This notion that we are islands in a big sea & that somehow just following our own path will make us more significant or happier is quite absurd. If we do what we want, when we want & how we want we remain an island in that big sea & from personal experience the island builders are amongst the most discontent groups of people I know.
Now before you flip open your laptops & write a long list of objections, please let me explain what I am trying to get at.
We human beings are like the junctions in a spider’s web; what we do & how we do it affects the other parts of the web. Think of the newsworthy instances where individuals or groups do what they want without regard for others: London; Manchester; Paris; New York; Florida & a host of other cities have hit the headlines for exactly those reasons. People have decided on their own aims & executed their plans with devastating effects on the rest of us.
Okay, so our lives & our actions may not hit the international headlines but the effects of what we do & how we act will impact far beyond ourself.
Think back to the image of lots of islands in a big ocean, each island desperate to make itself bigger, more significant, more important, more [insert your own outcome here]. The tragedy is that in trying to be a significant island we remain isolated & largely insignificant in the bigger picture.
“But Stuart, these are two totally different scenarios”
Ae they really?
If we want to do what we want, when we want & how we want, we have no option but to involve others in some way in order to achieve our goals.
If we buy something, we involve others.
If we sell something to make money, we involve others.
If we make a career decision, a business decision, a friendship or relationship decision, plan a holiday, go on holiday, travel, read, write … we involve (& need) others.
Sure, we may be carving out a path for ourselves but we need others in order to do that.
We may like to be hermits or independent but we live in an interdependent society. We need others to survive, to a larger or smaller degree, whether we like it or not. We are indeed like the joints in a spider’s web: our joint (we) will affect the rest of the web (through the connections & relationships we have) … & vice-versa.
So, rather than thinking of ourself as (or acting like) an island in an ocean of resources, isn’t it better to look at those islands as a network or web where building bridges & communication links allows us to not only enjoy the fruits of the ocean, but also do it more effectively & efficiently.
If I need to buy something from you & you have the product or resource but won’t sell it to me, we both lose out: I don’t gain the resources I need & you don’t create wealth from the sale.
The big problem for many is that when we start talking about interdependency we must also talk about relationships, which in our technologically-driven world (economic & social) are easy to overlook. We are a species that increasingly hides behind our doors & keyboard. It is safer & less threatening. We send a text or e-mail rather than picking up the ‘phone or calling round to see people. We air our grievances in the rocky, nuance- (& potentially emotion-) free medium of text rather than sorting it out face-to-face.
Technology may change, communication methods may change but the same basic driving principle still underpins every transaction we complete: the better the relationship, the smoother the transaction & greater the mutual benefit.
Another 21st Century tendency is the avoidance of pain points: we don’t like dis-ease, discomfort or fear & yet the only real way to grow & overcome those issues we struggle with is to face them. We actually need these things to grow. If you never make a mistake you never learn. If you never make mistakes then perhaps you are not trying often or hard enough?
So, if we take up the challenge of working & living interdependently & we take on the challenge of learning how to use the mistakes we make to overcome obstacles & avoid future problems, I believe not only will we achieve so much more but we will also be more content & fulfilled. We can’t expect to get on with everyone, but neither can we expect to live & operate independently & be truly successful. Even if it can feel a bit like driving into a tunnel, the tunnel does end in the light again (& often helps us to avoid other obstacles or dangers along the way).
When we realise the great power & mutual benefit in operating as communities & webs, rather than islands, we will begin to reap the benefits of the relationships we have & build new ones, confident that we are building a better future; for ourselves & for those around us.
And that is why I believe that there is great value in valuing others.
Take care until next time …