When to Un-Shut Up by Szymon Janiak


The post was originally published in Polish on Szymon’s LinkedIn profile. Szymon kindly agreed to republish what we think is of great value to our readers.

I’m never good enough to have my own opinion. This is the mindset I’ve been taught for half my life. When I started my ‘career’ when I was still a teenager, I was constantly told to shut up and do my job. Whether I was filling up gas or carrying crates for somebody, I was patronized that my youth is a reason to discriminate against me.

Szymon Janiak, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Czysta3.VC

A little later, during my studies, when I was working 3 jobs to make a living – as a journalist, PR specialist, chef – my superiors were not interested in my ideas or views, because I worked in the lowest positions, so what could I possibly know… Many years later, when I was already holding senior positions, I heard from the management boards and owners that since I was in charge of marketing, this is what I should take care of, and leave the rest to them, because they know what they are doing. 

 When I finally started a company with a partner, I heard from experts that what could I know with a few million in revenue. After creating a 50 million fund, I found out that it is worth listening only to top investors who have 500 million each, because almost anyone can create a fund like mine…

 My mistake was that I realized too late that it never ends. Regardless of our achievements, there will always be someone further or higher who will try to take away our right to vote by claiming that we are not good enough. It can be a supervisor, a customer, or a competitor. The paradoxical outtake is that it’s not worth caring about the opinion of people who act in this way. You don’t have to be an authority to have your own opinion. 

It’s worth listening to people regardless of how old they are or what stage of their career they are at. The effects can surprise you. But it takes time to internalize this idea.

The comment section had to add:

Age, position, experience, being a woman, – I would add. After all, women don’t always think logically, analytically, it’s only hormones that govern them.

Dominika Bielecka, Attorney and Head of AML & Compliance Department at Żyglicka i Wspólnicy

There was a joke: Why do students go for psychology/psychiatry? One half to help themselves, the other half to help others.

It’s the same with bosses and leaders. The first group becomes them in order to tickle their egos, to always be right, to be better than others by definition, and – in extreme cases – to take revenge for perceived or real wrongs. And the other group wants to do something worthwhile. So, it doesn’t have to pump the ego.

Maciek Mlynarski, Horizon 2020 Project Coordinator at The Faculty of Management of the University of Warsaw

Honestly, you have to have a lot of courage to have your own opinion. Being a sheep is easier, it’s easy to fit in, it’s easy to be accepted by the flock, to wear the same, talk the same, and not to stand out. 

Every departure from the imposed scheme and questioning one’s role shows that it’s possible to do things differently, which opens dangerous doors for those around you. It’s about questioning the safe, hackneyed script, from which hardly anyone wants to break out.

Julia Pisarska, Founder at Fajny Czas


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