Co-operation: Achieving One’s Dreams

“I have spread my dreams under your feet. Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” ― W.B. Yeats

Everyone has ambitions, everyone has dreams. Some make it a point to show others what they want while others adamantly keep their desires hidden, out of the way and secret to others. But that does not mean that those of the latter group of people should be ignored. How can the ambitions of the latter group be made known, be addressed? You may want to read an earlier article where we addressed something similar, about bringing out the potential of quiet team members, for in this article we will not be focussing on the latter group, but on dreams and ambitions as a whole, and how we should approach those of others.

We often want others to consider our ambitions, our dreams. But how often do we think about others’? If theirs are in direct conflict with ours, is it not instinctual for us to want to put it down, to stop it in its tracks? Unfortunately, this is not an approach that we should use, for it only propagates animosity. Instead, what we should do is to approach that person. Talk to him, and discuss ways such that neither of you have to sacrifice your ambitions. If it requires compromise, try to make it. It is much better than ruining his plans entirely, or he ruining yours.

Of course, there may be concerns that the other person may not be trustworthy, and may backstab you even if you make compromises so that he and you can both get what you desire. These doubts are completely natural, and cannot be avoided. However, that does not mean that the other person’s dreams and ambitions should be completely disregarded for your own, nor should you draft a legally binding contract to keep him to his word.

Instead, what ought to be done is to allay such fears, by ensuring that he trusts you. This is because most of the time, backstabbing occurs due to a lack of trust. Thus, you need to find ways to assure him that you are trustworthy. Do not do things that can be misconstrued as efforts to thwart his ambitions. Likewise, you must accord him a level of trust which shows that you do not doubt what he does, even if it sometimes seems as though he is going against the agreement with each other.

If he still decides to use you as a stepping stone to fulfil his ambitions, it does not mean that revenge should be taken. For whatever he did to wrong you will eventually come back to haunt him. So to end off with just a final thought: why crush others’ dreams, even if yours has been? Mutual support, mutual understanding — these things go much farther than mutual competition in the quest to achieve your dreams and ambitions.

Surmounting Your Best: Work in a Team

“It is a pity that doing one’s best does not always answer.”— Charlotte Brontë

Indeed, it is quite the pity when we invest ourselves entirely in a project, expecting to see like returns because of the effort we put in, but receive the reverse of the results that we want, to our dismay. Unfortunately, this will happen time and again throughout our lives. As they say, nothing goes according to plan. What then can we do to minimise our encounters with such situations?

First and foremost, we have to realise that working alone can only take us so far. This is because as a person, we are by ourselves limited in how much we know, in our skills and abilities. After all, knowledge is infinite, and there is no way that we can know everything about the world, everything about people, everything. By realising this, especially to those of us who are particularly averse towards working with others, it becomes easier to accept others, for their views and for themselves, which can be a potential game-changer.

Next, we have to learn how to avoid prevent able failure stemming from within ourselves. To the extent that we are the limiting factor to the success of a project, then no matter how much effort we put in, there is only so much that will show.

Granted, this may make it seem as though the individual is then insignificant. However, this fails to recognise the contributions that an individual can make in a team.  A person is by definition unique, and by having the opinions of different people in a project, by welcoming their input, it is possible to obtain new angles from which the project can be seen, bringing into view possible pitfalls which would have remained hidden otherwise, which can then be prevented or avoided. After all, people join a team, each equipped with a different set of skills and specialisations. This point aptly encapsulates the importance of working in teams: each person has unique contributions that only he is able to make. Thus, while the team is important, its constituents are equally important, if not more so.

Ultimately, it all boils down to the realisation that there is a clear difference between willingness and working smart. The former undoubtedly is important as it translates into motivation which stimulates a person to invest himself in a project, and ‘do his best’. However, it can only take a team so far, and eventually becomes more of a hindrance than anything, which is where being able to work smart, being able to adapt, comes into play, for it allows one to surpass the boundaries set by the former. Doing one’s best may not answer, but when we work together with others, what is our best in comparison to the collective effort by all?

Building Teams Through Difference

“Talent perceives differences, Genius unity.”— W.B. Yeats

Let’s not care so much about talent and genius — what they are is immaterial for our purposes, and in fact may hinder the development of this discussion. Instead, let us focus on the concept of difference and unity, and how there is unity to be found in difference. Sound paradoxical? Stay with me. You’ll understand what I mean in bit.

Let’s begin with a quick anecdote (very contextualised, so if you’re not from Singapore, I apologise, and you may just want to skip this paragraph). Just the other day, I was walking around the Serangoon area, Serangoon Gardens to be specific. I forget the reason behind why I was there. But the thing is, I found out that it is possible for one to walk from Serangoon Gardens to Serangoon North in less than 10 minutes. It seemed quite baffling initially, especially since I normally would have taken a bus to travel from one area to the next, and would consider them quite a distance apart, since it’s 10 to 15 minutes by bus, which would seem to imply that walking would require a substantially longer time to cover that same distance. And this obviously was not the case.

So what is the point I am trying to make here? Well, firstly, perhaps it is due to the convenience offered by transportation, by cars, buses, trains, that we have lost our ability to recognise how a plot of land, while seemingly divided by buildings, by fences, by whatever other kind of impediment thinkable, is still a united entity, and there are ways to overcome these obstacles, for instance by travelling through an obscure alleyway (thankfully Singapore is relatively safe in this aspect).

