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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I wish everyone had the ability to be skillful at everything. That, of course, represents a fantasy of the largest proportions. Understanding that some of us are better at some things while others are far more adept at different tasks, I often wonder why we continue to live such isolated lives, seldom requesting help.

Pride and self-denial contribute to the unproductive nature of our isolated beings as we make miscalculated assumptions that acquisition of unknown skills will be an immediate byproduct of personal industry. This is seldom, if ever, the outcome of first attempts.

I have always preferring working with teams over working privately. In athletics, in work, or in projects, a good team most often produces good results and a feelings of shared accomplishments. Fellowship can be extremely enjoyable and make teamwork pleasurable. Teams and teamwork seem to have lost favor in the face of individual stardom and of rapt attention paid to the money and fame associated with individual accomplishments. 

"Generation Me" (anyone born in the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s) has never known a world that put duty before self, and believes that the needs of the individual should come first.(Jean M. Twenge, Generation Me, 2006) This is not the same thing as being selfish – it is captured, instead, in the phrases we so often hear: "Be yourself," "Believe in yourself," "You must love yourself before you can love someone else."

Twenge contends that today's young people have been raised by Baby Boomers to aim for the stars at a time when it is more difficult than ever to get into college, find a good job, and afford a house. Their expectations are very high just as the world is becoming more competitive, so there's a huge clash between their expectations and reality. (Jean M. Twenge, Generation Me, 2006)

Conventional wisdom, supported by academic studies using the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, maintains that "today’s young people — schooled in the church of self-esteem, vying for spots on reality television, promoting themselves on YouTube — are more narcissistic than their predecessors." (Stephanie Rosenbloom, New York Times, January 17 2008)

Such beliefs also have created a generation of young people who believe every dream is attainable but who aren't prepared to deal with discovering it isn't so. Disappointment with the ability of one's individual efforts to secure goals looms large in reality.

Yet some scholars disagree about why Generation Me is perceived as narcissistic. Their reasons include the personal biases of older adults, the lack of nuance in the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, changing social norms, the news media’s emphasis on celebrity, and the rise of social networking sites that encourage egocentricity. (Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road From the Late Teens through the Twenties, 2004)

Teams and Challenges

I love team sports, and I think I was a decent judge of the strengths of individuals in my team efforts. To accomplish goals, each member of the team must support the whole while playing within his role and achieving his own realistic potential through many contributions. I am not talking about the old cliche' "There is no 'I' in team." Each team member is an important "I" within the team concept. The key to success is for each "I" to contribute and sacrifice for all others as their primary focus. This often requires a sobering assessment of a player's best role and then strict application of the results come game day.

Then, teamwork flourishes as each member of the unit respects the individual contributions of every member. Contributions vary from teammate to teammate: some fill major roles of production while others assist in crucial auxiliary positions. Individuals must keep overall team matters in focus as they diligently use their talents to assist in all group activities.The team essentially becomes a functioning "machine" as the players represent parts of the mechanism. The goals shift from selfish play to developing team excellence to keep the machine at peak performance.

Pressures to be someone who must act alone to guarantee group success drop dramatically when teamwork is perfected. Achievable objectives and group reliance create an atmosphere in which a player's domination of teammates is unacceptable and self-defeating. Inevitable errors become bumps in the road of a team, not pits of destruction and despair. I am reminded of the quote by Blaise Pascal, "We are all something, but none of us are everything."

Individual Challenges

Not every challenge can be faced by a team. Granted, sometimes, the work, by its nature, strictly requires solo production. No one is available for instruction or help in such cases.Then, proper completion of the task falls directly upon the individual charged with the assignment. This individual tackles the task and works to the best of his ability. A properly trained individual generally succeeds in such work.

But, what about individuals who stubbornly insist upon acting without others while performing a tough or new assignment when they could seek assistance? They definitely need help but decide that the demanding "learning experience" will somehow benefit their character.Trial and error does teach some concepts, but it is very frustrating and time consuming. And, often, it lowers one's opinion of self.

As people face alien environments, reality takes hold and they quickly discover their weaknesses; they suffer with great apprehension. Then, their performance noticeably drops or even miserably fails. Without the support of others, people face difficult tasks with huge complications that cripple them because they are bent on "doing it all themselves." The best intentions may lead to inferiority. In truth, such individuals should take stock of their own talents, gather pertinent resources to fill the gaps of incompetence, and politely ask for help. Far from being a sign of weakness, successfully exploring avenues of assistance to acquire help is a skill in itself.

The Importance of Team Leaders

Unfortunately, teams, at work or at play, often rush into the popularity of team dynamics without realizing the importance of defining team roles as well as individual roles and incorporating those actions into their daily operations.These teams often fail because team leaders ignore the importance of differing roles in favor of looking for all-around superstars.

Many leaders fail to realize that a team must do many complicated tasks in order to be successful. Leaders must see that various team roles require people to highlight one another, and, in turn, create an effective machine together. Usually, general pep talks used to modify performance fail miserably because they lack substance while merely promoting vague concepts of the importance of teamwork. Specifics and skills accomplish tasks.

In addition, leaders must keep other participants happy and on task within their best postures. Also, leaders must realign the team when necessary and realize the different incentives and comfort levels of the players (applying "oil" to the parts). Roles are a combination of interactions between team members that result in teamwork.

Applications For An Individual

Talent comes in many forms. Skills vary with every individual. And, most people lack at least some basic requirements for happy living. In many situations, society can fill voids that individuals ignore when they feel personally inadequate.To accept a limited role does not mean that someone (many) cannot help with difficult situations. To be narcissistic limits potential of growth through fellowship and shared burdens. Consider the growth and power of teamwork.

Here are a few cliches' that may conflict with the belief that group and duty should come before self. Should we rethink?

1. "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

2. "Express yourself."

3. "Stand up for yourself."

4. "Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps."

5. "If you want something done right, do it yourself."

6. "You are your own judge.  The verdict is up to you."

7. "Do what you must, And your friends will adjust."

8. "No one else can think or feel for you .. its YOU .. ONLY YOU."

9. "God helps only those who are prepared and determined to help themselves."

10. "Sooner or later, those who win are those who think they can."

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