Ivory Tower

Ivory Tower

Learning to Cooperate

I’m 26 years old, so I know a thing or two about life. But I can’t say I know much more than that. Just a thing or two is all I have.

Growing up in rural Arkansas, I spent a lot of my time thinking about how I could get out of that small town, of how I could move on. I knew my place was elsewhere, so I bided my time, kept to myself and built up my independence.

At some point — with cheerleading and a 4.0 GPA and a weekly column in the local newspaper — I developed an attitude.

And that attitude was that I didn’t need anyone else.

I thought I was open-minded because I saw things differently than a lot of the people in my community. I thought believing in civil equality made me kinder, smarter and better than those who discriminated against others for their race or sexual orientation.

I, in turn, mocked and berated social conservatives. I had simply avoided one slot of narrow-mindedness for another, and further alienated myself from the community that supported me in my youth.

After graduating college and entering retail management, I believed I was an excellent leader. But the truth was, I only cared about myself. I wanted to climb the ladder. I wanted to succeed, but I wanted to do it my way.

I refused to soften for my superiors or sway in my vision for leadership. The store excelled, but at what cost? My team was exhausted, and so was I.

My need to succeed turned into desperation, a desperation that could have been avoided if I had gained a little objectivity. If I had looked at my circumstances as a mutually beneficial opportunity for all involved, my resources would have increased and I would have been able to share responsibility and investment with my employees.

I carried this attitude with me to The Free Weekly, which actually worked out very well in the beginning. I had the opportunity to execute a singular vision, and I had only one or two other writers to consider.

But after a few months, I learned the paper wasn’t really about my vision at all. After spending each week following a new story and meeting new people, my idea of success began to change.

I realized I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself, and to do that, to make something reputable and engaging and entertaining, I would need other people to help me.

So I had to unlearn my attitude.

I learned to relax my vision to accommodate other people’s skills and interests.

I learned to truly appreciate others, to respect their time and their investments.

I learned to cooperate.

In a town that believes itself to be progressive, I learned to cooperate. Yet currently, within a business that stands at the heart of that progressive movement, the idea of cooperation has been obscured by agendas and personal conflict.

I’ve been on both sides of that coin, so I understand how difficult it is. Here’s hoping the next board for Ozark Natural Foods  will be able to keep things transparent, and as we say back home, drama-free.

Categories: Commentary