“Most teams have guys who want to win, but aren’t willing to do what it takes. What it takes is to give yourself over to the team and play your part. That may not always make you happy, but you’ve got to do it. Because when you do, that’s when you win.”
— Bill Cartwright, 3x NBA Champion with the Chicago Bulls
At first light on a Summer morning while sipping a green tea moments before I go to change and feed my son, I reflected on teamwork and how I’m relearning this timeless lesson of life.
As a boy growing up in the 562 area code of Southern California, basketball was a full-time job for me. Thus, team work was something I not only understood by had the good fortune of experiencing. After exhausting myself with different strategies to “be the star,” I realized that I’m nothing without my teammates.
When I fully trusted my teammates to do their best, and they trusted me to do the same, we were then five players alone and together at the same time. It would be inadequate to merely call it an advantage on the court —walking into a game having a team full of individuals with this mindset displays that we’ve already won. If we ended up scoring less points then the other team, the score board simply was feedback on technical things; missed free-throws, poor offensive execution, deficient conditioning. These things can be addressed and corrected rather quickly like changing spark plugs on a car.
In the event of a loss, we knew we still had each other — we were still winning in the intangible category of the game.
Years later, I’m in a different game with a different teammate: My wife. We now have a newborn at home and it takes everything. We quickly understood that we must function as a team to make this work. We must both do our part and trust that we are going to give our best. I’m blessed to not only understand this concept, but also experience it in real-time. We both are doing things that don’t make us “happy” but we are doing them because we know it gives our family the best chance to win.
This is teamwork.
The interesting aspect of this lesson is that while it’s difficult, there is a deep sense of joy in doing the right thing even when it’s not pleasurable. The act of being a good teammate is a nutrient for the soul.
Being a trustworthy teammate is a form of love that benefits both you and your teammate(s).
Perhaps the most headstrong things that keeps us from experiencing this kind of love is distrust. If trust is absent between teammates, everything becomes gray and protective. We throw on a scarcity cape and look to gain only for ourselves. Interactions simply became angles for self-gain and heartless rituals ensue.
To be sure, we must guard ourselves from certain things. But it is as old and true as the blue in the sky that the only door to a unified team is to put your ego aside, play your part and give your best.
Bill Cartwright suggests that giving yourself over to the team is how the team wins. Looking back on his career, it’s evident that he stood by his own words.
The concept of teamwork is easily understood but increasingly difficult to embody. I don’t have any direct answers to this challenge but only a question. Which is more debilitating: To be self-serving in order to get to the top all alone or to crack open our chests and lay ourselves down for the greater good of the team?
Hi, I’m Brian.
I wrote Upgrade Everything originally as a guide for myself. Once I discovered how well it worked, I figured it would help my fellow creatives too. My aim for this course is to simply help you do better work faster.