In today’s episode I want to talk about our culture of independence and how it may not be the best thing for us.
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A number of years ago I had my Tarot cards read. Now, for some of you that might sound a bit flaky, but it was fun! What I was told in the reading is that my success would be based on others. That it would be a mutual reciprocity between myself and the people I would ultimately end up working with, and the people I would come to care about.
My first thought was: Wait… I can’t do this on my own? I’m going to need help from others??
I came away from what was supposed to be a fun experience with a sense of shame. My generation, and the ones that have followed, were taught to be independent in order to achieve personal success.
In my research for this podcast I came across a recently published book by Shawn Achor called Big Potential. In Big Potential, Achor shares the findings of his study of happiness in Harvard students. These graduates are arguably among the most successful of those raised in the culture of working independently and in competition with one another. Once these students earned their undergrad degree and got their first real job, they were falling apart because they had entered a workforce that expected them to work in teams. Despite being intelligent young people, they were struggling to succeed in the workforce because they’d never had to develop their teamwork skills.
“In a world that thrives on competition and individual achievement, we are measuring and pursuing potential all wrong. By pursuing our success in isolation – pushing others away as we push ourselves too hard – we are not just limiting our potential, we are becoming more stressed and disconnected than ever.”
I would add that for many young people there has been a lot of helicopter parenting that protects children from conflict. They’ve never had to sort out a schoolyard fight, and so they don’t know how to overcome conflict. What Achor proposes, and I agree, is this: in order for a team (or a company, or even an individual’s life) to be successful, we have to learn to work together.
Getting back to having my Tarot cards read…
Rather than feeling shame about needing to have an interdependence with others, I’ve embraced it. What I’ve learned – and what has become the focus of the Your Family Village podcast – is that not only do we need human connectedness for our own personal success, but also for our overall happiness.
Now that I’ve had that “aha!” moment, I can’t resist sharing: at my law firm we have an awesome team that works well together despite sometimes being under a lot of stress. It’s the teamwork that helps us to keep moving forward.
Until next week!