Debra Swersky
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Journal

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Because You

For my entire life, thankfully, I’ve heard the phase, “You can do it.” And I’ve always appreciated the Nike Swoosh: Just Do It. Teachers, parents, friends, etc. everyone says, “you can be anything you want to be… you can do it.” The key piece of that motivational message is that you have to know what you want to be. You have to have a clearer picture than just a, “yeah that sounds cool… I’ll do that.” Now, everyone and their mother (quite literally) has disputed this - plan vs. no plan - and there are inspirational quotes on both sides to justify. So, here’s one for the throw down:

Just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should. 

Who said it? I don’t know. Who said it to me? Probably lots of people. Who said it to me when it mattered… when it made a difference… when the chips were down? My sister. Looking back on this very sage advice, I’m surprised that it was my sister who said it to me and not any number of people who I had been discussing my career with at the time. But then again, I’m not surprised. She was one of them and she’s never hesitated to call me out on my change in tenses, thesis statements, or mentality shifts… (she uses a more concise four-letter word.) 

Recently, I found myself recalling the moment in which she shared this crucial proverb with me. I had just come back from an interview with a company that I was interested in working for. The job was one that I could do, no problem. Not just do: dominate, crush, super excel at. The people were seemingly interesting, the industry was perfect, and the individual who I would be working for, though challenging at times, would allow for awesome exposure to a wide variety of startups. Leaving the interview I was jazzed, but somewhat hesitant. 

Here I was, going through a total career transformation, looking at my life from all angles, answering life’s really hard questions for myself. I had just came out of an interview that would allow me to leverage my strengths in an industry that I wanted to learn about, from people who were experienced and succeeding. (That was the spin-master talking. There were lots of things wrong with the role.) As I’m sharing all of this with my sister, she said, “But wait, just because you can [do this job], doesn’t mean that you should [do this job].” Her saying this, at that particular moment, crystallized a very important life lesson. 

For the first part of my career I was very intentional about what company I worked for and what job I was doing. I had pitched for each position, expressed my desire to work for the company, and truly felt that an impact could be made within the organization, if we worked together. It was during this time of employment that I experienced huge amounts of growth and development. But I’ve also experienced the opposite: a “pull” into an organization, a nudge from a friend/colleague, a recruiter call… all of which are exciting. I felt “wanted.” Someone thought of me when they thought of this role. They saw my value when I was heads-down elsewhere.

From where I sit now, I realize that, “just because I can, doesn’t mean that I should,” is one of those life lessons that doesn’t get shared (or applied) enough. People everyday get pulled into companies who have defined what it is that they need and decided to fill that need with a person. But, on the flipside, people, more often than not, just say “yes, I can do that,” but rarely answer for themselves, “is this what I should be doing?”

Debra Swersky