Idea of the Day #24

Success is Never Solo

Thoughts on Jim Collin’s interview with Tim Ferris

A man sitting alone in a window sill overlooking a city.
Image from Pexels @ Pixabay

I grew up imaging myself as the hero. When I was little and I couldn’t fall asleep, I’d pretend I was a secret agent (like the on in the James Bond movies my dad loved) and make up a crisis to solve. That always put me right to sleep.

I think we all grew up imagining heroes as fundamentally alone. All superhero movies seem to linger on the storyline of the lone wolf, the one who is so broken and twisted yet gifted that they are doomed to be alone. The whole plot of the Avengers series is a bunch of lone wolves who form a haphazard pack just in time to save the day before descending into chaos shortly thereafter.

I wasn’t expecting to confront this myth of the lone wolf today, though I suppose I should have expected a reckoning with it at some point. I just wrote about the myth of the lone inventor, debunked in Walter Isaacson’s book The Innovators.

Much to my surprise, as I chose a podcast to run errands to, I saw that Tim Ferriss had interviewed on of my favorite people of all time: Jim Collins. I first heard of Jim Collins after I poached one his books, Good to Great. When I cracked the book open, I expected yet another flimsy business book that would start sounding like a broken record 100 pages in. Instead, I found a deeply researched book full of data that spoke to my business minded soul.

When I heard Jim’s first interview with Ferris, I was blown away. Collins is a unique individual. He is one of those rare people who goes against the grain, not for the sake of it, but in a single minded pursuit of curiosity and passion. I was inspired by his reflective techniques and his stunning work ethic and discipline (which I have yet to emulate).

Most impressive though, was Jim’s ability to articulate his thoughts. He is one of the most careful speakers I’ve heard. And as I was listening to his second interview with Ferris, one quote stuck out to me as he spoke about West Point Cadets:

And I began to think about this notion of success is communal. It’s never alone. It’s never solo. And there are people that are going to help you.

I think oftentimes we get sucked into the idea of success as an individual endeavor, whether it’s ego or too many superhero movies. But, as all those movies show, it’s a lonely thing to be a solo success.

While it may be nice to claim the credit, it’s misplaced to say any one of us can create from scratch. None of us are solo successes, really. We didn’t birth ourselves after all.

We are communal creatures, it seems. And I think we’d to well to ask for help and give it on the journey we are given.

I’m going to take my own advice. This week, I’m going to set up a meeting to ask for help. What will you do?



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