Keeping the Lights On

Thursday, August 11th, 2011
Posted in leadership

A hundred years ago, lighting lamps was a great way to earn a living. You’d carry around a giant pole and go from lamp to lamp lighting them up. See the city while starting fires, I can see the appeal. Many others did too and created a rich set of traditions, practices, and quirks.

Things changed without advance warning though. We figured out how to make gas lamps light themselves and a profession was extinct. A dedicated few kept it alive through sheer force of will but by and large lamplighting was dead even before the advent of electricity.

Such is the danger of specialization, a horribly easy trap to fall into. It’s tempting to focus your energies on improving the process of using long sticks to ignite lamps. However, it’s career suicide to forget that your customers want light, not sticks.

Bringers of light will never go out of fashion, but the demand for people with sticks is always a time-limited affair1. Be very careful about tying yourself to just one way to set things on fire.


  1. Especially for my friends who call their stick Silverlight, but others have written about that topic better than I can. 

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