Ironically, there’s some dispute over who this quote can be attributed to. Mark Twain often gets the glory – although like George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill, I’m sure he gets quite a lot of other people’s credit. Other contenders include President’s Truman and Reagan, and even the former CEO of Coca-Cola. Presumably whoever did say it, doesn’t really mind – otherwise he’s a big fat hypocrite.
Regardless – this is one of my favourite quotes, and has been a mantra for the last few years since I heard it from Chris Curtis, the Chief executive of Youthscape and gosh darn it, one of my best friends. Chris has always impressed me with his practical embodiment of this idea – while he is the hardest working and most visionary person I know, he rarely gets much of the credit he deserves, and that’s partly because he’s never found hanging around on a platform long enough to receive it.
Chris doesn’t just operate this way because he’s a nice guy. He does it because he’s realised something that sounds cliched but is actually profoundly true. You’ll achieve far more through collaboration than you will through your own endeavours. Of course there are exceptions (J K Rowling probably wouldn’t have been able to write Harry Potter as part of a team), but excepting outliers, most of us get much more done if we’re prepared to accept help; to do things as a team.
The unfortunate side-effect to this is that credit then gets shared- and not always equally. If you’re a front man, it makes sense that you’re going to attract the most attention (name the other members of Coldplay without googling). So here’s the challenge: are you prepared not only to take just a share of the credit, but an unequally small share? If you really are – if your ego can take the unfairness of others taking your credit – then the ceiling on your potential achievements really is lifted.