Almost two years ago, I was inspired to address this debate by a blogger that I very much admire (“Confident Individualism” by Lani Rodriguez). She presented a very nice case for the side of individualism, but now, echoing Joni Mitchell’s sentiments in “Both Sides, Now” (my second favorite songblog), I’ve looked at individualism from both sides now. It may not be a simple this vs. that type of argument.
Part of growing up, or maturing, is being able to function on your own, meaning you need to make plans and take individual actions to solve problems as they arise, and then take the necessary follow-up to make sure those actions were effective. Some people never get this far, and others never get past this point. But there is a limit to how much one person can achieve alone.
As a member of society, the next logical step would be learning how to work with others – certainly not a trivial skill, but one that gives you the power to solve bigger problems, benefitting not just you, but your whole community. This too, as I’ve already implied, is a normal part of the maturation process; if you live in contact with others, as most of us do, this step is not optional.
So the title of this article, although written just as this question is usually presented, is deceptive.
These are not opposing means to handle any task, but both need to be an integral part of your arsenal.
You could look at them as two gears in your vehicle to success. Individualism is first gear; teamwork is second gear. People complain that their upper gears are hard to maintain (“It’s too hard to get good help”, “It would be easier to do it myself than train someone else to do it”, . . .) and thus not worth the effort. It is true that the more moving parts, the more likely to break down, but your first gear is just as likely to fail you as any other. And even if it’s not, I’ve actually had a real car that couldn’t get out of first gear, and even though the repair facility was reasonably close, it took me forever to get there. Driving around in a car with only one gear is NOT an option unless you have really low expectations in life. So why didn’t I just call a tow truck? Oh, so now you’re arguing in favor of the team approach.