From “Oh shit” to “Aha”

I was having a conversation the other day with a co-worker about our “Me First” generation’s often delusional capacity for entitlement and why so many people feel like they deserve the best life has to offer all the time, right out of the gate. While many valid theories were offered up, one that seemed to crop up time and time again that caught my attention, was that of the notion of independence.

Unlike many of you, I didn’t grow up playing sports. Physical Education classes were an agonizing gauntlet of stupid stunts, embarrassing flubs and undignified moments of mortification. It was one of my regrets, and to this day my utter lack of the sense of eye-hand coordination fills me with wonder. I wish basketball had been a more enjoyable experience for the ten-year old me, but alas, such could not be the case. If it had, the value of being part of a team would have been ingrained in me early on. It’s a lesson I will never take for granted and has proven invaluable to me especially when I started in the field of training. There’s a sense of security and comfort that fills you when you know that someone else has your back. It’s an exhilarating feeling knowing that all hell is not going to break loose if you suddenly have those off-kilter moments, that you’re not expected to put out every fire that breaks out.

Being the lone Language Specialist and a project manager with no team to speak of is a good reality to experience but also somewhat of a disappointment. It’s a challenging experience but I’m choosing to look at it from a different perspective for the benefit of my sanity. But this assignment has made me miss being part of a team. I must admit that at first I struggled with it as I found my ideas being vetoed and shelved. But once the shock wore off, I viewed it as a moment of pure indulgence.

When you are part of a team you realize you can’t do everything on your own. There may be stars on a team, those with exceptional talent who make your team special and carry more than their fair share, but they are nonetheless part of a greater whole, who no matter how exceptional can not thrive on their own. They need each part of the team to do their job in order to succeed. This is what I often forget. Life is not something you do on your own in a vacuum, especially when it comes to your career. There really is no independence. Relying on someone else’s effort, especially when it has a significant effect on your ultimate success, is hard. But it’s a fact of life for most of us, unless you work for yourself or you are a hermit living in the woods, hunting your own food for survival. Did it feel good to have my ideas questioned and shelved? Absolutely not! But I can either complain about my circumstances and teammates, or I can work to make my part more effective while helping others to be equally effective.

There is NOTHING like being part of a team where everyone contributes and we achieve success, not because of what I did, but because each team member, working together, accomplished their individual goals. Double plays turned, touchdown passes caught, corner kicks headed into the net. By the time we submitted our assignment, I began to see the collective effort and how every person’s abilities contributed to the overall success. I know that I don’t operate independently of the group, and I am rewarded based upon how WE do. I have been lucky enough to be a part of a great team for this assignment. Our group was like a well-oiled machine even though most of us hadn’t spoken a word to each other prior to teaming up.

This is how the world operates. As a collective. As a community. There is no independence, there is no “me”. People like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Richard Branson have said time and time again that in order to be successful in business, you need great people who work together. The more people can move away from “I” and to on to “we” the more we will be prepared to change the world, and that is what truly brings the best of what life has to offer.

Building a team that works well together isn’t easy, but we managed to do just that.

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