As a tennis player and former home-schooler turned prosumer and solopreneur, I’ve always taken pride in, and quite honestly, preferred, to do things alone.
It most def has something to do with learning to enjoy the solitude and isolation of my upbringing. Growing up in remote locations, where the emphasis was clearly placed on being off the grid, or outside the system, shaped my young mind to embrace loneliness and become comfortable with a go-it-alone approach.
After 10 years of self-taught home school, I remember quite vividly, enrolling in high school for my 11th grade year and begging my teachers to let me sit in the back of the classroom and read the textbook by myself. Five of them laughed and denied my requests. Two granted it, but only temporarily, and with the admonition that I needed to learn how to integrate with the rest of the class by the end of the first nine weeks.
Problem was, things were so much less efficient when I was integrated with the rest of the class. Slowly, over the next two years, I learned how to do group projects, accept delegated tasks and realize that the group grade somehow contributed to my individual grade. But deep, deep down I never fully accepted the supposed benefits of playing nicely with others.
I figured, and still in large part to this day believe, that individual effort, hustle and ingenuity are the responsibilities of each person, and play huge roles in distinguishing who wins and loses in the marketplace of ideas, products, services – and, yes, even school.
What I detested most (and probably falsely associated with teamwork in general) were the leeches – people who glommed onto a school project, but did very little to drive the project forward. People who maintained the bare minimum, just to gain the advantage of the group grade. I was always afraid that the group grade would pull my individual grade down. The people I detested were the ones who’s primary strategy was to find a group who could pull their lackluster, lazy average up.
Scanning the above paragraphs, it is really no surprise to me that entrepreneurial activity has had an almost irresistible, magnetic pull on me and my “career” trajectory. The high risk/high reward aspect of it fits perfectly with my understanding of individualism from a very young age.
The mistake I have just recently realized, has been the automatic equivocation of “teams” to being “leeches”. What I’m learning as I age, is that in the game of business, you can have several individuals – each hustling, each looking to earn a high individual grade – all working together in a “team” setting, doing what they’re individually best at.
This might seem like a “duh” point for some, but for me it’s a big epiphany that is transforming my business. Instead of viewing people as lazy bums looking for a free ride, I’ve been searching out individuals who hold similar views on achievement, and who are experts in (and enjoy!) areas I am not.
The first step I took earlier this year, was enrolling in the SCORE mentorship program. Granted, it took me four months to finally submit the form – which demonstrates the impact our childhood experiences can have on our adult decision making – but it is a submission I have not regretted.
I have been paired with a mentor who not only spent 35 years in software, but specifically in software sales – the very discipline I enjoy the least.
I’m sure others have learned this lesson much sooner than I, but learning the benefit of growing beyond yourself by partnering with people who hold similar values but different skill sets is proving to be a very powerful lesson indeed.
If you have not signed up at SCORE or want to know more about it, I highly encourage you to visit their site. I believe they are a national organization, and if the matching is as accurate as it has been in my case, you will not be disappointed.