How to NOT be “Just a…”

Geek!This is Lamarr Wilson’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

I recently asked a friend of mine where she works. She told me the company that she worked for, and then said, “I’m just a secretary.” A few years ago, when posed with the same question, another friend answered, “I’m just a teacher’s assistant.” In another scenario, I overheard a co-worker while he spoke to a parent say, “I’m just a janitor.” What’s wrong with these statements? You guessed it; they all said I’m “just a…”

Many people do not realize the impact of simple statements. It’s a statement that’s said quickly, but a famous biblical proverb states that “Out of the heart’s abundance, the mouth speaks.” I learned a long time ago that if you keep thinking that you’re “just a…,” then you always will be just that; it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You’ll never aspire to do your best in your job; you’ll settle, or even wallow, in your contentment. Why could this happen? Simply put, because you’re “just a…”

Some years ago, when I was a teacher assistant, I was very proud of that job. True, it wasn’t as high profile as being a certified classroom teacher, but I learned just how important that position was by looking at the big picture. Instead of putting myself down (which is what you’re doing when you say “I’m just a…”), I became the BEST teacher assistant I could be. I was no longer “just a…” I was THE teacher assistant. When I worked retail sales, I aspired to be the best stock person, the best cashier, and the best order taker. In my current business as a consultant for elementary schools, how many potential clients would take me seriously if I told them, “Well, I’m just a technology consultant”? No, I am THE technology consultant, the one who can provide the best possible service for your needs. That kind of self-confidence makes people more comfortable to be around you and do business with you.

Going back to the example of the secretary at the outset, after receiving that reply, I firmly told my friend, “I like you, but I dislike when people say that. You’re not “just a” secretary. You are THE secretary. Your job is one of the most important in the company. Without you at the helm, the office would not run smoothly. Start thinking positively of your work, and you’ll find that you enjoy it more.”

Whatever you choose to do in life, do your very best, whether you’re a secretary, a teacher assistant, or a janitor. Change your thinking, and you’ll change your life. Become a specialist at your job. Become so valuable that your employer will not be able to afford to lay you off in these tough times. All of this starts with you having a strong degree of self-confidence, and building up your self-esteem. I encourage you to test this out; when people ask you what you do, in a powerful, resolute tone, state it proudly! You’ll find that people will be more comfortable around you, and they may open up and do the same. Change starts with you!

15 thoughts on “How to NOT be “Just a…””

  1. You are of course making some good observations here. There is no reason to put yourself down just because of your title or job description. But there is a limit to how confident a person should be about his or hers currents status. If they show too much pride in the work they do, at least I would halfway expect them to be content with their current position.

    The persons I would have liked to promote – or recommend to others – were the ones that got involved in activities that not necessarily were related to work, but proved they had creativity and initiative. But again, it is worth noting that also employers and decision makers are unique individuals with their own priorities and mindsets. So some would probably think and feel the way you in a way promote in this article.

    Personally I think that there is something completely different that may be equally important in the end. This is something intangible, yet very noticeable. Simply put: you must also have some kind of charisma.

  2. I find wisdom in the words of this Man. Wisdom that can personally be used for YOUR Lifetime, or anyones. Some people are happy in what they do, content . Others are not because they allow the ones over them to psycologically persuade them that this is all they will become. With the job market being unstable its easier to become complacent and accepting, not maing waves just to keep a job. Some people will take advantage of this kind of sheepish attitude and benefit themselves instead of you. Being Shy and Mild and Quiet and having Humility has its proper place in life because these are qualities that are desirable. If you are known to have self confidence and exhibit it, you will make staements like Lamarr Wilson expressed ” I’m just a”
    I enjoyed the truthfulness of this article and it is beneficial for anyone who applies its wisdom.

    Thank you.

