Working together

Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.
Helen Keller
1880 – 1968

I grew up in Mississippi, and in the late 1950s, I attended a program called Boys State/Girls State. The program was held in the legislative offices of the state capitol, and each participant was designated a senator or a representative, depending on age: college students were senators and high school students were representatives. The idea of the program was to teach young people about the legislative process. We introduced “legislative bills” and then had to work to get them passed by the group.

Well, my exposure to the process left me a little disappointed. I had introduced a bill to require reflective markings on the outer edge of state highways. There had always been a center stripe, but at that time, there was nothing to warn motorists away from the road’s edge. Unfortunately, I found that the only way to get my bill passed was to agree to support the bills of other delegates — and quite frankly, there were many bills I did not agree with and therefore could not support. As a result, I lost any chance of my bill passing.

As I’ve grown older, I realize the importance of cooperation and collaboration. No matter what your goals or purpose in life, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to achieve them alone. We need help from others. But as I learned many years ago, cooperation usually comes with a price.

How much should you be willing to “pay” for the cooperation of others?

I think the first guideline should be to never compromise your principles. No goal is worth surrendering your core beliefs.

The second guideline should be to work with like-minded individuals. If you associate with people who have similar values, the question of violating your principles should never arise.

The third guideline is to consider how it feels to cooperate with someone. If it feels uplifting, the cost is fair. If you get a negative feeling from your efforts, something’s wrong. Look for what troubles you about your partnership. Your intuition is telling you something, so listen.

The fourth guideline is to be eager to help others. Don’t wait to be asked. If you’re always looking for ways to help others, you’ll find assistance when you need it.

You’ll always achieve your goals faster and receive higher rewards by adopting an attitude of willing cooperation. Just make sure you don’t pay too much.

We make a living by what we get.
We make a life by what we give.
Winston Churchill
1874 – 1965

Copyright © 2012 John Chancellor

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