After this weekend’s conference closed yesterday, I invited a fellow presenter to stop by our house for lunch on their way home. We were both exhausted and fit for little more than sitting quietly on the couch and waiting for food to appear.
So I was surprised when my friend picked up my almost finished but abandoned Rubik’s cube.
You remember the Rubik’s cube? It’s been the joy and bane of would-be nerds for more than three decades. I never had one as a child and bought one about five years ago.
At first, I’d pick it up and toy with it in between writing sessions. But I was afraid of messing it up, so I never made more moves than I could remember how to reverse.
After a few months, I got brave, jumbled it randomly, and tried to restore it to order. I came pretty close, and even googled strategies at one point, but never followed them to the finish line.
Eventually, another writing distractor toy replaced it.1
Until yesterday, when my friend picked up my Rubik’s cube and solved it in half an hour.
They knew the solution patterns. Someone had once taught them a handful of patterns, they memorized those patterns, and that’s the whole story.
You don’t need to be able to navigate 166 logic trees to solve a Rubik’s cube. You don’t need incredible spatial reasoning skills. You can study a few simple patterns, and those patterns unlock the game for you. It’s not as complicated as it could otherwise be, and most importantly, you’ll never know that unless you’re in relationship with another person who knows and will tell you.
Surrounding yourself with people who know things and will share them with you is how you don’t have to know it all and can still flourish as if you do. It’s why even people at the top of their class still hire tutors, why winners still hire coaches and mentors, and why businesses that want to move forward hire skilled consultants and contractors.
Good teammates, who at their best are peers working constructively toward goals you share, free each of us from the trial of the Little Red Hen: plenty to do, no cooperative hands on deck, and the sense that we’ll just have to find all the answers by ourselves.
There’s pleasure in searching and studying, of course.
But others will always have a skill, an insight, a perspective—something—that adds to us and resolves a conundrum we’d probably have never resolved on our own.
Treasure your teammates.