This famous saying dates back to the seventeenth century, but the thought that it conveys is as relevant today as it was when it was first written. No person can achieve anything meaningful in life without the contributions of other people. To succeed at reaching your goals, therefore, you must learn to appreciate the people God has placed in your life.

In sports, the necessity of teamwork is obvious. In basketball, for instance, the player who takes frequent shots will be forced to depend on other players to grab the rebound when he misses one of his shots. And the tallest player on the team, who is excellent at scoring “in the paint,” will be forced to depend on the ball handlers to get the basketball to him. So while one player excels on offense, another player excels on defense. To win, therefore, all the players on a team will have to learn to make their strengths available to their teammates. To win, each player will have to learn to depend on his teammates to do what he cannot do.

And so it is in life. All of us must depend on others who contribute to us in areas where we are lacking. Likewise, we must contribute to others the skills that we have in hand. But we cannot depend on people when we don’t even recognize what they do for us or what they add to our lives.

How many people have played a supporting role in your life’s story? Where would you be today if it were not for your parents, your teachers, your coaches, and the mentors who helped mold you? Where would you be if not for the friends who helped you and the opponents who sharpened you along the way?

If you have taken a big shot at some point in your life and have missed that shot, be sure you understand what went wrong before you shoot again. Basketball players don’t quit and hang up their uniforms whenever they miss a shot in a big game, and you should not allow a missed shot to deter you from trying again. However, only a crazy man would keep doing something that isn’t working. So the best thing you can do when you have experienced a failure in your life is to understand what went wrong, learn from your mistakes, and try again with the newfound knowledge that you did not possess the first time around. And as you honestly evaluate your past misses, ask yourself what role teamwork may have played in your temporary failure.

Did you have the proper support system in place to help you in your efforts? Were you surrounded by the right mentors, workers, advisors, and partners? Were all the key personnel filling all the right positions in your venture, or were you flying by the seat of your pants, trying to do everything by yourself?
Even people who work alone find it necessary to depend on others for certain things they cannot do. Self-employed people, for instance, need bankers, accountants, doctors, and attorneys. And athletes who compete in individual sports need trainers, nutritionists, coaches, and agents. You, too, must surround yourself with the right people if you intend to do great things, and you must learn to draw from the strengths of others while contributing your own strengths to those who need your knowledge and experience.

Having the wrong people in your life or failing to work intelligently with the people who surround you is one of the leading causes of failure, because almost everything in life is a team effort.
One element of teamwork is leadership. What is leadership? If you really think about it, leadership is simply the ability to convince others to follow you. Before people can follow you, you must be able to inspire them, because, while leadership necessitates a predefined destination, “follow-ship” necessitates the sacrifice of one’s own goals in favor of pursuing the leader’s vision.

Consequently, we all serve as leaders, but we all serve as followers, too. In some areas of your life, you will lead. You may be a Sunday school teacher at your church or a den leader for the Cub Scouts. But in other areas of your life, you will follow. The person who stacks boxes for you part-time at your company’s warehouse may very well be your golf instructor at the country club where you are a member.
It is necessary, therefore, to learn the value of teamwork and to learn the principles of teamwork as you grow older and pursue nobler ambitions, because virtually everything you attempt to do in life will be done in the context and with the assistance of other people. And while you will be forced in some situations to draw from the skills and knowledge of others, you will be the person that everybody looks to for leadership in other situations.

Learn to encourage the people around you. Learn to distinguish between those times when the group is more important and when the individuals who comprise the group are more important. Learn trust. Develop discernment. Learn to be supportive of those who join you in the “mission” that has united you, because, in the end, a team of people can do far more collectively than they could ever do individually, even if you were to combine the results of all their individual efforts.

I write frequently about the subject of work. Hard work is the bedrock of a fulfilling life, because hard work is a prerequisite for any meaningful achievement. Nobody gets from the bottom to the top and nobody recovers from a missed shot without making a heavy investment in hard work. Going to college, building a business, or laying the foundations of a thriving ministry require a lot more than a half-hearted contribution of 40 hours per week. The achievement of a meaningful dream requires the vast majority of one’s time and energy.

But work is more than just driving nails or sweeping floors. It is more than paying bills and ordering inventory. Part of the work of building any dream is to build a team of people around you who can help you reach your goals, and this part of your workweek must be just as important as the part that responds to clients’ needs.

One of the lesser-known “secrets” of success is that a successful person must be willing and able to network with others. He must be willing and able to surround himself with the kind of people who can encourage him when he feels overwhelmed, check him when he feels overly ambitious, point him toward the resources that he requires, and feed him the information about that particular segment of the world that is the focus of his pursuits.

Too many of us surround ourselves with people who make us feel comfortable. That is okay, as long as we also surround ourselves with people who can push us toward our potential. But all of us must be careful to avoid the tendency to settle only for those relationships that are familiar. We must work hard to create a circle of people in our lives who can make us better than we are.
Life is a team sport. Learn to appreciate the role that others play in your life, learn how to work with others, learn how to inspire, encourage and become a leader, and work at building your team, both inside and outside your venture.

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