A wise man once said, when advising newlyweds, “You gotta pull together, not a’gin one another.” This sage advice applies to just about every case where people are working together, either as parents presenting a united front for their children or as a team working to win a game. Recently, that lesson came to mind, while working with a group of people for a fundraising dinner. There were way too many bosses with polar opposite ideas of how and when to do one of the given tasks.
It was amazing how many strong opinions these various bosses had for following a recipe on a box of cornbread. Opinions were a’plenty for where to place the container of milk, the eggs, and which should be added to the mix and when. The oft repeated and wearisome remark of “…it ain’t rocket science, folks…” did come to mind when people, serious about the particular way the cornbread should be mixed, and put into the hot cast iron skillets, made it harder to achieve the goal of making cornbread.
It seems that getting all tangled up in the minutiae of how to accomplish a particular task is more important than actually completing the job, and moving on. All of the bosses, in this instance, actually got in the way of getting the cornbread made and baking. Like almost anything, the “experts,” whether it is regarding cornbread, education, or any of a million other possible subjects, can make a relatively simple task into something so complicated that no one knows what the actual goal or planned product was in the first place.
In a cartoon, seen a long time ago in a business management class, there was a picture of a camel, and the caption, “A camel is the horse a committee made.” Chuckling, aside, there is more truth in that caption than many of us would want to admit. As an educator, this writer has experienced more than a fair share of meetings–committee or otherwise–that just seemed to waste time, resources, energy, and any creativity that could have bubbled up if those involved had collaborated rather than attended a required and mind-deadening meeting.
This writer has had lots of experience in being a boss, if nearly three decades of teaching can be considered being a boss. The most successful and rewarding days were those days when students followed directions to achieve the desired product; and were those days when project directions were concise, precise, and had clearly outlined expectations. Magic ensued, and the creative juices of the students resulted in astounding projects and products. Those days when bedlam seemed to rule supreme was when assumptions were made without direction, and everyone flew in different directions, like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off.
In this time of so much unrest, politically, with 24/7 coverage of everything every candidate does and says spread across the airwaves and the Internet; maybe, taking a breath, stepping back, and thinking about what will be good for the whole country would get all of us pulling in the same direction and together.
Our country, in the past, came together to solve some really big problems. It took only ten days to pass legislation to create and fund the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the early 1930s, and an additional five days to organize the Corps, appoint the director, and to assign commanders to recruit volunteers. Within three more days, the first recruit was signed up, and the first camp was established in another nine days.
One can think of other instances when ordinary people have achieved extraordinary goals by working with others with a shared vision. With everyone understanding the goal, and what individual effort is needed to achieve what may be deemed impossible, alone, can be a dream realized in an amazingly short amount of time, with others.
One ordinary person who achieved a lot was Audrey Hepburn. Grateful that she and her family endured and survived the German occupation in the Netherlands, she was able to pursue a successful ballet and acting career. She also received many honors, including two Tony awards; three Golden Globes; a Grammy; an Emmy; and two Academy awards, in addition to awards for her humanitarian work in third world countries.
After receiving all of the awards and accolades for acting in movies and on stage, she dedicated two decades of her life to helping impoverished children in the poorest nations, becoming a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund), and receiving the UNICEF Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Her travels to Ethiopia, Turkey, Honduras, Venezuela, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Sudan, Bangladesh, and VietNam was made easier by her wide knowledge of languages. She was naturally bilingual in English and Dutch, and was fluent in French, Italian, Spanish, and German.
Although her life story may seem like a fairy tale, it was anything but during the German occupation, when the Germans literally starved the Dutch people, during what is known as the Dutch Famine. Audrey Hepburn was part of the Dutch resistance, and vividly remembered seeing children loaded on trains bound for the concentration camps, which probably moved her to become a spokesperson for all of those starving children that UNICEF served then, and continues to serve, now.
As we face some daunting problems, we should be doing more than sitting in meetings, spinning wheels, giving offense to others, being offended, and being someone who gets in the way of progress by wanting to review and rehash everything twenty times over. After everyone has had a chance to voice their opinion and really being heard by everyone, a decision needs to be made that may not be everything everyone wanted, but is something that each person can “live with.” Once the decision is made–everyone needs to come together–to work toward the common good and goal. Every child above age five understands this need to cooperate and pull together to get things accomplished within their family or school group. And wouldn’t the world be a better place?
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, ‘I’m possible.’ ~Audrey Hepburn