The​ Pulling of One’s Own Weight


See a need and fill it. Intuitive enough in a vacuum. Wants and needs form a never-ending parade in our minds, a Mardi gras atmosphere of self-serving, self-indulgent possibilities. When we leave the vacuum of self, entering the stream of shared needs the question becomes, will we rise up and put our all toward the task at hand?

Being social creatures, we find ourselves surrounded by communally shared challenges and opportunities. We function in teams, as families, communities, and colleagues. Looking back, most of us remember standing in a line on the playground as two designated captains selected teammates for schoolyard kickball. Getting picked first meant one thing, getting picked last meant something entirely different.  Friendships and cliques aside the factor determining one’s rank in the choosing ultimately came down to ‘value.’ That value was understood to be ‘what can a player contribute to the goal of winning!’

As we age, we leave the playground behind to find ourselves facing new games with higher stakes. Whether we were kickball all-stars, or deemed liabilities and relegated to the status of reluctantly chosen last round draft picks (your’s truly) becomes irrelevant as the games we play now are rarely decided by athletic ability alone. In adulthood, teams rise and fall on far more nuanced criteria.  

Some people seem to be born with an abundance of talent in one or more areas. Others of us seem to have been absent on the day that stuff was handed out. What to do if we find ourselves in the latter category? Watch “Rudy” for starters. Being of ‘value’ to those with whom we toil is no longer a simple matter of how the cards were dealt. Instead, it is a combination of what we have and what we choose to do with it.  

Picture four people in a metaphorical rowboat. It could instead be a tech startup, an operating room, a family or a fast food restaurant; but for visual simplicity let’s stay with the rowboat. Each team member has an oar in hand, two rowers on the left, two on the right. The scene could be a white water river challenge, a collegiate competition rowing final or a desperate escape from a sinking ship. In any of these cases, the best outcome would be achieved via equal focus and effort. Such mutual intention allows for the fastest movement in the direction of the goal at hand, defined by the craft traveling in a swift, straight line toward its objective. Our teammates rely on us to give our all, as we, in turn, rely on them for the same. If the boat veers from this course, turning or spinning to one side or the other, dashing the hope for team success; most often the missing ingredient is fortitude, ‘the pulling of one’s own weight.’

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