Collaboration Over Competition: Identify Your Why

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb

Prior to my recent epiphany, I threw this quote into my growing pile of clichés.

My Epiphany

I had the opportunity to hear Lou Radja, a motivational speaker, present at a monthly PMI Portland Chapter meeting. Within the course of a short forty-five-minute presentation, Lou actually had me questioning my purpose in life.

His message had no prerequisites, yet I left the meeting hall asking myself, why do I get out of bed every morning? Why do I spend more time at work than I do with the people I love? Why do I have this enormous urge to keep evolving into something better? So, I set out to define my Why.

My Why

In all the years of my life, if I have learned one thing, it is this: life is supposed to be hard.

I clearly recall the moment in my life when everything seemed to be in disarray. When all the fairy tale visions that we grow up with came crashing down. This is when it would have been the perfect time to focus on my why. Instead, I swam up current and took a few lessons from the School of Hard Knocks. I seemed to be content with the cards dealt to me and reasoned that this was the way it was intended.

In the spirit of my epiphany I started a vision board, aka plastering ginormous sticky notes (no, seriously 2.5 ft. × 2 ft.) on the largest blank wall in my home. Try feeling discouraged when you are looking at your goals, the names of the people you love, and a summary of your future.

I defined my Why.

If you do not have a spare wall around your home, I tracked down a website that will give you the opportunity to build a virtual board.

Defining Your Why

We all have a Why. The question is, “Is your Why clear enough that you can use it to motivate you when times are hard?” Can it remind you of what is at stake? Will it keep your focus on the big picture?

The definition of your Why can be the reason you succeed. In other words, your main motivation.

Real Whys from Real People

I asked my Facebook friends to contribute their Whys (what is your motivator?). I received a ton of great ones!

One friend has defined his Why:

My why is to fight for my country. Every morning I wake up and put on my uniform to serve this country because somebody has to do it and I choose me.

So has another:

My why is to make my Grandma and the rest of my family proud, and to show my daughter that hard work and dedication pay off in the long run.

Your Why At Work

How does your Why affect you at work? Well for starters, it is the reason you are there. You want to be collaborative. You want to motivate yourself and others on your team.

It is easy to forget that you work for yourself. As Lou Radja puts it, “Only volunteers work for others. If you receive a paycheck that means you work for yourself.”

So, how are you doing just a little bit more than what is expected of you? That effort is not for your boss, it is for you.

Is it for your dream vacation? Or your child’s college fund? Is it for your drive to empowerment to take care of those you love or for you to realize your potential and see how you can grow?

It is for all the reasons you thought about earlier when we talked about your Why. In fact, it often drives us to compare our progress to others’.

Competitiveness sparks when you feel that your Why is in jeopardy. Competitiveness can motivate us or deflate us. It all has to do with our mindset that we ultimately have control over.  We can let others set the tone for our day, or we can redirect their negativity with positive collaborative energy. Keep your Why as a baseline and reminder of your only true competitor, yourself.

Lou described an event for us that I want to share with you: during a workshop, he witnessed some internal competition. He asked everyone in attendance to stop, take out a piece of paper, and write down their email address. Then he challenged them. “Everything before @ is a form of individuality and everything after @ is where the collective picks up.”

individuality @ samecompany .com

He concluded, “If you focus on growing the pie, your slice automatically gets bigger.”

Sending the Elevator Back Down

The takeaway from forty-five minutes with Lou? If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

It’s as simple as that. We are talking about something we learn in grade school but so often forget by the time we are climbing the corporate ladder.

There are several studies that extoll lists of mentoring benefits. A few include gaining professional recognition, a sense of fulfillment and personal growth, and establishing yourself as a standout to your company or employer. Again, this approach can itch that inner competitiveness goal while still motivating a team and a positive influence.

“If you are lucky enough to have done well, then it’s your responsibility to send the elevator back down.” – Jack Lemmon

By sending the elevator back down, you make a commitment to share your knowledge. This is especially meaningful when working in a collaborative or team environment where there will be resources that you will unknowingly influence. “So, the idea is please do not make your success an individual sport. Find someone to connect with. Establish mentorships in your business. Always have 2 or 3 mentees and always have 3-4 mentors. We are meant to be rivers, not reservoirs.” Lou instructed.

When you put in that 12-hour day, don’t do it to outshine the guy sitting next to you. Do it because you want to be better than you were yesterday.

Collaboration over competition.

This is my way of sending the elevator back down.