3 Reasons You Can’t Do Everything (And Shouldn’t Try)

HR Intervention

Hello, and welcome to another installment of HR Intervention!  You’ve got a new article to read, and it’s the middle of summer.  Could life possibly be any better?

Today we’re going to talk about teams, since I’m fairly certain you’re on one. America has a somewhat schizophrenic attitude toward teamwork. After all, we basically invented the self-made individual, the never-say-die maverick who stands firm in the face of daunting odds and triumphs over every adversity – the penniless immigrant who becomes a railroad baron, the intrepid pioneer who tamed the savage West.

We idolize individual accomplishment over team effort so much that you could easily be forgiven if you believe that Julius Caesar conquered Gaul with nothing more than a sword and a well-worn leather jerkin, or that Steve Jobs built every Apple computer himself with parts he mined in his own backyard.

Because of all these examples of self-made genius, you might be reluctant to ask for help for fear that it will make you seem weak or incapable of doing things the American way.

Fortunately for you, the idea of the ‘self-made individual’ is a complete myth, and here’s why:

Teams Always Beat Individuals

Michael Jordan was almost as good a basketball player as I am, but even he couldn’t beat a 5-person NBA team all by himself. Baseball games would be even more oppressively boring to watch on television if it were 9 guys against 1, and your next project will look better and get done faster if you have some help along the way.

All of Us Are Building on the Knowledge of Others

Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t have been able to create Facebook if a legion of scientists before him hadn’t first discovered the properties of electricity and then built transistors and then created computers and the Internet.

The scrumptious cinnamon roll I had for breakfast this morning wouldn’t have existed if some caveperson hadn’t figured out how to make bread.  Thank you, cavepeople!

So I hope you appreciate that every one of today’s accomplishments is only possible because of those who came before us, most of whom helped us without ever knowing that they’d be helping us.

Through The Course of Human History, Nobody Has Ever Done Anything Alone 

This is the really important one, and it’s dead accurate.

There aren’t too many things I can confidently say are 100% true, but here’s something I can say with 100% accuracy: in the history of our species, everyone who has ever accomplished anything has had parents or guardians who cared for them; educators, mentors and role models who taught them essential skills; friends, supporters and other interested parties who provided moral or intellectual or financial support; and countless partners who helped them build, tweak, promote, modify, expand, establish and grow whatever it is that they ended up doing.

To think otherwise is not only unhealthy, but it flies completely in the face of all human experience.

So don’t try to go it alone. Nobody else ever has. And it’s because of our collaborative approach to the world that we’ve been able to do all the amazing things we’ve done.

If you try to ‘go it alone,’ you’re fighting against the very thing that allowed our species to achieve its unquestioned dominance. Asking for help isn’t a weakness. It’s the only way we’ve ever managed to do anything.

To encourage collaboration and creativity in your organization for better business results across the board, check out our free on-demand webinar with experts Eve Ash and Mark Bowles:

Jeff Havens is a speaker, author, and professional development expert who tackles leadership, generational, and professional development issues with an exceptional blend of content and entertainment. He is a contributing writer to Fast Company, Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal; and has been featured on CNBC and Fox Business. For more information, or to bring Jeff to your next meeting, call 309-808-0884, email, or visit

Speaker, Author and Professional Development Expert