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Paying Your Dues

The old guards love the idea that you need to spend some specified period of time or suffer some number of hardships before you can have your chance to shine.

They love this idea because it feels like justice.

They think how much time they’d spent to get where they are. They remember the hardships they’d endured. They think of all of the time and energy it took to get where they are. After all of that, they’ll “be damned if some young punk thinks they can just come in out of nowhere and take what’s” theirs.

They want to collect the dues, and they want to decide when you’ve paid in enough.


But that’s not how it works if we’re talking about what it takes to become a success.

Paying your dues is gatekeeping nonsense that is largely about someone else who fears losing their position. It’s about someone else feeling like it was all for nothing if you can do it faster.

If you’re good, you’re good, and you should be acknowledged for it. Unfortunately, too many leaders have a chip on their shoulder that stops them from challenging and growing their people. Their own insecurity forces them into creating arbitrary timelines with arbitrary trials, all so that their people don’t surpass them.

Unfortunately for them, the truth is that you don’t owe anyone a damn thing, even when they suggest that you do. Your time and talents are yours, and you get to choose what to do with it.

Collecting Dues

I’m not suggesting that we don’t need to pay our dues. I’m suggesting that we need to understand who is collecting.

Your success should have nothing to do with some perceived dues that need to be paid to someone else. Instead it’s what you owe to yourself. It’s the 10,000 hours to be good enough at whatever your craft is to truly make your mark. It’s the failures you grow from. It’s the successes you draw strength from. It’s the experience to appreciate success when you get there.

Some people have natural talent and will get there faster. Some people start at a young age and get there earlier. Everyone gets where they are going at their own pace.

The dues you are paying are to your present and future self, not someone else. If you’re collecting dues from others or you are part of a culture that does, it’s time to let go and start focusing on the dues your need to pay yourself toward becoming a better leader and changing the culture.

I’ll say it again for good measure. You don’t owe anyone a damn thing. Your time and talents are yours, and you get to choose what to do with it.

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