You probably think I’m morbid. Last week I wrote about grief, today obits. But I love them for the same reason people love the Biography Channel — because you get to see how people got to be who they are.
I especially love clues from childhood that signal the future. Did you know Neil Armstrong built wind tunnels when he was a child? I learned that from his obituary. A lot of kids play with airplanes, but most don’t build wind tunnels, and we know where he ended up. (On the moon. You knew that, right?)
This weekend I was reading the obituary of Senator Birch Bayh. Firstof all, thank you Senator Bayh for Title IX. The senator drafted this legislation and was a primary champion for it — legislation that completely changed the world for women and gave us opportunities in athletics and academics that did not exist. Do you think there would be a WNBA if there hadn’t been a Title IX? The world is truly a different place thanks to Senator Bayh.
He also co-wrote the Equal Rights Amendment, which, sadly, did not pass. But he could see that coming, or at least predicted it would be very slow progress, which is why he pushed Title IX as a fast track to equality.
Senator Bayh is what I would call a feMANist. A man who stands up for women. And this was in 1972!
This influential senator started out on the Senate Judiciary Committee as a member of the subcommittee on constitutional amendments. Not a particularly exciting assignment. After all, how often are there new constitutional amendments? According to the LA Times, when the chair of the subcommittee died, no one really wanted the job that “seemed a ticket to obscurity.”
But Bayh grabbed the ball while everyone else was walking off and even paid for the subcommittee’s staff out of his own Senate office budget.
Rather than obscurity, this lead to prominence. Except for the founding fathers, he is the only person to have authored two constitutional amendments — the ERA would have been three.
He’s the reason we can vote at age 18, the same age that we can fight in a war for our country.
He’s also the reason we have an orderly succession in the executive branch. When President Kennedy died, and Johnson was made VP, everyone realized there was no process to choose a new vice president. Hard to believe, but this was before TQM, Six Sigma and any kind of process improvement.
The whole country was very focused on the Kennedy situation at that time. Solving this succession problem fell to Bayh as chair of his no-longer snooze-worthy committee on constitutional amendments.
Grabbing the ball that no one wants isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I understand you need to be strategic with your time, so you don’t want to be chasing after leprechauns. But if the ball is sitting there, you should seriously think about picking it up, even if everyone else is walking off the field.
I had a client who did that and it also led her to prominence. She was chosen for a role that was a little outside her primary area. She was a CPA and the job was about compliance — developing guidelines and improving records management. A snooze-worthy job if ever there was one, at least for most people.
But she got a lot of visibility. She worked with people from throughout the company and someone on the committee had to present to executive management – regularly. Everyone else on the committee saw extra work. She saw opportunity. She picked up the ball.
Later, a C-level executive came to her, thanked her for her good work and said, “if you ever need anything, come see me.” Within a year, she was promoted to a big, much higher-profile job.
So look closely at your chores and see if they’re really opportunities. I’ve taken many small gigs that turned into more and bigger gigs by grabbing the ball and doing an awesome job with it. You may be able to do the same.
If I can help you share how you turned a dead ball into a game-winning play, let me know. I’d love to help you shine. And check out my Facebook Live about this.