No one makes it alone. This is a common statement handed down the success stream. However, I chose to make this entry today because I thought it needed a caveat. One probably obvious but for those on my wavelength perhaps you need this reminder as much as I do. The real statement is this: YOU CANNOT MAKE IT ON SINGULAR BRILLIANCE ALONE.
Go back to the last statement. Read every word. You still need to be brilliant but your brilliance must have company. Many brilliant performers at work or play have been warned about shining too bright for their own good. Not being able to make others look good around them. However, this is the wrong approach. You should never have to worry about your brilliance diminishing others. You need to be looking for how your brilliance is complemented and thus multiplied among others. Which means the others have to be brilliant too.
So many talented young men and women look at their lives in near despair and deep distress about living a life that does not measure up to the talent output they are capable or worthy of. They think of themselves as being shut out for reasons they cannot control like gender, cultural background, race, class etc. While these factors cannot be discounted totally, they can be strategically diminished with success. The strategy is communal competence. If you are brilliant team up with other people whose brilliance equally (or almost) complements yours.
Oftentimes, people get into groups without vetting the brilliance or coherence of their cohorts. People get attached to one another out of habit, decency and most of all for fear of loss of reputation. But this very oversight is the death knell on their overall prospects. Climbing the ladder in all aspects be it corporate, artistic or political is most expedient and fruitful when one is part of a brilliant collective.
What do I mean by collective? This often alludes to the well meaning group of dreamers that get together to sacrifice selfish aims in the pursuit of a communal goal. WRONG! This kind of collective will bleed you dry and leave you regretful and bitter. The sort of collective you should aim for is a group that aggregates due the complementary nature of its members who are driven to excel individually to the extent that their association is a multiplying effect on their individual contributions. In a team of home builders, an excellent plumber, an excellent electrician and an excellent roofer are a force to be reckoned with. Anyone who hires all three to work on their home at construction is set to benefit from a combined competence that is complementary.
Too many brilliant people are not sure enough of themselves so they associate too much with their competition or people well below their competition so their brilliance is evident but not progressive. Instead we ought to be taught how to associate effectively. In an organization, a VP or upper level manager who has effective communication and trust with the people on all their tiers of the organization is a threat. You will often see a C.E.O discourage his/her VP from being pals with the underlings for fear of them being chummy and thus incapable of respecting their authority. In fact, the real threat is, if a VP has the trust of the underlings he gains much more effective power in the organization which could make the boss truly afraid especially if their progress can be tracked all the way to the boardroom. Someone’s job may be on the line.
My point is, if you are brilliant vet for other brilliant but complementary people. Avoid competitors for close association. Time will be wasted in subconscious competition and you may never truly appreciate each other for what you genuinely bring to the table. In hip hop, this is referred to as you might become each other’s “haters”. In reality it is a poor setup which can only lead to one outcome. The overall goal of this association is the development of a beam which when refracted can be broken into a spectrum. No one’s light is dimmed but together a beam is created which illuminates whatever the beam touches. When you associate appropriately, your focus moves from proving your competence to sharing your competence. When everyone shares the proverbial beam shines brighter and the requests come calling. No longer will you seek to explain who you are or what you do. It will be made clear in the most seamless way possible.
So instead of worrying about climbing the ladder, you will be faced with requests for access to your team. At this point you can set the terms of engagement and most importantly, your price.
Julian Michael Yong
2 thoughts on “ON THE SOFA: Communal Competence vs Individual Competence – Why Climbing the Ladder Seems Pointless the Smarter You are”
Just wanted to check I understand this correct…
If you are brilliant, work with others who are even further along in their brilliance. This is the key to being successful in any field. It is also the key to being able to make others look good around you. You should never have to worry about your brilliance diminishing others. You need to be looking for how your brilliance is complemented and thus multiplied among others. This means the others have to be brilliant too.
Little correction. You added some sauce there my man. Not necessarily further along per se but enough such that you complement each other seamlessly. The absence of the worry is a function of the seamless fusion/association not intention.