Secondly, people are in a way similar. There are people who we never seem to be able to ‘click’ with, regardless of how hard we try, how much effort we put into the relationship. However, that does not mean that these differences have to be crippling to a team. If anything, these differences are likely to augment team discussion, and provide greater depth to whatever plans may be had. Think Belbin. He found that people have different roles they are suited for in a team, and that having a combination of all the different roles is what ultimately determines the success of the team.

In a similar manner, meeting people who we cannot see eye to eye with and interacting with them is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, all it takes is a little bit of patience and an open mind, to accept their point of view, or at least think about it if we cannot comprehend it. More often than not, we will find that their points are valid in their own right, and may even give us new ideas, new thoughts, which spur us creatively.

So whenever you find yourself in a pickle, especially where it involves you and another person, with whom you cannot choose to agree but to disagree, instead of thinking war, think unity, in diversity.

Why We Should All Give Second Chances.

Time passes, people change. We all know it. However, how often do we act on this premise? When faced with a person whom we know has done us a wrong turn in the past, or we feel has displayed incompetence in his job, our first reaction is a tendency towards these past events (which obviously have little to no bearing in present circumstances) and to judge him based on these past events, without any regard for the present, or the good that he has done, which is immensely unfair. Thus, to the crux of this essay: the importance of giving second chances.

People who have had a bad track record may indeed be a cause for concern in the workplace. What if he messes up again? Will he somehow manage to undo all our efforts going into a project? What if…and the list goes on. And it may be the case that the person will cause the team difficulties if let on board. However, if never given the chance to even try, how is one to know for sure that such a person would be problematic in the team? If anything, the ‘innocent till proven guilty’ policy should be applied in such a situation, and the person in question should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Granted, it should be acknowledged that the psychological barriers are difficult to break when it comes to such decisions that can make or break a team, as letting a potential catastrophe onto the team. This is especially so for the risk averse. Thus, while it is not possible to fully welcome the person into the team from the get-go, perhaps a compromise can be made. For instance, put that person on probation, perhaps for a week or so, to test his capabilities. You never know, but he may surprise you, and exceed your expectation by a mile.

Which brings us on to the next point: that people ultimately are multifaceted and have various strengths and weaknesses. Past failures could ultimately have been due to his being in an environment unfavourable to his strengths which may have even focussed on his weaknesses, thus hindering his development and success. Reasons for failure ultimately do not solely lie with the individual, and can entail a host of external factors.

So it may be possible that it is only if a person truly has no strengths which align with the team that he should not be let on it. However, even then such a statement indicates a lack of understanding of that person. This is because that person, with strengths that perhaps no one else in the team has, may have vital resources, may provide a new perspective to the team, which would allow the team to elevate itself from its current position, and allow it to develop further. Moreover, weaknesses can ultimately be made up for by other people on that team who have complementing strengths.

Thus, give others a second chance. Even though they may have made a fiasco of their first, one should never be inclined to believe that it is predetermines all future possibilities.


Understanding Acceptance

“The human heart has hidden treasures, In secret kept, in silence sealed; The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures, Whose charms were broken if revealed.” — Charlotte Brontë

It is often the case that we fall under the illusion that we are ourselves exceedingly complex, and far more so compared to others, who appear to us little more than open books. In conflicts, this translates into “You can never understand!” and other similar sweeping statements.

Partially, this arises from the simple fact that we know ourselves best, because we understand our motivations and how they are linked to our actions. Motivations which are not apparent to others, although they like to think otherwise. Therefore, it only comes natural that we find it irksome and rage-inducing when others make attempts to project their opinions on us and impose incorrectly their views.

Ironically, even though we do not like it done in reference to us, it does not deter us from making attempts at claiming a complete understanding of others, from imposing judgements about them on them. This forms the basis for today’s article, which is about how to understand others better, and how to avoid forcing ourselves on them to create a better overall environment to work and play in.

As might be expected, the first step we need to take to achieve this is to come to terms with the fact that we do not know everything, if anything, about a person (apart from ourselves, of course). This is because it is only when we are able to do this that we can accept others for who they are and become able to see past our expectations of that person. Unfortunately, this is not something that can be achieved instantaneously. After all, it involves breaking free of a mould into which our thoughts have been led to grow to fit for years. Thus, it requires constant reminders to help ourselves grow accustomed to the idea. Nonetheless, this does not make it unachievable. It simply makes it all the sweeter once it has been accomplished.

Then, because we are ignoramuses where others are concerned, it becomes a necessary part of it to communicate. Communicate everything as is necessary. Even if it is just idle talk and platitude, some communication is better than none, for each additional insight gained into the other person’s life is an opportunity to prevent misjudgements from occurring due to a lack of understanding of that person.

Ultimately, the point is that we need to break that foundation in today’s society which is clearly built on judging others and imposing our views on them. Remember, no person is ever stupid. If ever you think that a person is stupid, then the issue is that there needs to be a shift in your mindset, to not only become more accepting of others, but to understand that others are not as two-dimensional as they are made out to be in our heads.