Effecting Change Means Leaving Credit Behind
Updated: Jul 23
By Cara O'Malley |
“There is no limit to the greatness you can achieve if you don't care who gets the credit.” This was a quote my dad shared with me over and over again growing up. I didn't quite understand it for the longest time. Not caring who gets credit? That's ridiculous. It goes against everything I'd internalized throughout school. If I did the heavy lifting on a group project, you can bet that I'll want my credit. I may even adjust my name's font size to be a tad bit bigger, just so the teacher knows who did all that hard work.
But as I get older and (hopefully) wiser, I'm beginning to appreciate the significance of my dad's advice. When you stop caring about credit, you invite humility into your life. And with humility comes an openness toward collaboration—a key ingredient to making any great progress in this world. If one is driven by ego, which is at the core of caring about credit, then one creates the opposite effect. Instead of seeking out collaboration, we'll find ourselves trying to solve problems in a vacuum. We'll find ourselves less enthusiastic about asking others for their insight or help. And we'll find ourselves seeking out “I” instead of “we,” all for fear of our names decreasing in font size at the end of the day. But this method is not only lonely, it's unproductive. Because how can we possibly expect to have all the answers? To always know what to do and be solely responsible for change? That's an impossible weight to bear.
"When you stop caring about credit, you invite humility into your life."
Now critics could argue there are countless examples of self-made individuals who trailblazed change in their respective fields. Steve Jobs. Beyonce. Alexander Hamilton. But my counterargument is this: There is no such thing as a self-made person. It's an illusion. Our notion of accomplishment is similar to the scene of an actor having their name announced at the Oscars. Waving around a newly-won golden statue atop a stage, it's easy to imagine success as a solo-endeavor, thus ignoring that we're in fact an accumulation of the sacrifices, accomplishments, kindness, hard work, and good will of those around us and of those who came before. To combat this, we must shift our thinking so as to recognize those numerous forces that allow us to achieve in the first place.
More and more, the world is riddled with challenging problems that demand nuanced solutions led by group effort. If we ever want the chance to solve these problems, we need to relinquish our quest for credit. If credit comes, so be it, as long as it's not the goal. Instead, we should seek opportunities to prop one another up, to cooperate and offer ideas without stipulations, and to generously acknowledge others. When we do this, we lift the weight off our shoulders, and we allow ourselves to achieve greater things than ever before.
Cara O'Malley - Project Manager, Construct