The concept of team is something that can run as shallow as a jersey or as deep as genetics. It’s based on choreography that’s both brutal and delicate. It’s glued together with strong communication, and it’s built with experience. Your team can be your saving grace in a moment of struggle, the force that pushes you forward to bask in the light of triumph. It’s an open-ended element that refuses to be defined by a table, or stopped by a period. No one person sits at the head of the table. A true team is a free-wheeling exchange of thought and support. Team is the difference between a wolfpack singing in chorus and a lone wolf waiting for answers that never come.
My team is my partner. “Team Felicidad!” accompanied by a barely ironic high-five. We travel together, we write together, we edit together. We’re both the prosecution and the defense. One of the best things I’ve ever read on the concept of team or relationships likens a successful partnership or team to a buddy-cop movie or video game. My favorite games growing up, and to this day, are co-operative, so it’s no mistake that I was so taken with this concept.
One of the nerdier aspects of the essay was that a relationship was like playing a video game in co-op mode or having new abilities unlocked. Bosses suddenly become easier, challenges and puzzles suddenly seem like less of a challenge. Work can be divided according to any measure, whether it’s ability or desire-based. A flat tire on a road trip? The ace with the tire iron can get right on it, while the other makes sure the change in plans accounts for the night’s lodging.
You may be able to handle all of the challenges that life throws at you, but if you’re lacking a team, you have no one to share it with. Even if you’re travelling solo, something may happen, and whoever you call, they’re part of your team. A long-distance shoulder to cry on, wired money, a place to deliver a vital package. It may be a parent, a friend, a sibling, even an ex, but these are the people who understand you.
You don’t need to have matching jerseys to understand that your team are the people who want you to succeed as much as you want them to. Believing in yourself is just as important as believing in someone else. Creating an environment where mutual respect and support is fundamental benefits everyone. When you surround yourself with a solid team, you join a group of like-minded individuals, a chorus line extolling the hymns of getting shit done.
Sharing is Caring
I was raised to share what I enjoy with others. Family dinner wasn’t an event, it was a daily occurrence. Going out to eat was an experience where the sensations of community and good food were center stage. Sharing was a given. As I became close enough to legal age, my father turned me onto cocktails, in the form of a Manhattan in a boulder-sized glass. That moment helped propel me into the world of bartending, where sharing experiences in hospitality, food, and drink are probably the greatest joy of the trade. Even before my first foray into the front of house, I was a decent cook, making my bones on the line. Then as now, I rarely cook solo meals. Call it nostalgia, call it laziness, but the act of partaking in something so important to me is completely diminished if I have no one to share it with. Give me a dinner guest, however, and I’ll pull out the stops.
The cross-pollination of ideas and perspective is one of the most beautiful aspects of Team. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that can spark amazing discoveries and progress. Finding vast tracts of common ground is what a single effective relationship is all about, adding all that different real-estate together to form a nation is what a team is. It encourages empathy. Your team takes on the role of a mentor, which can be an anchor both professionally and personally level. It’s a wonderful two-way street to travel on.
While a friend may be struggling with something, you may have the remedy. It may be something simple like a few hours of sweat equity, a piece of advice or greasing the wheels with a new contact. The more demanding the remedy, the stronger the bonds. Being there in the middle of the night for a phone call or showing up to the hospital is something that can profoundly change a life. Team is a secure bank account of goodwill, and it yields what you put into it.
How to Find your Wolfpack
Not all teams are built to last, nor are they always the silver bullet to life’s woes. There has to be an equal exchange amongst people who have shared values. You don’t need to be as close as a spouse, or life-partner, but there needs to be some basic agreement on what sort of journey you’re on. Team isn’t always your friends or co-workers. At one point or another, we’ve all had drains on our life and goals, and these are sometimes personified in people you see every day.
It’s also important to remember that just as there’s a tool for every job, there’s a team for every challenge. If there’s a big project on the line, you’re going to call in your experts, not your drinking buddy. Be as smart with your time as you are with others’ and you’ll quickly find yourself in good company. Seek out those with common interests and ethics in your life and you’ll already be a long way towards crafting a team. Often, teams arise because of a single need, but will stay together after a successful venture. Approach the world with an open mind and courtesy and you’ll have plenty of doors to knock on when it comes time to assemble.
Success isn’t built in a vacuum, nor can it survive in one. The greatest triumphs of humanity are all a result of the sum of their parts. Great art is the result of years of practice, training and studying the countless souls who have come before. Architectural marvels are the product of whole armies of engineers and construction workers. The greatest companies on the planet rest on the shoulders of thousands of people working towards the same goal. The ability and size of your team should be crafted in proportion to the size of your goals. The greater the team, the greater the success.
Success is one of the richest and rewarding dining experiences there is. Celebrations and feasts depicted in classical paintings are always on a grand scale. The ubiquitous Thanksgiving cornucopia is clearly meant for the many, not a single glutton. The richer the success, the bigger the dining table. Whether it’s a squad of colleagues, a tight-knit gang of old friends, or your family members, the seats at the table are for them. Like the Knights of the Round Table, all seated are equals, and all present bring something crucial to the final product. While your Team might not always have all the answers, many hands make light work. When you assemble your team, your quest not only becomes shorter, but more fulfilling. When you collectivize success, everyone on the team gets a piece.