For as long as I can remember, I’ve been that behind-the-scenes person that keeps the show running. I was the number two–the second-in-command, the wingman, the devoted partner and the perfect assistant. However, do not think for one moment that this is a position for passive wimps.
I have been that person that everyone turns to for advise. When they need someone to lean on, they turn to me. When they have a burden that is too heavy to carry, I lighten that load. When they grow tired of it all, I was the one that made them feel better. When they don’t believe in themselves, I was the person who told them they could do it.
One day I woke up and realised that there was absolutely no one there for me. When you are the one that supports everyone else on their journey–who is there to support you?
What happens when you stop being that person who carries the weight on behalf of someone else? What happens when the second-in-command decides to drop everything and set forth on their own path? Do you think people understand?
All those people whom you supported–where are they when you need them?
They are still on their own journey and have left you all alone to embark on yours. They found someone else to carry the burden–perhaps that person doesn’t do it as well as you did–but that person will do. Do they miss you or do they miss what you gave them? I still haven’t figured out the answer to this question.
Perhaps they miss everything you gave them and are even thankful that you helped them out when they truly needed it. But in the end, they walked off with the gifts you gave them and left you stranded in the middle of nowhere to find your own path.
That is exactly what the Page of Swords of this world do. They cut you and then they cut you off. No explanation given. No remorseful words. Not even a heartfelt apology.
But I now know there is a voice that keeps them up at night. A silent whisper that is as loud as a banshee screaming in the twilight.
She made me.
Without her, I would not be here. Without her, I would not have achieved this. Without her support, her care and her devotion–I would be nothing.
And yet, you are the one who is left with nothing for everything that you gave, built and nurtured.
For a long time, that is what I believed. It sure seemed that way on the surface.
But in life, what goes around comes around. The strings of karma coil themselves around our neck and will not let go till debts have been repaid.
In the loneliness that ensued, there was a light that was guiding my path. It had been dimmed by years and years of standing in someone else’s shadow–but it was still there, shining softly and tenderly.
In the darkness of being abandoned, I found my way. Freed from the shackles of being second-in-command, I became the leader of my own life. And for a long time, that was enough. The solitary life where one discovers oneself without any need for another.
And then one fine day, I found myself with a second-in-command. Again, do not think this is a position for passive wimps. This is not a job for the weak-hearted. This is not a job for those who are free-riders. This is not a job for people who cannot withstand the demands that are placed on leaders.
Partners are not followers. They are co-leaders.
I know no one who is stronger. I know no one who is more resilient. I know no one who is more caring.
I also know deep down that this is not a person to cross. I know that this person will slaughter anyone who dares to harm me. I know that this person will fight my battles when I am weary. I know that when I am down, this person will pull me out of it. I know that when I am struggling, this person will get into the pits with me and never judge me at my most vulnerable. I also know that this person will give me a thrashing when I need it.
And lastly, I know that as a leader–I am not beyond reproach. There are people whom I am answerable to. The clout they hold over me is unparalleled.
These are the people who have invested in me and who I am. They are the people who carry the load and share the heavy burdens that have been placed upon me. Having been the second-in-command, I now know that these people are not wingmen. They are the alpha behind the alpha.
And because of that, they are stronger than the alpha. It is not them who needs me–but rather, I who need them.
In all my years as a partner, this is not something I realised–not till I actually had a partner. And somewhere deep down, I think every leader knows that. And that brings with it a sense of insecurity and vulnerability.
A sense of debt. A sense of gratitude. A sense of knowing that all of that support was given freely–yet, it was not free.
As I said, the strings of karma coil themselves around our neck and will not let go till debts have been repaid.
For all the leaders out there, I say think twice before you stand in the limelight and allow someone to stand in the shadows. For all that has been given, one day you will be asked to give.
Partners do not ask much. Over the years, I have asked myself countless times what in the world possessed me to support people who had never supported me. I am neither naive nor a passive wimp. The answer I have for that question is incredibly simple.
I saw something in you. I believed in you.
That’s all it really comes down to.
As for what I want in return–the answer is simpler still.
As we part, I would like to leave you with a poem that has come back to me time and time again. I hope these words bring you as much peace as they have brought me.
We give them our trust. We give them our effort.
What we ask in return is that they stay true.The Contract: A word from the Led by William Ayot
Dipa Sanatani is the Publisher at Mith Books and the author of The Little Light and The Merchant of Stories. In The Merchant of Stories, Dipa takes the reader on a personal journey–narrated through a series of candid journal entries–on what it takes for entrepreneurs and creatives to start their very first venture.