Last week, we discussed how you can achieve so much by going beyond independence, when you leverage the power of interdependence. We looked at the benefits of interdependence and how you can position yourself for maximising the value that you can harvest from interdependence. Today, we will discuss some examples of the power of interdependence.
I depart from the norm and share a personal experience where I saw the power of interdependence. It was in the year 2001 as I was completing my studies at University of Malawi’s Polytechnic. There was an advert at all university compasses in the world for participation at a Youth Summit that was to be held at Hong Kong University in Hong Kong. The advert mentioned that some 40 teams or so would be selected from across the world and that each team bidding for a slot needed to comprise between three and five university students.
I wanted to compete and try my luck. The choice of the team mattered a lot. At the time, there was another very successful and enterprising student ThembaKalua, one year my junior but in a different programme. I thought that if I set up a team that did not include Themba, I would have to first ensure that our team proves to be better than Themba’s and then fight the second battle to prove that we deserve to be among the best 40 teams across universities in the world. I knew for a fact that Themba would be applying for this opportunity because he was a very successful student. While in his second year of studies, Themba established an association for environmental sciences students and he made it very successful. In parallel, Themba had formed an NGO that was tackling the then major environmental problem affecting Lake Malawi and key rivers – water weeds, popularly known by the local name Namasupuni. He attracted funding from some international bodies and used to work part-time while studying at the Polytechnic. He later won the prestigious position of the President of the University of Malawi Students Union (UMSU).
I had my own exploits but I thought that by combining with Themba, we would put up a very good proposal and case, one that would have an almost guaranteed chance of being selected as one of the best 40 teams in the world. Interestingly, when I approached Themba, he told me that he had exactly the same view, that we would rather combine our strengths and be guaranteed success than compete against each other and splitting our chances. And so, we combined our strengths and did a proposal.
We invited one more member to make a team of three. And the third member had to be a female student so that we could project ourselves as progressive, inclusive and gender-balanced. By the time we were submitting our proposal, we were very confident and almost sure of success. And, true to our expectation, a month later we got the good news that our team had been selected among the 150 students from 41 universities spanning 31 countries selected to attend the big Youth Event in Hong Kong. We had just won an all-paid up trip outside of Africa and it was the first time each of the three of us travelled outside of Africa, with that trip.
The success that Themba and I jointly achieved by combining our strengths taught me a big lesson that was to help me achieve even bigger things in life in the future. I learnt that it is okay to swallow one’s pride and ego by combining efforts with others to make up a bigger unified force. This confirmed to me the crèche: “If you cannot beat them, join them”! And it does work. If you want to rise and shine, remember to prefer interdependence to pure independence. Move from dependence through independence and then settle on interdependence. With an approach to life that is built on interdependence with aspects of independence, you are bound to achieve a lot in life. Good luck as you excel and rise and shine through interdependence.