Be a Screw-up enter Years ago when I was in broadcasting, I was the Program and Music Director for a couple of radio stations in a medium-sized market. And I was stupid. Well at least I thought I was.

go to site At the beginning of my tenure there, I worked with a consultant with whom I would spend perhaps a half an hour on the phone each Monday. This guy was brilliant. We were at the top of the radio ratings heap and it was all because of his secret knowledge of how to get and stay there. Every week I would do local research and provide the new data to him. After a few moments in quiet cogitation, my magical guru would pronounce the new playlist for the week. He’d tell me how often to play them, and then he’d identify which songs to remove from the playlist. When he was done, he’d disappear like a genie until the next Monday.

I never challenged him. I never stated my own opinion. And he never asked. To me, he was The Great Radio Programming God, sitting high up on a distant mountain, silently stroking his beard and dispensing wisdom.

Times changed, and one day he was gone. I was suddenly naked before the ratings world, hoping without hope to retain my place at the top of the ratings heap. Stupid me. Scared to death. A sure-fire screw-up.

I was doomed.

On the following Monday, I walked into our building with my lunch bag in hand. Like a little boy, I stared at the floor all the way to my desk. There sat my research from the previous week. While those few pages of data were less than two-tenths of an inch high, to me, they stood six miles high, blocking the sun as well as my future. I had no guru. I was on my own. I had to make the decisions.

And I did.

I made decisions that first week. Then the second. Then a month went by. Then six months. Then a year. And guess what? After all that time, we were still number one! As it turned out, I wasn’t incompetent; I was simply unconfident. And I was unconfident because I had always had a crutch – the consultant – to take the heat; to take responsibility. I was protected, and I was safe.

But looking back, I wish I had been more aggressive. I would have developed much greater confidence in myself had I stepped forward with my own opinions.

I learned an important lesson from all of this – and I teach it to my audiences: As long as your manager runs interference for you, you will not thrive. Abdicating responsibility upward stops your growth. Don’t wait for your “guru” to disappear; start thinking for yourself. Make your brain work for a living. State your ideas and act on them. And when possible, take charge and do it yourself.

Until you test yourself, you will never know the depth and breadth of potential you already hold. Do it. Screw it up: Screw up your courage and step forward. Your future self will thank you.


This entry was posted in 2. The Power of Who You Will Become, 3. The Power of Capacity and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Be a Screw-up

  1. Phyllis W says:


    As always, your comments are on target. If you haven’t made mistakes, you haven’t accomplished much. And as you point out, relying on others- even you mentors- does not advance your leadership skills. Stretching your wings really matters.

    You may remember our one on one lunch session last summer after I moved to Indiana. I definitely do. You really helped me in my life and career transition. Thank you again for your time. Although I’ve moved back to Cleveland, I read your columns with great interest. You have so much business and leadership advice to offer. And, you say it in simple terms.

    As you may remember, being “retired” was not comfortable for me. I am now contributing to an organization with great people and a good purpose- helping individuals and organizations succeed. I’m having fun and helping people in their career development. That’s what energizes me more than money at this stage.

    All the best to you and your amazing ability to motivate and inspire others to achieve.

    Phyllis W.

    • Jeffrey Tobin says:

      What a kind note. Thank you. Comments like yours go straight to the heart as my purpose is to be as helpful to others – in the ways I am best able. I’m so glad you are doing well and do wish to hear of your continuing success. Thank you for passing your thoughts along to me and to my other readers. It is a joy to hear from you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copyright © 2018 Jeffrey Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Website by Geist Creative.