Haddad: We are immensely stronger when we pull together
Two men were out on the ocean in a boat.
One of them began drilling in the bottom of the boat, and the other, aghast, said, “What are you doing? Stop drilling!”
And the first man replied, “It’s all right. I’m only drilling on my side.”
There may be times when you feel like that man in the boat. You may be doing all you can to keep your vessel afloat and chart a good course to home port, but the actions of another might become counterproductive.
This might happen within a marriage, among sets of friends, with coworkers or within our nation’s political parties — some may be rowing with all their strength, while others seem to be inadvertently drilling holes.
As a nation, community or as members of a family, we are immensely stronger when we pull together and are committed to teamwork.
Years ago I read about a Canadian competition during which huge Clydesdale workhorses are hitched to a special sled that allows weights to be added to measure the horses’ strength. During one such competition the winning horse pulled about 8,000 pounds, while the second-place finisher pulled 7,000 pounds.
The competition also includes a team-pulling event, and it turned out that during that year’s competition one of the teams consisted of the first- and second-place finishers from the individual pulling event.
It would stand to reason that if you put them together, they should be able to pull about 15,000 pounds. But when the two horses were hitched together they managed to pull a sled weighing 33,000 pounds — more than four times the amount each could pull individually.
The concept of this illustration is known as the Two-Horse Rule. The basic explanation of the rule is this — a two-horse team will pull their own weight plus the weight of their interaction.
Obviously the weight a horse or team can pull depends largely on their build and breed, just as for people. Draft horses (like Clydesdales, Shires, Belgians or Percherons) can pull much, much heavier loads than say a Thoroughbred or a Quarter Horse. But no matter the exact physics, there have been some truly phenomenal weights moved when horses (and people) are yoked together and pull as a team.
As we have seen in recent years, pride often gets in the way of effective teamwork. Someone may feel that he or she does not need to pull with others. They may get caught up in identifying WHO is right, instead of collaborating and working together to do WHAT is right. The best leaders I have ever known understood the need to pull together no matter your position or station in life.
There is a story told that may have lost some historical accuracy over the years but is generally accepted to be based on a true incident.
The tale that dates back more than 200 years tells of a man in civilian clothes riding his horse past a group of weary soldiers digging a trench in a defensive position near a battlefield. The men looked exhausted and downtrodden. The commanding officer was shouting out orders but made no effort to help. He threatened punishment if the work was not completed by the afternoon’s demanded deadline.
“Why are you are not helping?” asked the stranger.
“Because I am the leader of this unit. These men do as I tell them because they know I am in charge,” the officer relied, adding, “Get down there and help them yourself if you feel so strongly about it.”
To the officer’s surprise, the stranger dismounted his horse and helped the men until the job was completed.
Before leaving, the stranger thanked and encouraged the men for their good work, and approached their commanding officer.
“The next time your rank prevents you from supporting your men, I will provide a more permanent solution,” the stranger told the unit leader.
Up close, the officer now recognized General George Washington, who chose to lead by example and teamwork rather than with pride, fear and power.
What humanity needs right now are more people willing to set pride aside and help others stay afloat, and less people drilling holes.
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