win at a game we didn’t conceive that many of us have forgotten what it is we wanted in the first place.
To create. To be heard. To help. To love.
The end game, we must realize, is not to become the boss. Not necessarily.
The end game is to become ourselves.