Do you like to fly solo? I ask that question both literally and figuratively. Sometimes it’s nice to travel alone. You don’t need to wait for your companion’s luggage or worry about getting them a latte before boarding. It can be nice to work independently too. When we work solo, we may believe we have more control over deadlines, work product, and final outcomes. Depending on other people is a huge risk. Sometimes people let us down. Sometimes they come up short. Sometimes they annoy us.
After years of considering these issues, I have come to think that focusing on the positives of independence, is a trap. This flawed thinking can lull us into the belief that flying solo is not only better for us personally (less hassle!) but also better for our professional outcomes (more control!). But we do not develop, grow, and learn in a vacuum, cut off from other people. We learn about ourselves and the world by relying upon friends, colleagues, relatives, acquaintances, and total strangers every single day.
Depending upon others, at work and at home, is a skill I continue to grow. It does not come naturally to me. However, when I am able to find a great partner, or a fantastic group to be a part of, I have to remind myself all over again that flying solo has many disadvantages. When I pretend to be self-sufficient (is anyone actually capable of this?), I cut-off opportunities for collaboration, new thinking, and process improvement.
This Thanksgiving, I give thanks to the many people who make me better, who draw awareness to issues that lie in my blind spots and who know how to press back and slow me down when I want to charge ahead.
Who do you need most? How do they help you to be a better you? If you have the tendency to want to do everything yourself, ask yourself who actually benefits from your desire for total autonomy? When I ask myself this question, I realize that the benefits of flying solo are limited. People need one another. The Pilgrims were quick to figure this out.