Agents of Ourselves: Part Twenty-Two

Wow! What a week.

Wednesday’s writing workshop, Finding Your Voice — in which I was joined, as always, by my friends and beloved colleagues Maribel Cardez, Yvonne Jones, Laura Staley, and Tom Dietzler — was followed by Thursday’s Salon 360˚. The sessions were humbling and gratifying learning experiences, informed as they were by the courage, the vulnerability, the knowledge, the experiences, and the humility of all who participated in both.

Since there are no accidents, there’s no reason to be surprised that I found this article Thursday morning, a few hours before Salon 360˚ began: “The Most Precious Resource is Agency”. It contains one of the most concise and cogent definitions of agency I’ve ever read:

Agency is the capacity to act … Gaining agency is gaining the capacity to do something differently from, or in addition to, the events that simply happen to you.

During Salon 360˚, Colin Heyman commented that he’d grown up in a very intellectual household. There was much academic knowledge in his family but not much learning about life and living, not much affection shown, not much discussion about or acknowledgement of emotions. Colin’s comments reminded me of this passage from the article:

Childhood contains the age where one can intuit very well how the world works while being prevented from acting upon it meaningfully … Even for smart children, education endlessly ushers them towards an often far and always abstract future, so far and abstract that some children seem to apprise the opposite of agency, they take on a learned helplessness, and downplay that the future is a reality at all … We should be thinking much harder about making sure children can make meaningful contributions to the world … the downplaying of agency in childhood not only creates fewer opportunities for great people, it must also create more marginal people.

That passage reminded me of these lessons, which were taught to me by children. And it reminded me of a comment I wrote in response to this story, which was shared on LinkedIn: “People spend entire lives trying to get back stolen childhoods.”

In Finding Your Voice and Salon 360˚, we’re demonstrating that by recognizing and acting from our agency, all of us are gaining the capacity to do something differently from, in addition to, because of, or in response to the things that happen or have happened to us.

Do you want to know how all that starts?



Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brien
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.

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    • Absolutely not. I went to the Most Precious Resource is Agency, and what a treat. I loved how despite the initial brooding tone, it ended on the upbeat, noting that lots of children are educating themselves (inner motivation?) for a technological world.
      Then the thought arose that an uncounted number of people have turned to the fan-fiction world to become co-creators of fandoms. Who would ever have thought that young people would write long pages voluntarily, and not just in their private journals?
      It is not as useful to the outer world as summer jobs, but in time the engagement of fantasy may feed the creativity that organizations need to adjust to changing times.

salon 360°