Guru Status (Part 2 of 3)

This is part 2 of a 3-part series on the book “Becoming a Recognized Authority in Your Field” by Robert Bly. Part 1 can be found here.

Recap: Making an impact in your field requires obviously that you become known— because you can’t make an impact in your field as someone who is completely unknown.  So doing things worthy of being identified by colleagues and other field leaders is important. So, what exactly does it mean to develop “Guru Status?”

Guru Status Explained

Guru Status has to do with becoming the “Go-To Guy/Gal” in your fill-in-the-blank
(workplace, discipline, industry, field, job, trade). Being the Go-To-Guy (G2G) requires that you have the EXPOSURE needed to make the impact you want. Some people simply go about their days putting in their hours and clocking out, then going home for a quiet evening and career mediocrity. And that’s fine—for some. Others believe that they have more to give and that what they do is more than a mere job—it’s a part of their vocation… something bigger and more important than the hours they spend to earn a paycheck. In his book, Bly argues that we should be aware of the phenomenon of Guru Status, because (a) it exists and (b) without realizing it exists, you aren’t likely to obtain its powers and exploit its mighty possibilities.

But why? Why invest time and energy to be recognized as an authority in your field? Because when you have developed that type of reputation for impact (Guru Status), it virtually ensures long-term sustainable influence and market advantage. In other words, it means that you are relevant to the field, a mover and shaker in the field, an important voice to be heard—and someone that needs to be at the table when these things are discussed. In other words, Guru Status ensures IMPACT and OPPORTUNITY. Impact speaks to our existential need for meaning—that something we are doing actually matters. Opportunity is, of course, that part of our career that ensures we are not constantly ‘under-employed’ or ‘un-employed.’ People with opportunity have CHOICES. Choices equals freedom. Without choices, you’re stuck. Without choices, get used to whatever you’ve been given [a bad work schedule, too little benefits, lack of appreciation, whatever]. So the fundamental issue with developing Guru Status is that, by working for this type of impact in your line of work, you are blessed with more freedom (choices) and meaning (existential satisfaction in life compared to what you would have had).

Results of Attaining Guru Status

Once you begin to make the impact you’re capable of, you begin to realize that you have opportunities. You’re in the “meetings that matter.” You begin to have an overwhelming demand for your time. That means less time (like some people without Guru Status) wondering why you’re not appreciated for what you do, and more time giving expertise, making a difference, and more remunerative work. These are the simple rewards of influence. The more of an impact you make, the more valuable your time becomes, because time is limited. Also, the more valuable your time, the more selective you can (and must) be with it. Time is a precious commodity—there is only so much of it. So when you begin to get busy due to the outside recognition that you are an important voice or force who needs to be involved on a project or in an organization, you can begin to truly enjoy what you are doing because you’re no longer working only for survival.

Attaining Guru Status

Bly speaks to this idea in his book. Forgive me if this language is a little too marketing-related for you, but bear with me. But what are the right things to do in order to raise awareness of our expertise in a given field? Part of these are ideas from Bly and of course some are from my own experience. But how?

Here are a few quick ideas:

  • Go Get It. It’s not coming to you any other way. You aren’t entitled to it and you don’t inherit this type of influence. You must act. If you don’t act, don’t be surprised that you are underappreciated and undervalued and underutilized. No one knew who Michael Jordan was when he was a Sophomore in high school—beause he hadn’t decided to play basketball yet. Once he decided to “go get it,” the rest became history.
  • Manifest Your Best You. The organizations needing your help don’t have time to deal with dysfunction and pathology. They don’t have time to be weighed down by our hangups and issues. This requires you to imagine, create, and release your Best You. Who is your best you? What does that person look like? How do they act? What is their style? Call it your Best You, call it an Altar Ego, whatever—but it is the Best You (you at your very best) that draws people to you. That’s who people need to see… not us bemoaning life’s little petty issues all across the Twitterverse.
  • Do the Right Things. Over and Over Again. More importantly, to reach this pinnacle of professional impact, you must build momentum through multiple positive repetitive acts that produce momentum and motion. In other words, you have to do the right things (sort of like Jim Collins said in Good to Great). Starting doing and continue doing the things that make a difference, otherwise you don’t get and keep professional momentum. Don’t waste your time on non-starters. You need to find out what makes an impact and what “matters” in your field, then push these things until they create a tipping point. A tipping point occurs when you work produces movement and that regenerates continual momentum of its own. Once momentum is begun, it takes much less effort to keep it going. Then you can focus on doing what you do best—

There’s more to it, but this is a start. In the book, Bly gives lots of specific examples of what a person can do in order to advance in one’s field and gain visibility more quickly. More on that in my next and final post on his book, ‘Becoming a Recognized Authority.”

Image: Sukanto Debnath

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