Tuesday, September 18, 2012
If you have power, give joy
About six or so years ago, I won a competition to become the Royal Scrivener within the Kingdom of Atlantia in the SCA. There were only two people competing at the time, and you get to hold the position for a year. The idea is that you support the arts of calligraphy and illumination by sponsoring competitions, and generally being a visible artist-of-the-year. It comes with no prizes, and no "rank" or extra privilege. Or so I thought.
While I was Royal Scrivener, I made a point of seeking out artists who entered my competitions and telling them how much I liked their work, or giving advice if I could be helpful.
One day, I held a competition, and there was a stunning entry. The calligraphy was better than mine, (and my calligraphy is DAMN good), and the illumination was phenomenally better than mine. I made a point of hunting the lady down, (after I had chewed my jealous bone a bit in private), to tell her how amazing I found her work.
This lady is a better artist technically than I will EVER be. Think I'm being modest? Go look. Yeah. She makes my work look like the amateur efforts that they are, and always will.
I literally had NOTHING I could offer her in terms of advice, suggestions, or helpful improvements. In fact, I wanted to sit her down and ask for lessons. But I went and gave her my admiration and encouragement anyways.
She told me five years later that she was so grateful and humbled to have the ROYAL SCRIVENER come and talk to her about her work that she was giddy over it for days. That it had meant the world to her that I had come to tell her IN PERSON how amazing her work is.
That was a major lesson to me on perspective. I felt like my input to her was valueless. To her, it was priceless. She was new to the SCA, and still trying to feel out her place. She didn't know many people. To her, I was one of the established, a Kingdom Notable, someone who was in a position to "know". She's learned better since then, but we're now good friends, and she recently made me one of my most prized possessions, a handbound book that is shaped like a heart when you open it.
I recently entered the GUTGAA Agent Pitch contest, and I saw one of the judges worrying on her blog that all she had to give was her subjective opinion, and she didn't want to crush the dreams of others. I wanted to hug her and pet her nose and tell her that she wasn't crushing dreams in absentia, she was giving joy.
In my category of 43 entries, 19 received at least one "vote" from a judge. Almost half of the entries did the happy dance of joy! The rest all got professional comments, good advice, and encouragement! There is no losing here!
If you're in a position of authority, you have the opportunity to be someone's moment of joy. Don't waste them! It's the most precious of gifts, and the true reward of working hard to get where you are.