It’s unhealthy to eat alone

Posted on April 20, 2009

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Today I had a meeting with people who didn’t want to have a meeting. Not that exceptional, you say, since most people who go to meetings don’t want to be there. This was an exceptionally unappreciated meeting, however, as it was designed to restructure the way people work together.

Let’s think of a situation in which people are less inclined to want to change. Hmmm. How about I make suggestions regarding how you could be a better parent? Or perhaps how you could get in shape? Or maybe we could sit down and discuss your finances? Isn’t it funny how we are all self-employed in our minds. Autonomous. Islands.

I deal in helping teams. I love to talk about how much more efficient people are when they work together. I have a great article, From Wharton to War, written by a correspondent with Fortune and a businessman who also happens to be a Recon vet. Amphibious Reconnaissance — Marine Spec Ops. Really great article. The author is 5’7″ and had to learn to deal with the fact that he couldn’t load a fellow 230-lb Recon grunt on his pack and carry him. It deals with how to work as a team by first realizing that “I” ceases to exist and “we” takes preeminence. Having had to have a few of these lessons, I appreciate what distills in your soul when you come face to face with your limits as an individual and are forced to redefine yourself as part of a larger whole. It’s a good place to be but an excruciating leap to make.

So I go to these meetings in which everyone is internally crawling over the backs of their chairs and I work to instill a glimmer of hope in the possibility that working together might make their lives easier. Today was a good example of how it often goes. One member stood three times, walked around the conference table, blew out big gusts of air, and finally, after an hour of discussion on various topics (none of which could be maintained for too long as his eyes kept developing those circling bullseyes), in complete frustration finally said he had to leave. And he did. The two members who were left looked at each other nonplussed and one said to the other, “I didn’t kill him. I say this has been an unqualified success.”

I love my job.

I’m not sure if it’s human nature to be independent or a thing forced on us by a comfortable culture. I spent an hour with Alta today, discussing the book we are going to write together. She is very excited. She jumped right in and decided to tell me as fast as she could as many things as she could remember of her 90 plus years. I just hung on and listened as fast as I could, grinning the whole time. I feel it when she talks: the steadiness that comes from a life you absolutely cannot live alone, the work ethic that evolves from knowing that your work is not for you alone.

In my favorite movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, the author’s Italian neighbor tells her, when he invites her to dinner, “it’s unhealthy to eat alone.”

I believe. But how do you evangelize that kind of connection to other people? When I figure it out I’ll be sure to let you know.

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