Everyone Plays a Role

Years ago when I first heard from my mentor Brian Hibbert saying that a climber is only as good as their belayer, I nodded with quiet reservation.  It is true that a climber can climb only as high as their belayer allows, unless the climber solos. But, what about a climber who climbs at 5.12 level while their belayer can climb only 5.1 routes?  Are they still equally good?

Since I started teaching climbing, I have felt some enormous respect bestowed on me by some clients as they simply just looked up to me.  Their expression of respect fed my ego and also made my feel unease at times when I put all things in perspective.  Sure, I know more than they do in climbing.  But they know more than I do in other areas such as their job and other hobbies.  We are essentially equals.  We just have different roles in our society.

While in my teaching role, I must not cheat myself to believe that I am at a higher position than my clients, or have power over my clients, in any other way. Our roles are equal.  I do my best to share the knowledge and skills.  They do their best to absorb the knowledge and master the skills.  When we all play our roles well, we accomplish our common goals well... together as a team!

I have recently been sucked into the phenomenon of Linsanity initiated by Jeremy Lin, an NBA basketball player for the New York Knicks team. On February 4, 2012, Coach decided to give Jeremy Lin more minutes to play after the team had played really badly, losing 11 out of 13 games.  Jeremy had played on average 2.4 minutes through the team's first 23 games and he was facing to be cut by the team on February 10th to make room for a new hire.

Jeremy seized the opportunity, scored 25 points, had five rebounds and seven assists, and led the Knicks in a 99–92 victory. In the following six games, He was the point guard starter and led his team to consecutive wins, shattering NBA records along the way.  One of them being the total number of points scored in the first six starts.  Jeremy scored 146 points, surpassing Michael Jordan’s 141 and Kobe Bryant’s 87.  Jeremy had risen from obscurity to stardom in just one week.  He appeared twice on the cover of the Sports Illustrated in February.  In March he signed a two-year contract with automaker Volvo to promote the company’s cars around the world – especially in Asia.

Jeremy Lin's success appears to be his personal success only -- overcoming odds through perseverance.  The truth is that many many people have played important roles in this incredible Linsanity phenomenon.  The fans recognized his basketball skills and personal strengths, and invented the term Linsanity. It was because the fans in US, Canada and Asia liked him so much, that Vovlo signed the contract with him. Without the fans believing in the values that Jeremy Lin also cherishes and demonstrates, the Volvo contract won't come.  In essence, Volvo signed a contract with a set of values cherished by the fans.  Jeremy plays a role in representing the values as a middle man between Volvo and the fans.

Each and every individual person, being a fan of Jeremy Lin or a fan of something else, plays a role in shaping the development of our society.  It is hard to pick which role is more important than others, as all roles are inter-dependent and contributes to the richness of our living experience.

I am tempted to apply this to work situations in general as have been facilitating team building through The Ping Way since January 2001. Team leaders and team members are equally important as they each play a role in making their team work. "But the managers and the CEOs are paid way more than the front-line workers!" you may counter this notion of equalness.

What is the most expensive part in a space shuttle?  Maybe the engine.  But every other tiny part is equally important.  The failure of an O-ring led to the disintegration of Space Shuttle Challenger in 73 seconds after being launched on January 28, 1986.  A piece of foam insulation the size of a small briefcase broke off from the Space Shuttle Columbia during its launch led to its disintegration in its re-entry to earth on February 1, 2003.

Expensiveness or money value does not measure accurately the importantness of a part in a machine, a member in a team, a worker in an organization.  A CEO may run a company to bankruptcy and disrupt many family lives, yet still receive millions of dollars payment. Mother Teresa did so much to strengthen the human fabrics in India and internationally but received little monetary payment. I also believe that the poor people being helped by Mother Teresa are as important as she is, for without them Mother Teresa has no one to help. Both the CEO and Mother Teresa are equally important in contributing to our learning to how to improve the processes and functions in our society.

We are all equally important to the betterment of our society and the survival of our space ship, the earth.

We each play a role. We may accept the role that life has handed to us.  We may choose a role to play.