It Takes Guts You You Can Learn

Inktober 2021: Day 24 – Janis Joplin lyrics

She wrote this song with Kris Kristofferson in 1971. It was a breakout hit and put into words what the youth of that time were feeling. Janis Joplin was a powerhouse, did not look like all the other female singers and dared to ‘speak’ her mind and politics through her lyrics. When I read this phrase I was reminded that some times our most freeing moments are when we let everything go because we have nothing left to lose.

Very early in my career I changed jobs and the owner of the company I was leaving wanted to talk to me before I left. I asked if my current boss could sit in as I did not trust the owner. The owner “gave me a piece of his mind” since I was so young, female and didn’t understand business. He wanted to set me on the right path as I moved on. Needless to say that preamble made me fume, so I held my tongue until the end. Once he was done patronizing me, lecturing me about moving to a city where I knew no one, AND told me how business worked I asked if I could speak. I then gave him my thoughts which included my conclusion that due to his business practices his company would be out of business by the end of the year. I told him he was patronizing, discriminatory, a bully and had no clue how to treat people or make money. Guess what, I had nothing left to lose so I was free to speak the truth. He blew up, called me all sorts of names and told me I had not idea what I was talking about.

When we left the office my boss told me I was blunt, truthful but blunt. He said I was right and that he would never have had the guts to say that to him. He was glad he got to hear someone tell him the truth. I said, “What’s he going to do, fire me?” I thanked him for staying and listening, for being my witness AND for having my back. Sad to say that company did not survive another four months, it went bankrupt by November. It was later discovered that the owner embezzled all the employees 401k savings and left everyone empty handed. But what did I know, I was a woman and had no head for business?

It is said that the truth will set you free. When I moved to Atlanta for that new job I never looked back. I had said my peace and was free to move forward with a clear conscience. I learned a great deal through that experience and totally understood that freedom and courage often need the right circumstances to work together. As I later led teams, groups, large events and global projects I made it a practice to ask people what I could do better. I wanted their feedback and insights BEFORE they left for their next opportunity. People will tell you the truth if they have nothing to lose, so lead them, guide them, trust them with the freedom needed so they can tell you the truth. It takes guts yet you can learn a great deal and be a better person and leader for it. Thank You Janis for that one.

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