I was keeping secrets.
When I was a Congressional staffer, I took a younger staffer under my wing. She was whip-smart and gutsy. All she needed was to be shown the way. But after a few months, I was uneasy.
Something had shifted in our breakfast meetings. She’d already spoken to the folks I recommended, already tried the strategies I advocated. Now, she was charting her own way and she was upending my established idea of a mentor-mentee relationship.
I felt threatened, like she was encroaching on my turf. So, I doubled down, kept my trade secrets, and hoarded my connections, gripping the little power I had over her.
On a Tuesday evening, I had soup with my friend, Ted. Ted worked at a powerful company with a fleet of interns. But one stood out. “The kid’s great!” Ted exclaimed over his chowder. “So, I took her to my company’s board meeting. She blew the roof off the place! She’s gonna make a dent in this town.”
I listened to Ted, I ate my soup, and I began to get it: I was afraid my mentee would make a bigger dent than I. More for her, I thought, meant less for me. So, I kept my secrets to keep her in her place.
But Ted knew the basic truth of people and oceans: a rising tide lifts all boats. I could batten down the hatches and live a small life spent warding off threats. Or I could drop my defenses, share generously, and contribute to the rising tide.
Because it’s not about secrets. It’s about letting our generosity be greater than our fear, letting our established ideas be upended, and letting our world be big enough for all of us to make a dent.
I’d like to say that soup with Ted made a new woman of me. But the truth is, it’s a lesson I’m still learning. That fear of threats is still in me. But I keep a few less secrets. And I rise with a few more tides.