As a kid I spent hours alone, practicing the cello, writing novels and playing with my pet mouse. Yes, I played with a gang of neighborhood kids, too, but there’s always been a strong “lone ranger” streak in me.
It wasn’t until I was 36 years old that I finally began to understand fully the power and creative high of being a collaborator. I had started a handmade tile business with a friend, and we had to make hundreds of decisions every week about the business, from tile manufacturing processes and styles to sales and marketing, finances, and all the other aspects of a start-up business.
Even though I had previously worked in companies and gotten along very well with my co-workers, I had pretty much done my own job. Of course I had to ask co-workers questions and get their input on various things, but with the tile company, it was a huge collaborative endeavor. It was exciting. It was challenging. It was creative. When I took off my lone ranger mask, I could see that I loved collaborating.
A collaborator is defined as “An associate who works with others toward a common goal.” In my current work as a business coach, I love collaborating with Chris Hutchinson, CEO of the Trebuchet Group, on ways to best serve our clients, owners and employees of mission-driven businesses and organizations. And every month my partner-in-life and I collaborate on a myriad of things, including discussing and editing Ordinary Brilliance.
So what does collaboration really mean? It means setting aside the strong sense of individualism that runs through mainstream American culture and acknowledging the power of community and of passionate, highly functioning teams.
It doesn’t mean you give up your beliefs, opinion or identity. It does mean you get to experience the sizzle that happens in the creative chaos of collaboration. You might collaborate with your spouse/partner on your summer vacation plans. You might collaborate with a co-worker, or a professional colleague outside your own business, on coming up with a new product or service or a better way to deliver your those.
As much as anyone, I tend to think I have the best idea. Yet when I collaborate, I always find that I end up with a much superior result, whatever the project is. So, even though I am a solo entrepreneur, I collaborate actively every day with intelligent, caring people, working together to serve people and the planet.
If you are a lifelong collaborator, I applaud you. If you think you have some room to grow as a collaborator, then I encourage you to join me in that developmental process. Remember, even the Lone Ranger had Tonto.