  3. Correcting a sentence in my earlier statement. Sorry its 4am in the morning and I am at work.
    If you are not know for exhibiting self confidence then you will make staements such as ” I’m Just a”
    Thank you

  4. ( IN ALL CAPS )

    YOU HIT THE DONKEY RIGHT ON THE NOSE, IF YOU’RE JUST A –

    THEN YOU’RE NEVER CONFIDENT OR HAPPY WITH YOURSELF.
    I WAS NEVER A- I AM THE WORLDS BEST JAMES BROWN ENTERTAINER, I HAVE THE FUNKIEST AND MOST RESPECTED BAND IN THE WORLD, THE ORIGINAL JAMES BROWN BAND, WHO IN THE FUNK COULD TOUCH THAT. AND BEFORE THAT, SAIDS OPRAH WINFREY, I WAS THE BEST MICHAEL JACKSON ENTERTAINER IN THE WORLD, I TOO WAS THE BEST STOCK BOY AT FATHER AND SONS SHOE STORE AT AGE 13 TO 16, I HAD THE NUMBER 1 STORE IN RETAIL WITH WILD PAIR SHOW COMPANY.
    I HAVE THE SMARTEST NEPHEWS IN THE WORLD WHO ARE LEADERS NOT FOLLOWERS, IF THIS STORY DOESN’T BUILD SELF ESTEEM WHAT WILL. LOVE WHAT YOU DO. FROM JANITOR TO CEO OF WALL STREET, IF THERES SUCH A THING. BE YOU, BE HAPPY ,AND LOVE 3 THINGS IN LIFE YOUR FAMILY ,YOUR FRIENDS ,AND GOD. ALL THE REST IS JUST A-

  5. Wow !! How to NOT be “just a” Makes it seem not to cut your self short but be able to tell what your are. I’m not” just a” student I’m a student that can do more to learn . That was a motivational post man !!! Keep it Up..

  6. Flimmer,

    I wasn’t advocating complacency, just the opposite actually. Those who are confident and do the best they can do will naturally be those who go above and beyond. When I was a stock person at Office Depot I made sure I helped in other departments. When the cashiers were overloaded, I jumped in to help. I proved that I wasn’t “just a.” The result? I have always had a job, and I have always gotten jobs that technically I shouldn’t have if you go by education backgrounds or status. If I were complacent, I would never have taken the leap to start my own business out here where there are much larger companies doing much more business, and sometimes, cheaper.

    So I’m with you. People who are not “just a” will do their best always, and your best always involves going above and beyond; it’s just a natural cycle.

    My mom and uncle who posted above are EXCELLENT examples of this, as well as my favorite student that I’ve known since 1st grade, Kheperah. Thanks for the comments!

  7. After reading the statement writen by Lamarr Wilson, it made me realize that there are just too many “I am just A” in the world, and I know quite a few of them.

    I raised my children to believe in themselves, to be positive about their desires and never say, ” I cannot do this”.
    There will always be challenges to overcome and and obstacles that may seem to difficult to tackle.
    If you believe that you can achieve, then you can succeed.
    There is a phrase that I learned as a child, and I passed it on to my children and there children. which is:
    “Don’t wait for your ship of opportunity, Wade out and get it”.
    If you are A, “I’m Just A”, then you will not ever become what you could have been.

  8. What an outstanding comment to discuss. Being a retired military Soldier of 26 years, I have heard this phrase over and over, “I’m Just A”. As Soldiers, we are groomed to always give 110% and not accept any thing less.
    If I could not help another Soldier achieve a task, and I responded to them with, “I’m just a First Sergeant”, what would they think of me? It definitely would not be good.
    If my Soldier said, “I’m just a Private”, that would appear acceptable to some people, but not to many, because in the past, you expect Privates to screw up, and when NCOs screw up, we call them PRIVATES. In today’s world, this phrase is no longer acceptable to anyone. In life, you MUST be the best of what you are, who you are, and what you KNOW you can accomplish. If it feels over-whelming, turn to the experts to give you a push because no one can make it on their own. If we “The People” do not look out, help out, and give the knowledge and wisdom to those that need to carry on our torch, then those words “I’m Just A”, will be etched in stone globally. How many times have you entered a department store or grocery store to return an item or to complain about that person who tells you “I’m just a clerk, I’m just the runner, I’m just the messenger, and they don’t want to assist you or help you finalize your issue. You ask for the store manager and explain your problem. He provides the solution and you are happy, but then you are also pissed off at the person who would not take that extra mile to do the same thing that he had done. Could they have not said, “Let me get the store manager for you and we will take care of this problem”, YES, they could have, and you would have looked at them and said, “That is a great clerk, runner, or messenger. You leave the store looking for that comment box so you can leave a negative or postive comment. When that person’s supervisor reads your comment, that will make all the difference in the world and they will remember to do that for each and every customer. Being a “I’m Just A” is not a bad thing if you handle yourself, your priorities, customers and clients with dignity and respect, and of course with quality customer service then you will be the best “I’m Just A”.

