A Letter to a Teammate

Dear Teammate,

I just realized something. I really like you. And that’s big for me, because – as you know – we didn’t always get along.

But more on that later.

First - we go way back, don’t we? From the younger years playing sports, to those high school days when we put on plays and entered singing competitions. Then, in college we slogged through the never-ending group projects; how can we forget those midnight study sessions and fast food runs? And after graduation, when I joined the ranks of the working world, there you were again.

Come to think of it, you’ve always been there, right by my side, whether I wanted you or not. And to tell the truth, I didn’t always want you there. Because - and I don't have to tell you this - it hasn’t always been rainbows and butterflies with us.

Very early on I resented that I was forced to work with you - I was convinced I could do it better and faster on my own. I didn’t understand why I needed you and thought, “I can do this by myself.” To me, you were a burden, an extra weight that slowed me down.

Though, to my surprise, I was told – on more than one occasion – you thought it was me dragging you down. My friends whispered in my ear that you thought I was arrogant. A know-it-all. A show-off.

Those rumors really got to me, reinforced that I should go it alone. But, when I look back on that now, I see you were right. I was the one with the backward attitude. It was my fault for not recognizing your value, not knowing how to work with you, or how to leverage your strengths. How to ask for your help.

As it turns out, when I was convinced I didn’t need you – well that’s when I needed you most.

Fortunately, I turned a corner and discovered our potential together. I became enthusiastic and optimistic about the amazing things we could accomplish working as one. I learned that, with you, I wasn’t weighed down at all. Instead, I was lighter. Faster. Smarter. Stronger. Better. And so were you.

One of my best memories is at work when we had to create a training program entirely from scratch. Remember? I can still picture it, like it was yesterday. We were in this giant room – just us – wall to wall with empty whiteboards.

Wide-eyed and not sure where to begin, we just started scribbling.

I pitched the first idea. You caught it and tossed it back with, “I like it! And what about this…” From there I lobbed, “Love it. What if we then do this..." And off we went. Building something new. Something great. Together.

Each idea was accepted with open arms. Nothing was off the table. Eventually, our tentative ideas found their legs. They grew stronger and picked up speed. They gained momentum and suddenly took flight. Then, out of nowhere, our little ideas multiplied and even took on shapes we never expected in the beginning.

In the end, what we had was simply beautiful - a work of art. Well, that’s what it felt like. Because whether it was worthy of Picasso or not – probably not – I still swell with pride for what we created together. It was certainly something neither of us could have imagined alone.

And, you know something? In addition to what we produced, I also learned a lot from that project. The things you taught me, just from working alongside you – whether you know it or not – have stuck with me. I’ve used those skills and even paid them forward over the years.

That was one of the best times we had. But, that’s not all. I often reflect fondly on that time we decided to enter a softball tournament. It was pretty silly, actually, because we had never played that sport together. What were we thinking, leaping into something unfamiliar like that? Well, I guess we figured, “Why not?! We’ll do it together, And whatever happens, happens.”

And that just about describes it, because on our first attempt we failed - hard. Remember that and how much it stung? But we didn’t care, because we had fun. And we didn’t stop there. We got up, dusted ourselves off - literally - and regrouped. We figured out where we went wrong and jumped right back in, this time better prepared. After a few more attempts, we actually won a tournament! I still can’t believe it, actually.

You know how we did it? We specialized. We studied our strengths and focused our energies there. We didn’t allow one another to play positions that didn’t use our best talents.

Once we planted our feet squarely in our rightful spots - where we could do what we do best - we discovered something magical. We had fun and we excelled. We felt invincible. I’ll never forget that feeling of success when we held that victory banner, grins from ear to ear, arms wrapped around our shoulders. I want that feeling again and again.

There are plenty more examples of us bringing down the house together, but the little things have mattered just as much. Like the many ears you lent for venting or brainstorming. The air cover you flew in when I need it most. The cheerleading you showered me with when I felt unsure of a path forward. The endless supply of “atta-boys” you tossed my direction – of which you never seemed to run low.

Today, I can’t imagine going it alone. With you, I’m part of a community that can tackle any challenge, big or small. With you, individual sacrifices feel more like investments that pay dividends.

In closing, I made a list. My "top five things that make our relationship great." This is what I like best about us.

  1. Together, the ideas get better and I get smarter
  2. With us, there are no egos, no stars
  3. When I can’t do something, you can
  4. If I fall, you pick me up
  5. Tackling projects with you is just more fun

So, thanks for always being there, whether I wanted you or not. As I think about what’s helped me get where I am today, and what it will take to get where I’m going, it's all you. I mean, let’s face it. I can't do it alone. And because you’re not going anywhere, I embrace you. I love you. You rock!

- Your teammate