The best ideas and simplest lessons can be rendered ineffective if we try hard enough. If you’ve worked in an office environment in the past 20 years or so, been involved in any type of corporate training or even just watched the hit television show “The Office,” then you probably know what I’m talking about. Have you ever been forced to sit through a long, tiresome meeting or training session full of exciting concepts like “be nice to each other”? Maybe the training was based on an acronym, something like: TEAM, Together Everyone Achieves More.
My favorite of all of these hackneyed phrases is, “There is no ‘I’ in team.” Truer words couldn’t be spoken, sure, and this concept applies to almost everyone. There is a good chance that you will spend the majority of your time here on Earth dealing with other human beings. To be successful in just about any endeavor, you will need to learn how to effectively work with other people toward a common goal.
But when you hear that phrase, do you actually do anything? Does it cause you to consider how you might refocus your time, effort and attention away from your own desires and toward what is best for the group of people your actions affect the most? Does it cause you to think differently or take some sort of action? I doubt it. My guess is that your brain just ignores the phrase because you’ve likely heard it used over and over again.
It’s certainly true in our office. Last year, we prepared a company Christmas card to send to associates and friends with whom we do business. It contained a link to view a video that the excellent, creative staff of The Tennessee Magazine had prepared. The video was a spoof of the “The Office,” and each employee had plenty of funny banter to contribute. But General Manager Tom Purkey, now retired, had one of the funnier lines when he deadpanned into the camera: “There is noo ‘I-I-I-I’ in team.”
All jokes aside, we would all be well served to not let good advice like this run past our ears. As I was driving home from a large family event recently, I was discussing the highs and lows of the weekend with a family member. Thankfully, there was little in the way of serious problems to discuss, but as we talked about the minor annoyances and failures that plague any sort of large undertaking, I found myself giving some advice. “Did you ever read Rick Warren’s book, ‘The Purpose Driven Life’? No? Well, neither did I. But you don’t really have to. It’s all in the first sentence.”
What is the first sentence of the book? “It’s not about you.”
Yep, that pretty well sums it up. Parenting, relationships, work, sports — you name the area of life, and I am confident that if you will keep your focus on others and how whatever role you play in their lives affect them, you will, in turn, live a happier and more fulfilling life.
This is even true in the legislative world, where our local, state and federal governments depend on representation. Those whom the public elect to represent them (the legislative branch of government) enact laws in the best interests of those they represent. Then, those who work at the behest of our publicly elected mayors, governors and president (the executive branch) carry out and enforce those laws in accordance with how they were written. In other words, the charge of our elected officials is pretty simple: “It’s not about you.”
People often say things to me like, “I understand the importance of good public policy, but politics is so nasty. I just don’t like it.” I think what they are reacting to is the growth of self-interest in our political process. More and more, an election is becoming about two competing personalities rather than ideologies. The highest level of election, however, is not a one-man show — even if it focuses on one man. Presidential candidates have running mates and huge staffs. Even candidates for dog-catcher will usually enlist a group of friends to hand out fliers or knock on doors.
The distaste some have for how we elect candidates aside, policy and politics are married at the hip. You just can’t divorce the two. For good or bad, the political process gives us the people who are charged with creating and implementing public policy.
So as long as that continues to be the case, organizations like the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association will work vigorously to represent you in matters that affect your local cooperative’s ability to deliver safe, affordable, reliable electric power. Yes, in my job, it really isn’t about me at all. It’s about the more than 1 million Tennesseans who wake up each morning and expect the lights to turn on.