Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down

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As I think about helping others learn to stand in their power, I think back to my favorite leader, Jim Mitchell.  It was 2002 or so.  I was a new product manager who was a bit clueless. I was not confident in myself or my ideas and was easily swayed by people who had control, power, and large egos.  

One day, after a particularly difficult roadmap meeting with engineering, I was emotionally drained.  Drained from debating the value of the business case.  Drained from debating what the user did or did not need.  Drained for not feeling smart enough to stand up for my ideas with the senior level architects and developers.  After the meeting,  Jim brought me into his office and walked me through not only what was said at the meeting, but what was not said.  He talked about the power dynamics, the control issues, and the egos that were in play in the room.  

But the most important thing happened the next day.  I walked into my office, head down, still trying to gain the courage to tackle another day in the life of a product manager.  As I entered the office, I noticed the yellow sticky note on my desk from Jim.  It said, “Don’t let the bastards get you down.”  Jim’s lesson was simple.  Although I was beaten up, I should not enable others to define who I am and take my power away from me.

It was my first lesson of standing in my power. Although Jim phrased it a bit differently and I did not come to use this term until very recently, this was a crucial lesson Jim gave me over two decades ago. After lots of self-reflection (thanks to MSLOC and Kelly Ross), I continue to be reminded how important it is to be able to stand in our power.

What is standing in your power?  It means:

  • We stop looking for others to define who we are, or who we are not
  • We stop wasting our waking moments worried about what others think of us
  • We value ourselves from a genuine place, making it easier to see the goodness in others around us
  • We are comfortable with our strengths and our weaknesses.
  • We are present in the moment
  • And most importantly when we fall, we can get back up, even if it means we are a bit dirty from the fall


As I navigate the world of technology, product management and  product marketing, with all of its egos, power struggles and debating, I frequently fall and get dirty as part of the innovation process. But I close my eyes, visualize myself getting back up, standing in my power, and tackling the next challenge of the day. I always remember to  “not let the bastards get me down.”

For those of you who fall frequently during product meetings, during daily interactions with the larger egos at the office, or just fall down from the exhaustion of working in the world of tech, remember it’s okay to fall down.  But it is also just as important to get back up and stand in your power.