Cities and Work and Interdependence

The greatest of human satisfactions lies in working and playing cooperatively with other people. – Charles Montgomery, Happy City

I love when I read something and it resonates with something I’ve been thinking myself.

Montgomery writes about the importance of collaboration and cooperation in the context of what makes cities valuable. People living together, in close proximity, leads to the amazing inspiration and sheer fun that a city can provide.

But really, cooperation is an important ingredient for any kind of happiness, in any context. That’s what the social and psychology research says, and it’s something I’ve discovered first-hand in my two-and-a-half years as a freelancer.

Working with other people is the thing I’ve missed most about freelancing. There’s the social outlet, sure, but I’m convinced there are economic and creative reasons to collaborate, too. When I work with other people, we come up with ideas we never would have dreamed up on our own. Generally, my collaborative ideas are more creative and more daring than my solo ideas. That’s hugely important in a today’s economy, which rewards innovation.

As I find so often, Eastern thought arrived at these same conclusions thousands of years before me. It’s the notion of interdependence as the most evolved way of living.

The trajectory goes like this:

Dependence –> Independence –> Interdependence

Everyone starts dependent, when they’re babies. Then most people also get to independence, from their teenage years on. A lot of us never leave that stage. Whether for selfish or unselfish reasons, we remain islands. We think we need to look out for ourselves, not to burden others with our “problems,” whatever. This is probably especially a danger for men, who are socialized to be strong and self-reliant.

It’s the stage I’ve been working on breaking out of myself. Haha, when I was first preparing to go out on my own, I kept a blog called The Independence Plan: 100 Days to Freedom. Wow, independence was right in the title! After a couple years of isolation, I’ve been reaching out to old professional contacts, having great conversations, seeking out help and asking how I can help as I feel my way into the next steps of my working life.

I guess now I’m working on The Interdependence Plan. It feels pretty darn good.

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