Teamwork should be in your nature

The huge redwood trees in California are considered to be the tallest trees in the world.

Some of them are 300 feet high and more than 2,500 years old. One would think that trees so large would have a tremendous root system reaching down hundreds of feet into the earth. Not true. The redwoods actually have a very shallow root system, but they all intertwine.

They don’t stand alone, for all the trees support and protect each other. When the storms come or the winds blow, the redwoods stand together.

There is strength in numbers.

To drive home the power of teamwork and sticking together, I sometimes do a visual exercise during my speeches to corporate America, as well as in-house for our sales force and employees. I hold up a bundle of six pencils and try to break them in the air and then over my knee. The average person can't break the bundle.


Then I take one pencil out and easily snap it in two. I point out that if you help each other, you will be like the bundle of pencils. No one can break you apart. But if you are divided among yourselves, you will be broken as easily as a single pencil.

It's a hard lesson for us, but unity consistently produces greater results than individual endeavors. Teamwork divides the effort and multiplies the effect.

In a pulling contest at a county fair, the first-place horse ended up moving a sled weighing 4,500 pounds. The second-place finisher pulled 4,000 pounds. The owners of the two horses decided to see what these horses could pull together. They hitched them up and found that the team could move 12,000 pounds.

By working separately, the two horses were good for only 8,500 pounds. However, when coupled together, their synergism produced an added 3,500 pounds!

And what about the farmer who grew award-winning corn? Each year, he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it.

The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. "How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?" the reporter asked.

"Why, sir," said the farmer, "did you know that the wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field? If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn."

June marks my wedding anniversary, so the next story is timely for me. Many years ago in Austria, they had a custom that helped villagers size up the future happiness of a newly married couple.


After the wedding in the local church, the village women would escort the bride and groom to a nearby forest and stand them before a large tree. They would then hand the young couple a two-handled bucksaw and ask that they use it to cut down the tree.

The closer the cooperation between the man and wife, the shorter the time it took for the tree to come down. And the older villagers wisely reasoned that the shorter the time, the happier the young couple would be because they had learned that most valuable of marital lessons -- teamwork!

Phil Jackson, the highly successful coach of the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers, frequently reads poetry to his players. To inspire his players on the subject of teamwork, he once read the following lines from Rudyard Kipling's 1895 poem "The Law of the Jungle":

Now this is the Law of the Jungle --

As old and as true as the sky;

And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper,

But the Wolf that shall break it must die.

As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk


The Law runneth forward and back --

But the strength of the Pack is the Wolf,

And the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

Mackay's Moral: Nature is full of examples of teamwork. Teamwork should be part of your nature.

Harvey Mackay is a Minnesota businessman and author.

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