In a series of fascinating conversations last week with colleagues, clients, and friends — the subject that kept coming up was POWER. And the fact that we can view any human interaction though the lens of power differentials: who has more and who has less of it. So let’s talk POWER: yours, mine, ours.

We can view any human exchange as a kind of “one upmanship” in action. On some unconscious level, we register where we stand: who has more power in a relationship in the moment, and in a given situation. We size up who’s in charge, who has more clout, who defers to whom, who makes the final decision—and who owes what to whom.

Of course this can be a cynical view of human relations. After all, there’s more going on than one upping each other. And in most “healthy” relationships (personal and work-related) there’s a give and take, a flux in the power differential from moment to moment.

But here’s the thing: we all make assumptions about what power is and how it works. And our assumptions about power can have a major impact on our lives and careers.

Redefining power

If we assume that formal power structures are the only ones that count, we lose. The classicist Mary Beard, in a lecture for the London Review of Books, and in her recent Women and Powernotes that . . .

“Typically we think of power as very elite, coupled to public prestige, to the individual ‘celebrity’ leader. Usually a charismatic male. We think of power as a zero sum game. A meritocracy.

But this is treating power very narrowly, as a thing that only a few, mostly men, can possess or wield.”

Mary invites us to think about power differently. To decouple it from public prestige, and to think about the collaborative and collective power of followers, not just of leaders. And above all to “think of power as an attribute, or even a verb ‘to power’ — not as a possession.”

She says it’s the ability to be effective, to make a difference in the world, to make change. And the right to be taken seriously, together as much as individually.

If we understand power as something outside of ourselves, that’s bestowed on others and is wielded by others, then we make ourselves powerless. And we may put up with the unacceptable because it’s just “the way things are” and we abdicate our responsibility to take action.

Claiming Your Power

We all have more power than we realize. The power to think differently, to speak up, to create something new, to connect and influence others—and to affect change individually and collectively.

The power is in the action we take. In confronting our own self-limiting beliefs, in speaking up, in taking initiative. How might we step into our own power and create change together?

For inspiration, check out cellist Amanda Gookin’s interview on Houston Public Radio’s podcast about her path — Is there a place for activism in the classical music world? Terrific!

Want more? Here are 2 more Bytes on Power: The Grammar of Power and Empowering Ourselves.

And I’ve got some: BIG NEWS — I’ve moved my weekly FB lives over to my NEW FB group — Musicians Making It. The purpose of the group is to create a community for sharing, for resources, and for more Q&A with terrific musicians looking to up their game. Please join us! And we can connect tomorrow live Tues. July 10 at 7 pm ET / 4 pm PT to dive deeper on the topic of Power and to deal with any career-related questions you have, see Musicians Making It.

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As always, I appreciate your feedback, and if you’re interested in receiving coaching from me, let’s talk! I’m at

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