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Mike Reyes, aka Mr. Controversy, has considered himself a writer ever since he was a child. He wrote for various school publications from about 1995 until 2006, and currently runs both The Bookish Kind and Mr. Controversy, which is an offshoot of the regular column he wrote in High School. He's also authored several short stories such as "The Devil's Comedian", "The Devil v. George W. Bush", and most recently "Wait Until Tomorrow". He resides in New Jersey. Any inquiries for reprinting, writing services, or general contact, should be forwarded to: michaelreyes72@hotmail.com

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Team “Me!”: How “looking out for #1” helps us all

I started this piece originally for submission to a publisher, in hopes of publishing a Mr. Controversy book. This was going to be an exclusive piece for said book, but I decided against it because somehow I just think this wouldn't work for the submission process. I might use it anyway, but I figured why not share anyway. Oddly enough, if anyone wants to suggest pieces that should go into an eventual book, feel free to email me your suggestions at mrcontroversyonline@yahoo.com.

“It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out howthe strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better.The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face ismarred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs andcomes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the greatdevotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause. Who, at the best, knowsin the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, at leastfails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with thosetimid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

- Theodore Roosevelt(1858-1919, Twenty-sixth President of the USA)

Do not mistake the following as an excuse. I am not saying that one person’s needs are always ahead of everyone else’s. What this is meant to be is a justification of what a friend of mine would call “rational egoism”. (This friend is an Objectivist, so some of the credit does go to Ayn Rand, even if I haven’t read any of her books.) I would have to somewhat agree with this phenomenon though. Somewhere along the line in the culture we live in, it became a sin to care for yourself. The “common goal” has snuck into parts of our culture, particularly the workplace, and it’s changed the dynamics of business. What used to be a society of “go-getters”, “self starters”, and those who could “pull themselves up with their bootstraps” has now turned itself into codependents and “team players”.

Where does this leave the unscrupulous, or even the scrupulous that chose to stay on the path of self centeredness? It leaves them pretty far ahead of the curve, especially in office environments. Those that do not step forward and own their work are pushed aside so someone else can reap the benefits. In some workplace cultures, you can’t even take ownership in your work…even if it has your name on it! It’s such an insignificant part of the company’s operation that no one even bothers to equate its very output with a human action. A computer could do your job, and it would get the same praise you would…the only difference is the computer doesn’t have to pretend to give a shit about their job when performance evaluations come up. What’s more, if you’re in a workplace that’s heavy on nepotism, favoritism, and back door dealing…then what’s to say you’re going to get an equal share of the pie?

This team dynamic isn’t only felt in the workplace. Even in popular culture, the latest craze with teens is “Team This” or “Team That” t-shirts. Such an example would be the popular Young Adult reading sensation “Twilight”, which had its own merchandising push that labeled its readers in the camps of “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob”. This is merely the newest development in the market of being a Teen in this consumer’s market. Ultimately, this “team” thing connects back to the one thing Teens of any era have wanted…to be labeled as “cool”. They want to be noticed, and to do so they’ll blend into a crowd of like minded followers who are the team of self anointed “cool” kids, and proclaim that their team is their identity. They lose the idea of self, and all of their accomplishments go to the team. It’s so much easier in this fast paced world to just lump yourself into a group, but it’s hypocritical to say both “everyone’s special” and “everyone’s a unique snowflake”.

Let’s face it…there’s some people out there that just aren’t special. Sure, they can do special things once and a while; but not everyone is an Olympic athlete who can sing flawlessly in French, make a million dollars just by waking up, and stopping World Hunger with a glare of the eyes. It just isn’t possible, not everyone is that talented. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t work towards being special. All I’m saying is that not everyone is born special. Some people have to work harder than others to see things through in their lives, and thanks to the “team” phenomenon, everyone’s forgotten the most important team in their lives…”Team Me”. That’s right, in this world you shouldn’t be choosing sides, you should be aligning yourself with the sides that ultimately support your side. You are your own side in this skirmish, and you should be doing what’s best for you. To drag “Objectivism” into the mix again, one of the core tenets (from what I understand) is that to do good for others it must be intrinsically good for you as well. You don’t just do good because it is good, you do it because somehow it enriches your own wellbeing. That, of course, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do good things for others; really, you can rationalize around that one by saying that doing good for others makes you a better, well rounded individual. But whatever the case, doing good as a hollow, backdoor absolution for guilt isn’t right. You have to mean it when you do it, you have to actually mean the good will you’re bestowing upon someone else. Otherwise, it’s useless because it’s not doing anything right for you.

Imagine if you will a world with people that are a little less team oriented, and a little more self oriented. Not so much that they forget everyone else’s needs, but enough that they take a little better care of themselves, and strive to do something better in life. You would truly have an “everyone is special” dynamic in the world today if that were possible, because everyone would look better, would be thinking better, and quite possibly could be making the world better. We can move ourselves back to an idea fueled world, where you’re engaged in healthy competition with one another. Not competition that is bitter and totally self centered, but competition that makes you strive to be better while at the same time helps the field you’re competing in advance. The reason behind this being that while in the collective mindset of a “team”, we don’t work as hard. Everyone in the team puts in a little effort, to contribute to one big effort. The members of the team are not supposed to make their own big efforts, otherwise the leaders of the team would be upset and kick them out. Everyone is supposed to be special, everyone is supposed to work, and no one is supposed to take credit…except for the leader for leading so leader-like. But if the team fractures into smaller factions, everyone has to do a little more work. Everyone supplies that many more ideas, and then if you fracture that faction, you’ll have a fraction of people but a bigger quantity of ideas. The smaller the group is the harder working the members are, and the bigger the share of ownership in the result.

I’m not saying we should all be at each other’s throats in steel cages, fighting for Darwinian dominance. I’m only saying that we should be a little more mindful that while there are other people in this world it shouldn’t be looked upon as selfish to say, “You know what…there’s other people out there, but I’m still important too.” If we motivate ourselves out of the collective mindset, and push ourselves to working for that bigger tomorrow, then who knows what we can accomplish. In short, it would behoove this society to move towards a more “cooperative individual” state. You can keep your teams, but in the end don’t forget that a team is only as good as its members…and members are individual teams themselves.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You should do an entry on "Seresecros' Five Most Attractive Qualities"!

Modesty would not be an option.