let’s be real, titles don’t mean squat

October 3, 2015 By Tom

“Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success.” – Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter.

incredibly proud to have this opportunity and can’t wait for the next year

I’m still coming down from the high that resulted from my SKL Class XL opening retreat that took me away from Indy for a couple days and allowed me to be in a room surrounded by 24 other incredible classmates, an amazing mentor, and a great staff from Leadership Indy. It was a room that created discussion, community, and fast friendships. It was a group that has the ability to help shape and shift Indianapolis in the decades to come. It was a setting that put us as equals and stripped away the importance of our individual daily worlds.

In my world at Nine13, titles don’t really matter, we’re all in this together. I would actually prefer to not have the gaudy title I do carry, but it’s needed to be able to get business done in this town. The reality is, my team is the most important part of Nine13, and their daily effort and loyalty deserve titles that are of equal status to mine. It was really cool to be with my SKL classmates, some of whom come from corporations that place a lot more value on titles, and understand that in our class setting, titles were irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if you’re a director, concertmaster, fighter pilot, or founder; we all were there on our blind applications that did not attach our names, employer, or other self identifying information. This wasn’t about who knew who and who got a seat, but about how we crafted our application and our shared vision to make Indianapolis a better city. It was about the fact that all of us have worked so hard for 5, 10, 20 years, in careers and fields and industries…and for many of us, we’re now just hearing, “you’ve done such a great job in a short amount of time” as people don’t realize the time and sweat that went into earning where we’re at today, which is why I chose to open up the blog with one of my favorite modern era quotes.

But back to titles, and why they don’t mean squat (except when they do)…

all my hard work is to create moments like this, and it’s totally worth it

The only time I pay attention to a title in my world at work, is when it comes to figuring out who actually has the ability to say “yes” to writing a check to Nine13 to grow Kids Riding Bikes. Often, who I’m pitching the concept to is a person at a different level than someone who can get a check cut, and it takes connecting all of those relationships to bring things together. It’s not unusual for the visionary person who wants Nine13, to have a battle on their hands to even get the person who can authorize the check to expand their (sometimes) narrow minded focus and get them to buy into the vision. So, I’ve realized that the only time that title is important, is when it comes to who has the ability to push things across the finish line.

I’ve grown from an organization that created just shy of $100,000 in revenue in 2014, to our current growth strategy and anywhere from a $400,000 to $450,000 for the calendar 2016 year. That’s not been because of a title, that’s been because of people understanding my vision and the collective impact we have.

What I processed thought and talked about on my drive home, was that it would have been really easy to give up at Nine13, but I’m so glad that I stuck through it and never called it quits. Babe Ruth said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up” and looking back, I have such an appreciation for that thought, and am so thankful I never gave up, no matter what my title was.

And in the same way I tell our students that, “you must finish every course you start”, I’m feeling thankful that I’m made sure that I apply that same rule to my life as well. I just don’t know where the finish line is, so I force myself to give my best every single day