A while ago I was at a client’s premises and found myself locked in.
I’d finished my training a little later than their usual work day’s end, and then took my time packing up my things. By the time I went to leave, the building was deserted.
I had a visitor’s swipe card but it wouldn’t unlock the door to exit the building. There was no press to exit button, just an emergency break-the-glass type deal.
How’s your power?
A cleaner had been in the training room a few minutes earlier, so I went to find him.
Can you let me out? I asked. The door’s locked.
He looked around, alarmed, shrugged, and pointed down the other end of the building.
I walked in that direction and found another cleaner – a woman, his wife, I later concluded – in the kitchen.
When I asked her to let me out, she gave me a flat-out No.
Eventually, I found a lone staff member in one of the offices, and he let me out.
I was pretty amused and dumbfounded, and then as I drove back to my hotel it dawned on me:
I live in a world where I am free to choose.
The power of choice
I am free to choose EVERYTHING.
Whether I work or don’t work. Whether I eat or don’t eat. Whether I sleep or don’t sleep. Who I talk to. What work to accept and decline. What terms I’m willing to work under.
I am free to choose. Every minute of every day.
That is a level of privilege I take for granted.
The limitations of power
That husband and wife, those cleaners working in the evening, did not feel that they had any right to make a decision to give me access OUT of the building.
They had access cards, to be used for their job, and nothing else.
Their world is such that they didn’t feel able to use their own judgement to make what seemed like such a straightforward decision.
I thought about what must be on the line for them – the fear of losing their job, I assume – their ability to provide for their family.
What’s on the line for me when I make my choices?
Usually not much more than whether someone is happy with me or not.
And when I think about it that clearly, there are very few people whose opinions I give a fuck about.
I committed that day to two things:
1. Be braver.
I am privileged to have very little at risk.
2. Be more aware of my privilege.
It’s power, and I need to use it, with joy, and badassery!
I show people how to feel more powerful in their own universe, so they can have joy!