All By Myself

“Kudos become ladder rungs, and we begin to elevate ourselves. We shed our smallness, discard the Clark Kent glasses, and don a Superman swagger. We forget. We forget who brought us here.” — Max Lucado

Let me begin this blog by sharing a quick excerpt from a book I’m enjoying by Max Lucado called, Outlive Your Life.

“When my nephew Lawson was three years old, he asked me to play some basketball. A towheaded spark plug of a boy, he delights in anything round and bouncy. When he spotted the basketball and goal in my driveway, he couldn’t resist.

The ball, however, was as big as his midsection. The basket was three times his height. His best heaves fell way short. So I set out to help him. I lowered the goal from ten feet to eight feet. I led him closer to the target. I showed him how to “granny toss” the ball. Nothing helped. The ball never threatened the net. So I gave him a lift. With one hand on his back and my other beneath his little bottom, I lifted him higher and higher until he was eye level with the rim.

“Make a basket, Lawson!” I urged. And he did. He rolled the ball over the iron hoop, and down it dropped. Swoosh! And how did little Lawson respond? Still cradled in my hands, he punched both fists into the air and declared, “All by myself! All by myself!”

When I read those few paragraphs, I literally chuckled out loud. Anyone who has ever been a parent, mentor, proud Aunt/Uncle, or babysitter has experienced such a moment. And the truth is, anyone who has ever stepped foot in a professional setting has, too!

Maybe you’ve said the same thing to yourself. Maybe you’ve heard someone at work say it. Worse yet, maybe you’ve even heard your boss declare such a thought in a meeting, even if (s)he used slightly different words. The main difference in a work setting (beside the fact that adults are saying it) is it can be accompanied with resentment, self-pity, or arrogance. Here’s the punch line though, and you know exactly what I’m going to say — most of the time, it isn’t true! Let me say it again — most of the time, it isn’t true!

Here’s the truth — we need each other, and we’re better for being here with each other in life and work. Can you imagine how comforting it would be if we all believed our teammates and leaders actually had our backs more than we think? I believe in most cases, if we did some serious investigative reporting, we would be utterly surprised by the truth that they do. Our accomplishments mostly come with the support and efforts of others, but we don’t always notice it. That’s simply because we’re human — unfinished and imperfect, and we are capable of architecting a drama which makes us the underdog…or we imagine a burning building, where we are the hero who saves the day. The fact is, we aren’t alone, and we certainly aren’t always required to be a hero.

For all of us, this simple truth can set us free. There is nothing more powerful that not having to prove yourself. If it applies to you, stop believing your success is something you did, “All by myself!” In fact, I challenge you today to thank someone at work for having your back. And by the way, because they’re such a great teammate, they’ll probably return the credit you were looking to give.

Chris Laping is Co-Founder & CEO of People Before Things, LLC, a newly launched company helping leaders create the conditions required to support large-scale, disruptive change. His upcoming book explores the connection of human experience to the outcomes of change and transformation and the role leaders play to pave success. To join in the conversation, follow @pplb4things and @CIOChris on Twitter.