Race Alone or Live Together

The 24 Hours of Daytona is an endurance sports car race consisting of over 60 cars across five classes, all competing on the same track at the same time for 24 hours. You may imagine the challenges this can create as some of the classes are slower cars which must be constantly navigated around by the faster Grand Touring Prototype, the top class of the series.

When I was in San Antonio with the Sales team, we spent an afternoon at Andretti Indoor Karting. These all-electric karts are capable of speeds up to 35 mph, which doesn’t sound like much until you are 2 inches off the ground in an open kart on a tight track with a dozen other nuts. Inevitably, there are slower drivers who impede a faster driver’s ability to clock their best lap time. I am not very tolerant of slow people in my lane. After the race, I told someone, “That would have been more fun if I’d had the whole track to myself.”

In life, we never have the whole track to ourselves.

Living and working with people means that we have to manage around each other’s different abilities and skills. While working within a team may prevent one member from achieving their personal best in a singular effort, the resultant combined work of the group will far outstrip the capacity of the individual.

In 1917, Cyrus H. McCormick gave a speech before the Harvester Club. Cyrus’ grandfather had invented the McCormick Reaper and founded the predecessor of the International Harvest Company. In his speech, Cyrus said the following:

We have often heard the suggestion “In union there is strength,” but I would paraphrase it and say, “In teamwork there is strength.” We know what teamwork will accomplish. We know it from the manufacturing department, and we know it from the sales department and from the collection department. Neither one can possibly make a success without the other—we are interdependent upon each other. Kipling says, “Down to Gehenna and up to the throne, he travels fastest who travels alone.” That may do for a race, but it will not do for the kind of material we have to build or the kind of work we have to do. Ours is a different work, and we might rather say, “Scaling the mountain or breasting the stream, he travels farthest who pulls with his team.”

From this, we get the proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I especially like the way Cyrus points out that alone and fast works well for a race, but not for life. The kind of work we are about each and every day, by definition, binds us to the people around us, and, while limiting in very narrow ways, this bonding makes us strong in ways we could never be on our own.

Tolerance is accepting people where they are in their journey and understanding and acknowledging their contribution to the team. Tolerance isn’t putting up with people (the way I kind of put up with the people in my way on the kart track). Tolerance is embracing the fact that together we are capable of greater things than we are alone. Tolerance is celebrating our differences as benefits, not hindrances. Tolerance is remembering that we are not in a race against others in our community; we are competing as a team.

Ironically, the karting event in San Antonio was a “team building” event. I obviously need to work on my “team” mentality. I might have been able to go faster if I’d been alone on the track, but so what. I wouldn’t have had anyone to share that with, anyone to spend the rest of the afternoon with. Being the fastest doesn’t really net me anything if I’m alone at the finish line.

We are in this life for the long game. A community built on equal respect and tolerance has the capacity to take us much further than any one of us would make it alone. Today, you may be the fast one and may be feeling like others are holding you back, but sooner than you know, you will need those people to keep going and reach a much better finish line. Life is not a race; it is a journey that is best shared, and going together is the Bison Way.