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Dan Mall Teaches

You Are Special

Published about 2 months ago • 1 min read

Reading time: around 1 minute

It's a beautiful thing to have friends who aren't afraid to compliment you through an insult.

Over lunch one day, I was whining to my friend Wil Reynolds about how frustrated I was that a few members of my team weren’t seizing the opportunities to push the limits of work on the projects I had put them on.

Wil asked me what kind of support I was giving them to get them to do that, and I replied that I was putting them in situations to succeed.

Then Wil really laid into me.

“You know what your problem is, Dan?”

Oh boy. Those are trigger words for me. I was ready to fight.

“You think you’re not special. You think that all you had was ‘a shot’ and all you did was take advantage of it to create the success you’ve had, so all everybody else needs is ‘a shot.’ No, you’re talented and ambitious and you have a superpower in turning a opportunity into a good outcome. Other people can’t do that on their own. They need help. They need support. They need guidance and mentorship and coaching. You think you’re being humble by thinking you’re not special and that everyone can do what you can. You’re actually being really arrogant by thinking that and not setting up your teams for success.”

Holy backhanded compliments, Batman! I felt praised and insulted and seen and challenged all at once.

Wil was right. Starting that day, I revamped my agency’s structure such that everyone working on a project got a direct coach and sponsor, from our junior people all the way to our managing director.

I think about Wil’s admonition often. There are probably a handful of things you do that you think are unremarkable, that anyone could do them given the chance.

You're wrong, just like I was.

You're special, just like I am.

Don’t sell others short just because they don’t have the same superpowers you do. Use those powers to set them up for success.

—Dan

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Dan Mall Teaches

by Dan Mall

I teach designers how to get the respect they deserve. I share tips, tricks, and tools about design systems, process, and leadership.

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