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On Projects, Life, and the Pursuit of Everything

On the eve of student project/team assignments, I took the liberty of composing some of my random thoughts on teamwork and working with others.  For my students, I share these with you now in the hopes that you might learn from them and add to them.  

And continue to teach me.  

***

Look around you.

If you always put yourself first, there will be no one there to catch you when you fall.

And you will fall. 

Hopefully many times.

Explore failure to its full potential for it has more to teach you than a lifetime of success.

Embrace failure with the same wide-eyed anticipation that you embrace reward.  

Regress

Find that inner child and let it navigate the open waters of your imagination.  Do not be afraid to share what you see, even if you can’t pick it up, touch it, or even draw a picture.

Try

Your team will support you.  

If it is your team member, support them.

Allow the occasional conversation to go off topic, and resist the temptation to “tune out” or to “reign it in”.  Instead make a point of being as present as possible, conscious of the whims and whimsies of your teammates.  This is where the seeds of innovation live and they are precious.

Play.

Do things as a team that have nothing to do with your work.  They will strengthen your bonds, inspire you, and clear your mind.

Be professional.  It takes practice.

The best professional people have a way of navigating the world that is confident, and inspires confidence and self-confidence in others.

Work hard.  

Want it.  

Accept that sometimes you may work long hours.  Do not accept that you will always work long hours.

Take pride in your work and your accomplishments, but do not be blind to weakness.

Celebrate the successes of others as you celebrate your own.  These people have something to teach you. Plus beer tastes better together.

Do not measure yourself when standing in the shadow of someone else.  Move over. It’s dark in the shadow and you’re going to get it wrong.

Remind yourself from time to time that memories are fallible and subject to bias, therefore snap judgments and grudges are rarely, if ever, constructive. 

Hearing is not the same as listening.  Have a conversation with yourself until you understand the difference.

Everyone has a story, and it is not yours.  

Let them tell it. 

We all have the potential to be terrific communicators.  Go out of your way to help your teammates reach their potential.

Respect the motivations of others and resist the urge to judge them as antagonistic when the outcomes do not align with yours.  More than likely they are operating on different knowledge and informed by a very different life history.  Get to know one another.

Don’t assume.

Ask.

When you do assume (we’re all human), be merciless in uncovering those assumptions and open-minded enough to change them.  You may be wrong a lot.  Be prepared to make it up to people.

Be wrong. 

Say “I’m sorry”, but let the guilt fade away.  We all make mistakes, and we are equals.  If you are genuinely contrite, the best apology is to learn from your mistakes.

Ally yourself with your team, but remain open to the world around you.

Never utter the words, “it’s not my problem”.  It’s disrespectful and chances are it is your problem.

Respect may be earned, but it’s an even nicer world when we start with a foundation of respect. 

Realism and optimism are not mutually exclusive. Know how to wield both effectively.

Take note when others make you feel good, and learn.

Never lose site of your humanity, or those around you.  It is what connects us through feast and famine.

Love yourself.  

Only then can you love your team.

Most importantly, remember that nothing is black and white (especially not this blog entry).  Life is a rich tapestry of fascinating exceptions and interesting generalities.  

Learn from both.  

Do not apply rules with blind rigour, nor break rules with blind distrust.  

Look in before you look out. 

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