Charlie and I were talking the other day about how much you learn when you’re put in charge of something. The entire process is one big “…oh.” Oh, that’s what it’s like when people don’t turn things in on time. Oh, that’s what it’s like when someone acts entitled but hasn’t earned it. Oh, that’s what it’s like when everyone starts making the same excuse at the same time and suddenly it’s obvious that a solid 40% of human adults are total flakes. Being in charge is eye-opening and dangerous and humbling. Nothing will make your own faults clearer than suddenly being the boss in a world where you were always only the underling.
He and I are both freelancers, so when we’re “in charge,” it’s on a project, or with a part-time gig (which is pretty much exactly how we like it—no corner office for me, thx). Still, it’s been invaluable to get that shift in perspective now and then. I firmly believe that everyone in the world should work a service industry job—preferably one in food and beverage AND one in retail—because it saves you from turning into an asshole without a soul. But I also believe that everyone should get the chance to be in charge of something. It shows you not how to be a good boss, but how to be a good employee. You don’t realize how everyone around you is using the same excuses and making the same mistakes until suddenly you’re the one watching it all happen from above.
I had a boss once who liked me and seemed really unhappy. I could tell that he saw me as this sort of bright young thing and as such he gave me a lot of opportunities and I really appreciated it. But it was strange climbing the ladder that he was on top of, because I really didn’t want to be like him. He didn’t want to be like him. He didn’t want to be the boss. Up there, all dreams had died. He used to talk about the past in the way of people who have lots of regrets. Once, he tried to give me a promotion, and I quit, instead. A few years later he quit, too.