Power is a strange thing. Tell other people you want it, and they might think you have aspirations of conquering Poland. (Good luck with that–the Poles are in a pretty angry mood right now.)
But power isn’t a bad thing. Power doesn’t mean you have Napoleonic visions in your head. Wanting power means you just want a little more control in an uncontrollable world. Power allows you to proactively shape your career and life, rather than continually react to events around you.
So how do you get more power?
According to Dacher Keltner, professor at the University of California, Berkley, and author of The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence, one of the primary ways we gain power is by making others powerful.
One of the best examples I’ve ever seen of gaining power by making others powerful occurred in high school.
I had a friend named Race who was athletic, funny, and good looking–with a giant blond Sideshow Bob-looking haircut that was impossible to miss.
Race’s power didn’t come from his looks, or his talent. His power came from being friends with people across the social spectrum of high school. Race literally didn’t see social class–which is a pretty rare trait in a popular high school boy. High school can be incredibly difficult if you’re one of the unseen, one of the uncool, and being seen by Race made you feel cool.
The power Race gave others gave him the power to be himself. He was weird–but everyone loved him for it, and the power to just be yourself is something most of us rarely experience at that age.
Race died in a skydiving accident in his mid-twenties, and his death has become something of a holiday in our hometown. Every year on Facebook I see a huge crowd of his family and friends gather to drink beer and remember him by dressing like Vikings.
If people dress like Vikings to honor your death, it’s safe to say you were a powerful person.
I know Race wasn’t roaming the halls of our high school, figuring out how to become more powerful. He wasn’t class president, the quarterback, or homecoming king–the usual sources of power for high school boys. Race was a powerful person because he lifted others up and made them feel powerful, just by being their friend.
He was cool, and he pulled the uncool into his orbit.
Thankfully, high school ends–but there are still those of us who feel unseen, who are one of the uncool.
(And if you don’t know what it feels like to be uncool, watch this scene from Almost Famous.)
(In fact, watch all of Almost Famous.)
If you are one of the “cool,” pull the uncool into your orbit. Figure out how to create opportunities for others. Share knowledge. Lift people up.
No matter how little power you feel you have at the moment, you can make that power grow. It might be as simple as acknowledging someone who rarely gets acknowledged. Seriously, the next time the IT guy comes in your office to fix your computer, tell him how much you appreciate what he does, and how much his contribution matters.
Hoard your power, and it will wither and die.
Share your power, and it will grow.
Lift others up and make them powerful–that’s how you can rule the world in 2017.
And you don’t even need to conquer Poland.