Monday, September 9, 2013

The Sum of the Parts is Greater than the Whole

The converse of this quote, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” is what I believe is true in the case of teamwork.  

For a team/group/organization to be successful, the team can’t consist of individuals working independently and without cohesion. The team’s goals have to be the focus and the individual goals should be second to the team’s/groups/organization’s goals. 

The members should work interdependently towards a common goal (and, interestingly enough, individual goals are usually fulfilled when the team’s goals are met!)

I have several quotes and stories that remind me of the times that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. 

The first quote is by Helen Keller. She said, “The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.”  

On days when I think that what I’m doing doesn't make a difference, I think of this quote. 

This quote was especially helpful when my children were infants and toddlers. I had been busy all day, but it was with endless chores such as filling bottles, cleaning bottles, mixing formula, changing diapers… you know the drill! 

At the end of each day, I was worn out and I had nothing to show for my day. Each day and each action was a tiny push of an honest worker. I moved my children along in the world because of the thankless job I performed each day.

Everyone will not be a superstar, a hero, a giant. The world is full of different people with different interests, motivations, and dreams. Each person, in his or her role - whether perfect, great, good, or mediocre - is what causes our world to be a better place.

When I talk with others who are discouraged because they don’t think that what they are doing is “great” enough, I try to share Helen Keller’s quote with them, along with this quote by Henry Van Dyke:


To be impactful, we sometimes have to step outside our comfort zone and do those things that we think we’re not so good at. 

Throughout my life, I have been an encourager to take risks and step outside of comfort zones. From my roles as a teacher, administrator, personal trainer, mother, coach, wife, and friend… I have taken risks, shared my experiences, tried new things, and encouraged others to do the same. 

Just because we think we won’t be the best “singing-bird in the woods,” it shouldn't keep us from finding out how we can contribute to the symphony in the forest. 

  (My one remaining risk that I haven’t taken yet is to karaoke - in public! I’ll keep you posted on that one!)