The Magic of Collaboration


For the first time in my life, I’ve finally grown comfortable enough, shed doubt enough, to see things clearly enough, that I could provide some instructions and invitations to others. To give directions. To invite someone into something new and different and undiscovered. As just — you know — an experiment.

I see now how that process ultimately had to began with myself.

For so long, I’d never been all that successful at telling myself what to do. Or offering myself the proper invitation to just try. Without reservations. And so how could I have ever been an effective manager or an authentic friend or partner or mentor to myself or anyone else if I didn’t understand how to act with conviction and the confidence to follow my own breathless directions? And even when I kind of, sort of, guessed that they were the right directions, I just never took them.

And so, finally, after a year of having the freedom to understand the discipline of being in charge of myself (and/or having dispelled the illusion that somehow I wasn’t in charge), I think I’ve cast anchor into the shallow waters near a better understanding of following directions and the gift that clear instructions are when they are unpaired from any doubt. Sometimes it’s a gentle reminder, other times it’s an impatient but kindly affirmation that there really isn’t going to be a better option than this. It’s not going to come along. So we should do this. It’s going to feel weird at first, but trust me, it’s going to work. And the magic trick is being comfortable when that suggestion is the harder and unfamiliar and untested thing.

Especially when it’s a day of service or volunteering or collaboration. In asking for the help, the first form of repayment for that gift is providing structure and to tell people what to do. Or to ask how you can help. Without doubt. Without second guessing yourself. Without ego. Without thinking you actually need to do any of those things directly or all of it. The success of the project was all in the directions. And then, also, in listening. And it is always extremely counter-intuitive to someone like myself who is a perfectionist and thinks I really should just do everything and that there won’t ever be enough time to even figure out what those instructions need to be. For myself, or others, where you can see how the problems start.

I mainly did other things in support of the work, instead, and that was the magical part of the whole idea.

And so today was an experiment in doing things even sooner, and asking for help in that collaboration, and recognizing in the asking for help your responsibility is in knowing exactly what needs doing, and trusting that it will be something people want to do. If they don’t, they don’t. But the answer is always “No” unless you ask.

And so we moved things, and talked, and moved ideas, and moved our hearts forwards and backwards in time, and pulled the weeds and dusted the cobwebs and in that meditative act of cleaning I realized how infrequently I’ve ever felt confidence in the technical aspects of anything that I’ve ever tried or succeeded in, and that despite that vulnerability and how I’m not even certain I can explain how a metaphor works, it never really hurt anyone to ask for help or to offer to collaborate. And that I could write the metaphors seemingly well enough. At least, I think. And that maybe this new thing that I can’t quite see yet but am striving toward, maybe I already had enough technical knowledge, or skills, or maybe I didn’t need any of this style. Maybe if I could just continue to be honest, and that this will work itself out. And that ultimately it was about the conviction more than it was about the internal beliefs or faith in understanding or ability; and rather, faith in the process and myself.

Despite all these lessons, I see that I should still sail further away from doubt, as one can never be too far from that rocky shoreline unwed to houses of light, and ask for help and what is needed, and better collaborate with myself and also especially with others, and keep learning by doing without anxiety toward the skills of perfectionism — because in what way did those things actually come into direct observation or measurement, anyways? Even if you were somehow the best at some thing, it was always in the actions themselves where your evidence of preparation or understanding or skill was found. And maybe it was better to share and work with others. So waiting until it felt like a safe option without risk of failure — and failure visible to others — was just another form of magical thinking.

And did you even actually need to the best? At anything?

What if we just, you know, tried things.

Maybe that was the magic.




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