You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets

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For years I never understood this statement. Even when I was back in school, I would proclaim to my weary parents that I, and I alone, would embark on the magnificent one-man-project-work-show. I was arrogant enough – even when I was 7 and tiny – to somehow know that my groupmates would screw up the project work and I’d have to redo it.

My strategy? I’d just do it all on my own. I didn’t mind sharing the As that I got for conceptualising, designing and crafting the personalised version of  The Very Hungry Caterpillar for our Primary 1 group project work, nor for the fairytale-like short story that our group had to compose for Creative Writing class. English, as you can probably tell, has always been my forte. Math and science, not so much. That 2/100 Physics test was probably the high-intensity indicator, but I digress.

This tried-and-tested DIY strategy accompanied me through my schooling years. Whenever there was a group project or opportunity for collaborative work, I – the unanimously elected group leader – would make a disclaimer to the group, citing my predisposition for brilliant ideas and cutthroat copywriting as the reason for their unwavering faith and trust.

I wasn’t just an arrogant asshole, I was the arrogant asshole.

The assholism somewhat died down after obtaining my Degree, but it was during my first foray into the working (and corporate world) where I discovered the sweet spot between balancing my assholism and working in a team.


Working in a team – be it in a corporate or a startup, both of which I’ve experienced – is a natural remedy for curbing (not curing) assholism. (Some do slip through the cracks.) Due to the unique nature of one’s set of skills and the uncopyable job traits, it’s virtually impossible for you to boss someone else around and make them do YOUR job when it’s simply only YOU who can get it done.

Similarly, attempting to ‘absorb’ the roles of others and complete everything from start to finish is just silly, because most times the scope of work is too large for any sane person to attempt taking on without compromising the quality of the finished product – and that goes for most of the control-freak assholes out there.

As much as I loathe it on days – especially when I’m tired, cranky, and/or Aunt Flo’s in town – I have to say, I’m thankful to have worked in teams where each specializes in a certain niche, each bringing distinct skills and traits to the table. Though it may be frustrating at times to have your hard work uncredited or efforts shoved aside, it’s good to know that no one was meant to be a one-man show – even myself, who insisted on prolonging the journey for a long time coming.

In a way, you’ll always be alone, and that’s something to be embraced because it’s unlikely to change anytime soon. However, knowing that humans are born to be social creatures and meant to band together, it lends a refreshing and frankly, comforting, outlook on life.

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