Power Obsolescence

I have a couple principles in my life that I hold to very strongly, which I thought I’d write about after seeing the This Just In… from Gen Con relaunch:

  • Build things that will outlast you.
  • Make yourself replaceable or unnecessary in cooperative, beneficial ways.

There are people who take pride in being the center that holds everything, and feel disappointment when after leaving a position of leadership, what they left behind continues to function. I am the opposite of that person. I’m happy that This Just In—which I built with Paul Tevis in 2008 and continued to build over the next few years—is thriving under new management (and running a Kickstarter to fun the upcoming year!).

Those two principles above dovetail into a sense I’ve lived by for nearly a decade that I call power obsolescence: If you’re genuinely indispensable, you can’t grow. Being important is nice, at least the “feeling validated” portion of it. But if you’re so necessary for something that you aren’t available to try new things, I see that as being shackled. I’m not someone comfortable with shackles in my creative life.

It’s okay to be indispensable for a time, but don’t chase that forever. It’s okay to become unneeded or let yourself be replaced, especially when you do it on your terms and to forward some life agenda you have.

Also, it’s awesome to step back from something and say “Yeah, I totally made that, and it’s still standing.” Let that be your satisfaction.

Yeah, you might feel pangs of regret at times when people forget that you built something they love. Whoever’s running something gets the limelight; that’s the reward for being the one doing the work. But don’t let those pangs turn into a need to feed your ego by going back to that role or creative space. Turn that yearning into starting new endeavors, into trying new challenges, into taking new directions in life.

And when in those new adventures you feel lost or like an impostor, look back on the things you made that still stand. Think about how lost or foolish you felt when you made those things, and how that didn’t stop you from accomplishing something lasting.

Once you can live comfortably in that headspace—which isn’t easy, trust me—you’ve got the power to do what you want and a variety of experiences to back that up. That’s why I call it power obsolesce.

Follow-up: This post fired off thoughts in Minerva Zimmerman’s mind, and we had a conversation about what this concept means in a different scale: an author’s individual work.

– Ryan


2 Responses to Power Obsolescence

  1. Matticus Maximus says:

    That is some amazingly fantastic advice. I shouldn’t be shocked, you normally are extremely poignant and verbose about such.

  2. James says:

    If you haven’t had a chance, you should take the time to read Chris Hadfield’s _An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. This reminded me strongly of his writing about how to be successful in co-operative ventures.