After all of the dust settles on a career, you have only two things to take out the door with you– an assorted collection of accomplishments and friends. And though you’ve been paid all your life for the former, you couldn’t have done it without the latter – lasting partnerships with people who work as hard and laugh as often as you do.
Though teamwork is often touted as a vital ingredient to success, I submit that the best work gets done when a team evolves into a family. The leap is subtle but hard earned and difficult to describe. It depends on the skills, goodwill and personality of those involved with perhaps a little serendipity to boot. Vital to the formula is a hyper sense of purpose, a noble goal that engenders passion for both the process and the outcome. Success requires a diminishing of the self for the vision of the whole. I’m sure if there was a more specific formula, the how, but not the heart of it would be taught in business school.
I carry two such accomplishments with me out the door, perfect examples of this winning formula – projects that had no precedent and therefore no recipe for success, projects so big and unfathomable that all reasonable people said they couldn’t be done. One occurred early in my career, when I managed the business affairs of an international expedition - the first-ever crossing of Antarctica, a joint venture with the Soviet Union. The other was my last assignment, strategic planning for the consolidation of some seventy independent IT operations into a single government organization. At first blush, the two seem utterly unrelated. Yet in retrospect, they each boast the necessary ingredients: a lofty goal, significant complexity, uncharted territory (no recipe, no map) and dedicated colleagues determined to see the challenge through.
And here’s the wonder: Even as I bid farewell to my more recent partners, I am reconnecting with the other ‘family’ from so long ago. Phone calls, emails, warm, embracing hugs. From across the decades and the continents we connect to remember what it was to be a part of something so remarkable. Why now? Like our story, we have matured. At the end of our careers we appreciate better that such moments come around but rarely in a lifetime - near-impossible challenges met with just the right people and timing to beat the odds. In each other, we recognize, even and especially after all these years, the mark of family and the pleasure of success.