Friday, April 15, 2011


When I was first starting out in the workforce, my dad gave me one piece of advice that I thought was really weird. Years later, I finally figured out that it was actually really smart:

Never be indispensable.

Now, when I first heard this, I thought it was silly. This was Silicon Valley in the year 2001, after all. The only people not getting laid off were the indispensable ones, right?! Wrong. A lot of people were losing their jobs, some not so good, some very good, and sometimes it was everybody (yes, I did ride a startup all the way down).

The trouble with being indispensable is that you can't leave. You can't be fired, sure. But you can't take vacations. And you can't get hit by a bus (or chuck it all and move to Antarctica). You also can't be promoted.

Be very good at what you do. Be important. Be useful. Be a hard worker.

And then help others do what you do. Help those around you be good at what they do, and know how to do the things you know how to do. Teach others the tricks you know, and the skills you have. Help them replace you, so you can move on to new and bigger things.

Don't be indispensable. Be a leader.


  1. Mildly sad, but *completely* true... and good advice to boot.

    Funny how most of the best advice we get from our parents only makes sense many, many years later... and far too frequently, only by realizing just how much better off we'd have been if we'd just trusted and followed it in the first place. :)

  2. Your dad was a smart man. And it sounds like that runs in the family...