Unaccompanied Achievement Is Underrated
For your next big thing—whatever that thing may be—consider going at it alone
Because I’m writing this story alone, I don’t need to discuss with anyone how to start it off. So it will start with a story (an efficient story, I promise) about how for years I fundamentally misunderstood my mother’s experience raising me. It will end with a call to action, but this is how it’s going to start.
My parents split up when I was only a few months old. As I grew older and began to understand what raising a child actually entails, I built a narrative of struggle around my mother’s life. The image was: My mom was a single working mother who struggled to raise me. She didn’t have a partner to ease the burden. She and my dad had a perfectly civil relationship, but he was in California while we were in Texas. In my mind, her road was tough.
She’d become a grandmother to my own kids by the time I openly acknowledged, offhand, my image of her.
“…And you had it so tough doing it all by yourself.”
“I don’t see it that way. In some ways it was easy.”
“Think about it this way. I didn’t have to consult anyone. I didn’t have to compromise. There were no arguments about parenting. If I had a decision to make about raising you, I made it. End of story.”
That conversation profoundly changed me. First of all, it destroyed the too-simple narrative I’d built up about my mother. And it provided an entirely new prism through which to view not only her achievements as a parent, but achievement in general.
The split created a burden for her, but it freed her from one, too. I haven’t looked at solitary effort the same way since.
In our personal lives we are collaboration-obsessed. We maintain networks of friends. Group threads. Even our pastimes have become collaborative. We don’t just go running, we Strava. At work, we prefer Slack over email because it turns our work into one big collaboration. I’m constantly pulling people into “collabs” to “collab,” sure, but sometimes I pull people in for transparency. Or “viz.”