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The Art of Collaboration: Learning to Excel through Mentorships and Partnerships

Let’s face it: irrespective of how “brilliant” any brain surgeon is or perceives him or herself to be – and regardless of how many awards or industry accolades this same surgeon has accumulated over the years – should this celebrated surgeon be diagnosed with a brain tumor, it would still take the expertise of another surgeon (who is perhaps not as “celebrated’) to perform a life-saving major surgical procedure on the said surgeon. For the mere thought of this “expert surgeon” lying on an operating table to dissect him or herself wide open would be unthinkable, let alone possible.

No matter how much of an “expert” we perceive ourselves to be in any area of life, there is still room to learn, grow and become even better either in our field or other personal and professional areas we possess little or zero-knowledge in. This pursuit can be realized through learning to exercise humility by seeking advice, mentorship, or even establishing mutually-beneficial partnerships.

With this in mind, we can navigate our way through life’s sometimes hostile territories by learning to collaborate with others in areas where we have limited knowledge. For how can we objectively appraise the true picture of our lives if what we class as ‘clarity of self’ does not go beyond the frames of our very own mental pictures?

Hence, the salient need for external input or the constructive feedback of others. For we can learn to become open to the idea that a fresh pair of eyes brings with it a fresh perspective which has the propensity to transcend the borders of our sometimes insular mindset; enabling us make that transition to the next phase in our personal growth and development.

If in our everyday approach to life we learn to include a lateral we-way thinking with the already in place me-way of reasoning, success in our businesses, jobs, projects, personal life and all manner of relationships and interactions with others would surely be a matter of ‘when’ and never a question of ‘if’.

Within each and every one lies a spirit of optimism in others that advocates for building life-enhancing partnerships as against xenophobia; relationships which are neither defined nor punctuated by borders and the varying colors of international passports. A brand of human interaction steeped in collaboration; like a silent moral whisper within handing out personalized messages to each one of us along the lines of:

“So long as the other person is in possession of that particular skill-set or knowledge I currently lack, but need to fulfill my aspirations, and I am in a position to at least try to find out what that individual or group need to achieve their own objectives, then collaboration – not self-isolation – is key, regardless of our actual or perceived differences.”

We can learn to appreciate that being self-motivated or self-driven may not necessarily be synonymous with carrying the entire world’s burdens on one’s shoulders. Even though the successful individuals worthy of emulation in the world today all have peculiar traits which distinguishes them from one another in terms of vision, acumen and decision making, a certain quality tends to unite them all: knowing when to be self-reliant and when to consult the resources of others as success supplements to what we already have.

We can seek out, and learn from, the smartest people around; that rare species of humans who know when to put aside personal egos in order to siphon knowledge off those they perceive as being “smarter” in specialist areas in which they find their own know-how limited. As a consequence, we will be deriving helpful insights which would help transform our areas of potential strengths into that of actual strengths.

To become an “authentic” human, an honest form of self-analysis on our part is required –a reflective stare at our very own mental mirrors with a view to objectively assessing both our actual and potential strengths may just be the first step in the right direction. Come to think of it; is there really a better deterrent to self-aggrandizement or narcissism than learning from the pitfalls that await that individual who chooses to retreat into his or her ‘me and me alone’ cocoon when adversity comes calling? By being fixated on ‘self’ and ‘self’ alone, we can be missing out on experiencing the splendor and enrichment which the spirit of collaboration brings to humankind.

As we make a renewed commitment to step out from the enclave of ‘self’ today into the open world of ‘others,’ we will witness a paradigm shift in mindsets: a renewed mentality which acknowledges that even though we possess the unique potential to achieve whatever it is we set our hearts and minds to, constantly striving to identify areas of commonalities with our fellow men and women would only replenish – and never diminish – us as people.

By building, developing and seeking to enhance the quality of partnerships with others who have the answers to questions which we don’t may just be the key to plugging that gap between merely being good and being great. After all, it can be said that any society where collaboration prevails over domination and isolation, where interdependence is perceived not as a sign of weakness, but a symptom of true greatness is a society that not only thrives but is also worth striving for.


jamalJamal Lanre Shashore is an author, motivational coach and founder of Born Motivated Training which is a personal development training and education services initiative aimed at empowering people of diverse backgrounds and circumstances with the mental tools, techniques and strategies to overcome personal struggles and achieve their goals, dreams and aspirations. His latest book, Self-Motivation Diary of a Born Optimist: Inner Conversations of Hope, Optimism and the Courage to Achieve the Impossible is now available.



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