We’re Wired For Community

Interdependence Not Independence

One of the secrets for a satisfying life and a high performing work team is not independence, nor is it over-dependence on others, it is interdependence. The software of our souls is coded with a need to connect with others and experience genuine community, not just in our personal lives, but in our work lives, too. People are wired for community. We’re made this way; it’s in our DNA. Of course, it was the Industrial Revolution that helped turn workers into cogs without soul. But Management 2.0 is changing that forever. A new movement is brewing. People crave relationships so much that many will settle for artificial or dysfunctional ones if it means not having relationship at all.

Wilson_Community_LeadershipAliveWe Need Other People

I’m reminded of the movie Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks…and of course, Wilson. If you remember, one of the most gripping scenes in the movie is when Tom Hanks finally escapes from the island and sails out into the ocean. During his sailing ordeal, Wilson, the volleyball, gets separated from the raft. Tom Hanks cries out to Wilson and asks him to forgive him for letting him get away. As dysfunctional as it is, it’s a clear picture of how badly people really do need others and how we all long to be part of a genuine community pursuing something meaningful. When organizations understand this important need in people, building teams and cultivating community becomes an inseparable part of their mission and definition of success. Profit alone is no longer the only bottom line that matters.

Work Teams: The New Normal

We grow and work best in the context of genuine community. Because most industries are moving away from work that is being done solo and shifting to work that’s done in some form of group or team, being able to work well on a team and/or develop a team is a valuable skill-set in the new economy. Bringing out the best in others, working well on projects in groups, learning how to collaborate and create synergy among colleagues, and solving problems alongside others is fast becoming the new normal.

The Benefits of Community

Having strong people skills is a valuable asset. Cultivating a culture where people sharpen and bring out the best in each other is the dream of almost every organization. Honestly speaking, this isn’t always the norm in many organizations. But I’m convinced we can all grow and improve in developing our team-building abilities just like any other skill…if we want to. As we do, this newly honed ability will set us apart from the average leader and manager. When we desire to serve people and bring out the best in them, the best will be brought out in us, too.

The Discipline of Unlearning

The Discipline of Unlearning

Unlearning is one of the most under-utilized approaches to learning. We often picture learning as adding to what we already have. For example, we have a certain level of knowledge or proficiency about something. So, to learn is to increase. Many people think of learning as something like the image of opening up the top of a person’s head and pouring more knowl­edge into it. But that’s not always true. Sometimes we get more traction in our learning by knowing what to unlearn.

Fruitfulness Is In Pruning, Not Adding

Picture a logjam in a river. When it’s removed, the river begins to run again. The river is now able to move downstream with a roar. The same is true with us. Sometimes we experience some of our greatest epiphanies and bursts of growth, not by always adding to the existing body of knowledge and experience, but by removing something that is untrue that is holding back other truths from creating life and new growth in us.

New Growth

We flourish anew by discarding the mental and attitudinal blockages that hinder new truths from entering our lives. Myths that we hold as true keep other valuable life principles at bay in our lives, almost like an invisible force field. As friend and author Wayne Cordeiro says, “The secret to a fruitful life is not always in adding, but in pruning.” Fruitfulness is contingent upon knowing what to discard. Please note that I’m not talking about pruning for pruning’s sake and leaving gaping holes. Rather, I mean a cutting away in order for something new to blossom. Here’s how one ancient proverb puts it: “When the grass goes away, new growth appears, and the plants of the hills are gathered.” So prune with a vision in mind.

Copyright 2013, Christopher P Meade, Financially Alive, Master Gardener
Copyright 2013, Christopher P Meade, Financially Alive, Master Gardener

Pruning Toward Design

All of us have heard stories of master gardeners who can magically look at a budding plant, shrub, or tree and know what its natural design is sup­posed to be. They see what its intended original structure is, what it can be, and then they prune toward that design in their mind’s eye. They know what the shrub should and can look like in its end state. They can sniff out and recognize latent potential. That’s one reason why master gardeners know that who we are on the inside (e.g., talents, strengths, passion, skills) are often clues to what we want to do and can become on the outside (e.g., career, life purpose, vocation). They are connected.

Unlearning Is Part of Learning

For that to take place, the master gardener must carefully envision, snip, discard, shape, and remove everything that hinders the plant from reaching its full potential. Dead and sick branches must go. Branches that appear good but in reality are superfluous must be trimmed. In order for the resident potential within the plant to come to full fruition, pruning must be intentional and continuous. The same is true with us in regards to learn­ing. Pruning is a normal part of life. Unlearning is a normal part of learning and progress.

A Life That Is Thriving

When we discard twisted, design-hindering, even ancillary truth-assumptions we flourish. This is one of the truths Jim Collins in his book, Good To Great, was getting at in the Hedgehog Principle: the power of focused, aligned, design-simplicity (i.e., What are you passionate about? What can you be the best in the world at? What drives your economic engine?).

Who Is Your Master Gardener?

We live in a culture that values only adding, even to the point of overload. Yes, we need healthy soil, lots of water, and warm sunlight to expand and increase, but we also need the work of a caring gardener who prunes toward the vision of what we are designed to be and do. That’s why mentors, trusted friends and advisers, a wisdom community, sacred texts, life coaches, pastors, teachers, etc., can be the other eye that we need. Wise leaders know that the eye cannot see itself. Therefore, we need other “sets of eyes” to help us maximize potential. Prayer, meditation and personal reflection can help us, too. More than likely, a life that is alive and thriving, is a life that is learn­ing…and unlearning.

Maximizing Potential

We need all the resident energy that is within us fully available to us if we are going to maximize potential. So let me ask you: What do you need to unlearn? What do you need to prune, discard, and cut loose in your life so you can get the water flowing again in full force? What in your relationships, your thinking, your attitudes, your goals, your schedule, your finances, your behavior needs a log or two removed so the water flow can pick up speed like it was designed to do? Remember: unlearning and letting go is a key element of learning and growing forward.