  9. Cousin… You didn’t tell me you taking them to church and I forgot my suit!!! This article is so necessary, much respect for this. Its sad how society praticlly has enstilled in people if you do not have a certain occupation, make an income they standardize as acceptable, and so on that it is not worth mentioning. With me being in generation of transitioning from young adults to adults I hear this all the time. “Just a student”, “just a mom”, “just a CNA”. The absurd part is how people in the illegal part of life glorify proudly what they do. Gangsters, drug dealers, thieves have NO problems with their role in life. Why is it that we as hard working people who are not looking for a quick fix and a scheme to capitalize on? I love the emphasis of “the” because yes there are many people in the same line of work or holding the same lifestyle you do but when you are talking with someone or having a business-related conversation you are getting the point of across saying “I’m the only one you should be concerned about”. You are not just a college student because the statistic or college drop outs and of those who never go to college are too high. You are not just a CNA, you are a person who has to undergo training or certification to care for those who cannot care for themselves, who aide someone else in living their lives. You are not just a mom, you are a woman who had a choice to bear or terminate a life. You made the choice and you have dedicated your time to ensure the choice you made is not in vain. The family we have has been based on striving for the sky so if you are going to use “just a” have your resume up and go for everything you want in life, at least for self fulfillment. This is coming from someone who is just a senior in college, staff writer for two newspapers, one half of a movie review team, aspiring hip hop artist and song writer, an active godfather of three, and most importantly a role model to my community and my little brother. Good job cousin!

  10. That was a really good article that really makes you think. I think that people feel that way when they are not looking to move up in their worlplace or have been looked over when applying for a higher position or simply if they just hate their job. But people should feel pride in the work that they do and the career that they have because everyone plays an important role in their company whether it is recoginized or not. Great way to keep positive!

  11. Lamarr is thorough and insightful as he expressed the need to display confidence and pride in all that you do. A Soldier, as I am, is not “just a Soldier.” since the lives of thousands of innocent individuals are placed in our hands everyday. A Professor of Education is not “just a Professor” since educational competency is in the hands of these scholars. A Gymnast is not “just a gymnast” since as the Olympics show, a fall off of an apparatus ends all of the hard work put forth for four years. I am sure that I could go on reciting analogies on this topic, however, Lamarr said it all. I agree. Well said!

  12. I AGREE WITH LAMARR. IF PEOPLE CONTINUE TO LOOK AT THEIR ACHIEVMENTS AS “jUST” THEN THEY ARE LIMITING THEMSELVES TO “jUST”
    THIS PUTS A WHOLE NEW SKIN ON A WORLD OF ME-ISM.
    PEOLE CAN GO ON EACH DAY BEING PROUD OF THE TITLE THEY HOLD. THEY SLEEP, EAT AND WALK THAT FINE LINE THINKING IT WILL NOT BREAK. HAS ANY THOUGHT BEEN GIVEN TO THIS?
    WHAT IF THE LINE OF :JUST A” BREAKS? WHAT IF THE CLASSIFICATION YOU’RE IN CEASES TO EXISTS?
    WOULD THAT ALSO INCLUDE THE THOUGHT THAT YOU WILL NO LONGER BE ABLE TO LIVE UP TOO THE ME-ISM SOCIETY YOU’VE CREATED?
    ITS EASIER TO SAY, IF ASKED WHAT YOU DO FOR A LIVING, SOMETHING LIKE..I WORK AS A BLAH, BLAH THEN CHANGE THE SUBJECT SO AS NOT TO GIVE THE IMPRESSION YOU ARE DOWNPLAYING THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WORK YOU DO.

  13. Lots of folks have made excellent comments on the theme of your post, Lamarr. But, let me comment on how you handled the situation — you actually said something! Most folks, I think, would not have confronted the secretary; most folks would have let it slide. But no, Lamarr, you didn’t let it slide. That took courage. I am sure that at the instant you said what you did, the secretary felt bad – and maybe felt bad for a while. For her to see the “error in her ways” also takes courage. Indeed, it took courage to make your post! Courage to speak up, courage to change, courage to be a team player — those are the attributes that we will all need to get through these harsh times. Thank you, Lamarr, for your story.

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