When I reflect on my career, I never think back on the size of my compensation package at any of the stages along the way. No, what stands out in my memory, what I think about both proudly and fondly, are the projects and the teams, the people I worked with, the teams I was a part of, the projects we worked on, the products we created.
I remember working weekends and holidays with Bruce, Peter, and David to build MacLion, the first relational database for the Macintosh; I remember Kathy, Nasi, and Elaine semi-conscious and sprawled on the floor of my cubical after working 24 hours straight during the final push to complete dBase IV; I remember the heroic efforts during the Browser Wars to ship Netscape Communicator 4.x and to “free the source code.” And most recently, I remember the sustained efforts of the MBM and LTD teams to build the outstanding Koch Associate Program that enhances the ability of non-profit professionals to advance economic freedom.
There is nothing quite like the feeling you get from being part of a team working all-out to create something valuable to customers. For Abraham Maslow, it occupies two of the higher levels of the Hierarchy of Needs: first, being part of a team is the equivalent of the “community” or “belonging” level; second, contributing to the success of that team is a critical element for “self-esteem” – or what Arthur Brooks, when describing happiness, calls “earned success.”
In looking for a song that captures this feeling, this sense of belonging and accomplishment, I ran into difficulties. I first thought of Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” and Taylor Swift’s “Long Live.” But both of these had the same problem: they were backward-looking, with a vaguely forlorn tone that a person’s greatest accomplishments were behind them. I wanted something more forward-looking.
My best shot at this comes from another of my favorite musical artists, Gordon Lightfoot. Lightfoot is best-known for his ballads. While it never cracked the top 40, one of his most famous ballads is the “Canadian Railroad Trilogy,” (yes, another railroad reference – I assure you, I’m not obsessed with railroads). I like the three distinct “movements” in the ballad, and especially the symmetry of reprising the first two movements in reverse order to complete the trilogy.
And then there is the theme of the trilogy: a team of people building something that creates prosperity for an entire region. The first movement sets the scene: “there was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run; when the wild majestic mountains stood along against the sun.” The second movement describes the prosperity theme: “for they looked in the future and what did they see? They saw an iron road runnin’ from the sea to the sea.” And finally there is the center of the trilogy, the third movement, all about the team of “navvies” building the railroad: “we are the navvies, who work upon the railway; swingin’ our hammers in the bright blazin’ sun.” For students of history, you’ve got a great song about a critical element of the Industrial Revolution and the prosperity it unleashed.
Gordon Lightfoot performs an outstanding rendition of his own song (my favorite version is the one he re-recorded for Gord’s Gold). However, I ran across a version on youtube by the competitors on “Canadian Idol“ that I really liked. Lightfoot’s music was the theme for that evening’s competition, but all the competitors united as a team to perform the “Canadian Railroad Trilogy”:
Comments on this theme and how Lightfoot’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” illustrates it are appreciated. However, I’m also soliciting other songs that capture the essence of the Joy of Teamwork – any suggestions?