If you’re like me, you’ve undoubtedly heard somebody who used to play on an athletic team make a statement like this: Everyone ought to participate in organized sports as a teen. Learning to work with others is important and being on a team is a great way to do that.
That makes sense, even though the closest I came to being a team member was in disorganized backyard baseball as a pre-teen. I probably wouldn’t have been permitted to play if the backyard hadn’t been mine. I was equally unsuited for team play in junior high and high school gym class.
Not because I was uncooperative. Not because I didn’t try hard. But because I was a terrible athlete, no matter what the sport. Age hasn’t improved things any.
As an adult, teamwork didn’t seem overly relevant in my first two careers. As a secondary school English teacher, I interacted with fellow faculty, but what I did or failed to do didn’t affect them any more than their activities affected me.
As a counselor/interviewer for the Maryland State Job Service, I was one of several people doing the same job in the same office. How I did my job affected my clients, though. Not fellow staff. Or so I thought until the very end of my working there.
I was scheduled to move away and begin work in Virginia as a computer programmer, and I managed to leave a huge amount of paperwork undone. Paperwork I had always detested doing. I’ll never forget the look of disappointment on my supervisor’s face when he saw it. He didn’t have to say anything. I’d thoughtlessly let the people I’d never thought of as a team down.
I enjoyed a certain amount of solitude in my programming. Solitude and independence. I don’t think I really appreciated the effect my work had on other members of my team until the time I faced such a major deadline that my inability to get my part done actually gave me anxiety attacks. The pressure was too great, and I went home the day before everything needed to be completed, pretending to myself as well as to everyone else that I’d finished my part.
I hadn’t. I deserved to be fired.
Instead, I watched my job performance go further downhill until my company needed to do some downsizing. I didn’t have to wonder whether I would be laid off. It only made sense. If I couldn’t be a functional part of the team, I didn’t deserve to be there.
I spent three years on the register at Target, awaiting the time I could retire early. Thank goodness I’d finally learned my lesson about teamwork. I just wish I’d learned it years earlier. Organized athletics wouldn’t have done it for me, but surely something would have.
Who are you? Are you a team player or more like the way I was for too long? How about leaving a comment?
I’ll have more to say on this on Sunday. Please come back again if you’re interested.
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