Friday, February 28, 2014

Better Together

I am a big Survivor fan. And I haven't missed an episode. Ever. This week, a new season of the show premiered, this time with three tribes: Brawn vs. Brains Vs. Beauty. It's an interesting social experiment, to say the least. On the surface, you'd think that Beauty would be at a significant disadvantage, based on our notions of what beauty means. And yes, many of them are models and beauty queens.

But the group at the real disadvantage, as anyone who watched the premiere knows, is Brains. That might come as a shock. You might be trying to figure out how that happens. You might believe a half-dozen smart people could figure out the game. There is one missing ingredient from the Brains group, however, that has them struggling fast:

Most of the brains have never learned teamwork. They don't know how to work with each other.

For the beauty group, this is not a problem. They are used to using their looks to get others to do what needs done, all while having some measurable ability to do it themselves. They are socialized to work with other people, even if it looks like they are using them at times. Which means that when one throws out an idea and tries to get someone else on board, that person then tries to get someone else on board, and all of a sudden, we have a team of beautiful people working together to accomplish a goal. All because they know how to deal with one another. They encourage one another, as well. Beautiful people are used to hearing affirmation, and they are not shy about sharing it.

For the brawn group, this is not a problem, either. They like doing things together. They understand that strength is only magnified when there is more of it put to use. They know that two people lift more than one. And to be honest, they work hard for their physical ability because they understand how that can be an asset both to them and to others around them. Here is a group of people all trying to be assets, so they are working together for the good of everyone. They're pooling their strength because they know how to work it.

For the brains group, the story is different. They've always been the smart ones. They've always used their intelligence to lead. And to be right. They are used to other people following them because they tend to have the best, most well-thought-out ideas. They are in a place now where not everyone can lead; some are going to have to follow. From the first episode, you can tell this is going to be a difficult adjustment. At every juncture, they are butting heads. They think it's personalities, but it's really socialization. Everyone is trying to lead. Everyone has an idea. And everyone thinks they are right. In the end, that makes nobody right and nobody immune. Someone is going home. The brains tribe is

You just cannot overestimate the value of knowing how to work with people and doing it well, whether on Survivor or on the subway. And I say that in full admission that I am a recovering loner. Around here, we call that the brain-brawns - I know how, and I'm going to do it without you. 

But even I am growing conscious that I absolutely need community. This world is a much better, and a much calmer, place when you learn how to interact with it, how to share your strengths and how to lean on someone else's. As I write, I am thinking about all the people without whom I would not be in this very place today, and they are too numerous to count. I am thinking about how little I've accomplished when I've struggled for eternities in solitude, and how quickly those same impossibilities come together when I have invited someone else in on them.

Impossibilities like Beauty beating Brains.

Life is just better when we do it together. If we can't learn to lean on each other, we may find ourselves too early out of the game. 

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