Becoming Your Own Gatekeeper: A Lesson from Mrs. Woodrow Wilson

“Perhaps you could be the gatekeeper, perhaps you could determine who gets in to see the President and who doesn’t, but you could also read every document that comes across his desk and decide which ones he even considers.” (Woodrow Wilson’s Doctor, to Mrs. Woodrow Wilson).

So to some degree I’d say she was something between a chief of staff, and well, maybe she was the first female president of the United States. She was certainly – she would say not making decisions, but she was deciding in many ways what the president might decide.
(from an interview of Woodrow Wilson Biographer A. Scott Berg, Wilson, on Fresh Air)

Mrs. Wilson

I heard this interview with Scott Berg, and though it was filled with interesting insight about President Wilson, I especially perked up at the “gatekeeper” line.  No, of course, my job is not as demanding as that of the President.  But I get the idea — and it is transferable to other jobs, for sure.  I thought, I need my own personal gatekeeper! Here’s why I thought this.

I spend my time reading, writing, speaking.  That’s pretty much it.  Oh, you can call me a business consultant, a teacher, a speaker, a corporate trainer, a speech and presentation skills coach, a speech writer…

But, it boils down to this.  I read, I write, I speak.  That’s pretty much it.

The problem is deciding what to read.  There is simply too much to choose from.

I’ve got web sites.
I’ve got magazines.
I’ve got books.
And more books.
And even more books.

And, I read book reviews, and articles from and about new books, and I peruse lists of “the best books about…”.  But…  so many books, so little time.

So, I’ve had to become ever more intentional about serving as my own gatekeeper.  I have to decide, for myself.  I have to play the role that Mrs. Wilson played for her husband, the President:

“You could also read every document (every article, every book) that comes across his desk and decide which ones he even considers.”

So, that’s my agenda item right now.  How to better decide what to read, and what to “skip.”  Your question might be different, but it is very similar: “I have to decide which client to invest more time with.  I have to decide which appointments to make.  I have to decide which networking gatherings to attend.  I have to decide…”


Randy Mayeux


Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

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