"No one lives long enough to learn everything they need to learn starting from scratch. To be successful, we absolutely, positively have to find people who have already paid the price to learn the things that we need to learn to achieve our goals."Last year I lost a longtime work collaborator who moved to another job. Although we were not close personally, I had come to depend on her because she was very good at things I was not and vice versa. I did not fully realize how much easier she had made my job for the last 10 years until after she was gone. It took a while to learn new skills and adapt to new people. Even still, I am not as efficient as I was a year ago.
- Brian Tracy
Upon further reflection, I realized that I had done far too little collaboration in many areas of my life. I am very happy with how my family cooperates to get things done, but in other areas, I've definitely had more of a go-it-alone attitude at times and this has only increased throughout my career. While I sit in meetings most of my work day, we mostly just report what we've done and assign a disjoint list of tasks to each other. Very little collaboration takes place in the sense of "creating something by working jointly with others". Many side projects in my life (including this blog) were also conceived and executed with no collaboration from others.
The irony is that because of technology, it has never been easier to work together. Yet it seems like I did much better in earlier days. Back in the early 90's, there wasn't much of an Internet. Like most people, all I had was email. It was not so easy for people to collaborate, and yet we did. In a passing email about an esoteric work issue, a gentleman thousands of miles away noticed an overlap of investment interests. This chance introduction went on to be a multi-year collaboration of investment ideas. We had no web, but we had email, and so when we had questions or ideas about investments, we sent or replied to a group of recipients that grew over time. I learned a ton over the next few years, and our group was even featured in a national business magazine. I also remember driving long distances in those days to play with other amateur musicians. Music wasn't a passive pursuit back then, a button to click on iTunes and Amazon.
Many people have a bent for doing everything themselves. I know I do. It's messy to involve others in your plans. They may not understand your approach or they may have alternative ideas. You have to give up a little control, and in many cases, it's simply faster to try to do something yourself than to explain what you want done. Delegation is hard; collaboration is even harder.
But ultimately this approach can be severely limiting. One person alone has very little time and a limited skill set. If you insist on doing everything yourself, eventually your vision will be limited. You probably won't be able to seriously imagine creating things or doing things that you can't accomplish solo, and this is a very narrow range of possibilities. I am currently trying to reverse this trend in my life and seek greater collaboration at work and in other pursuits.