Being our collective best

I considered not writing my original topic now and instead writing about my reaction to the tragedy in Paris Friday night. The words shocked, horrified, and scared all come quickly to mind whenever I think about it. I think about the victims and their families. I wonder about the psychological effects on the survivors that can weigh on them long after the physical structures have been repaired. How long does it take one to feel safe going to a concert again when your friends were shot dead in front of you the last time? I struggle to think about anything else important enough to write about. But then I think about the terrorists responsible for this. I don’t want to give them the power. Of course I want to pay my respect to the victims of this tragedy, both dead and alive. But then I want to continue living if for no other reason than because that is exactly what the terrorists don’t want. Yes, I will remember November 13th with sadness for a very long time if not the rest of my life, but these terrorists will not chain me with fear. In fact, my original topic seems more important than ever now. Life is not a guarantee. It is a gift and a treasure, and every day our mission should be to give some of it back.

I still remember reading in Hakeem Olajuwon’s autobiography, Living the Dream,  how important effort was to him. He believed that his talents were a gift from Allah and not using them to the best of his ability would be disgraceful. I frequently remind myself of that and ask myself if I could be doing more. Another way I sometimes look at it feels a little more powerful this weekend: If I die tonight, how did I help the Earth during my last day on it?

With that in mind, I want to talk about the importance of knowledge sharing. First, consider this question: What is the purpose of knowledge if not to share it? Perhaps your first reaction is that it could be used to help oneself. But how? By enabling you to be better at your job? Well, aren’t you then at the very least indirectly helping others through your knowledge? Could that be considered a form of sharing?

I believe the primary goal of knowledge is to teach and share. Of course I’m not talking about exposing trade secrets or confidential information. I’m referring to the concepts we work with every day that are free for anyone to learn. We all have something to teach and something to learn. Unshared knowledge = untapped potential. What can we lose by sharing our knowledge to help others? If you are truly concerned about job security, don’t be. If you really do possess knowledge that no one else in your organization has, why wouldn’t they reward that? And, yes, I know it’s not always that simple with budget cuts, outsourcing, etc., but I’m thinking big picture here. If a company doesn’t reward knowledge sharing, I don’t want to work there anyway because they probably don’t have a very bright future.

Now let’s reconsider what I said earlier. Unshared knowledge = untapped potential. What can we gain by sharing our knowledge? Well, if you’re anything like me, personal satisfaction is definitely one answer. My most rewarding days are the ones when I know I was able to teach someone something. Anything. You will gain the respect of others, and if you work in a good organization, that can lead to positive outcomes during your review. Others will gain the knowledge you are sharing thereby enabling them to do more (and eventually share more) themselves.

If you’re one of the many people already doing what you can to share your knowledge (not to mention your time), thank you. I have already had the pleasure of thanking some of you in person because I had the good fortune of being one of those with whom you shared your knowledge. There are many others I have not met but from who I have still learned a tremendous amount through books, videos, online articles, etc. Thank you all. If you’re not doing it yet, today might just be your day to start. And then, when you ask yourself tonight, “If I die tonight, how did I help the Earth during my last day on it?”, hopefully you can smile and sleep peacefully. And then get up the next morning and do it again.

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