“No man is an island”, as the expression coined by Poet John Dunne goes. This expression resonates with me more and more, the longer I live and the older I get.
When I first decided to go the route of working for myself, I fantasized about being able to work alone, free from the distractions and annoyances of other people. I imagined my days would be filled in peace, working when and how I chose, on projects that I chose, that inspired me.
In the beginning of my self-employment days, I did in fact spend a lot of time working this way. At first, it was incredibly refreshing and liberating. I could simply focus on the work I needed to accomplish, in peace, without a boss, or irritating co-workers to distract me. The first couple years that I worked for myself, I spent most of my time working this way.
Over time though, I started to miss the interaction and camaraderie I had with my coworkers previously, before I became self-employed. I decided to actively start building a team of people to work with, a tribe if you will.
It wasn’t just that I missed the social interaction, it was that I realized I was missing a critical component of life that would allow me to grow my business and move forward: synergy.
The term synergy comes from the Attic Greek word συνεργία synergia from synergos, συνεργός, meaning "working together". Synergy is the creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts.
Any great business, relationship or band has elements of synergy at play. Apple wasn’t just Steve Jobs, Apple was and is a team of thousands of people working together, sharing ideas and collaborating. It’s the Synergy of all the people that work together that has truly made Apple a success. Jobs was a great spokesperson and he certainly played a critical role in Apple’s success, but Apple is much more than just the vision of Jobs.
The Beatles wasn’t just Paul or John, it was John, Paul, George and Ringo, writing and playing music together and creating something that together, they weren’t able to create on their own.
Guns N Roses isn’t just Axl Rose. Even though Axl never quit performing the music of GNR with a variety of different musicians, it wasn’t until most of the original members reunited recently that they became hugely successful again. It’s the synergy of the members involved that makes their music so special to so many.
Synergy works on different levels and is effective for several different reasons. The first one is very practical. Humans by nature, have a desire to reciprocate when someone does something to help them. I know, us humans have a lot of nasty and undesirable traits, but deep down most of us want to help those who help us. It’s in our nature, in the same way that many of us want vengeance when we are “wronged”. Reciprocity is like the flip side of vengeance. It’s the yin to vengeance’s yang. Think of reciprocity as positive payback.
In social psychology, reciprocity is a social norm of responding to a positive action with another positive action, rewarding kind actions. As a social construct, reciprocity means that in response to friendly actions, people are frequently much nicer and much more cooperative than predicted by the self-interest model; conversely, in response to hostile actions they are frequently much more nasty and even brutal. 
Reciprocity makes it possible to build continuing relationships and exchanges. Fukiyama  states that “If the institutions of democracy and capitalism are to work properly, they must coexist within certain premodern cultural habits that ensure their proper functioning” (p.11). He goes on to say “Law, contract, and economic rationality and prosperity…. must as well be leavened with reciprocity, moral obligation, duty toward community, and trust….
When you’re working with others, it sets up a natural cycle of reciprocity. I have several key people on my team at this point, and we all more or less help each other on a regular basis. Imagine a ball of giving being passed back and forth. I do something for someone on my team, and they feel inclined to do something for me, then I feel more inclined to do something for them and on and on.
This back and forth reciprocity plays out in different ways. Sometimes it’s as straightforward as I hire someone to work for me, they do a good job and I reciprocate by paying them. This might not seem like a great example, but it is actually. Money is simply a unit of value, and it’s a clear cut and straightforward way of reciprocating for someone’s time and effort.
Other times it plays out in more subtle ways. For example, I have a new intern for How To License Your Music.com. It’s technically an unpaid internship, but my intern is doing such a great job at the moment that I feel inclined to compensate him for his efforts in a variety of ways. I end up paying my intern back for his efforts by taking him out for lunch every day, giving him tons of advice and knowledge about ways he can promote his own music, teaching him everything I know about the music business, offering to connect him with different people and so on. The better I express my gratitude and appreciation for his efforts, the more inclined my intern is to keep working with me and I’ll most likely be bringing him on in a more formal, paid position in the near future.
With other people in my tribe, this sense of reciprocity plays out in different ways. I’ll give you another example. A couple months ago I was in LA co-hosting a retreat about music licensing. One of the guest speakers at the retreat was one of my former clients, Eddie Grey, who has gone on to become a very successful TV composer. I was so impressed by Eddie’s presentation at the retreat and by his willingness to share what he’s learned, that before I left LA, I suggested the idea of creating a course together for my website about composing music for television. I figured I could help Eddie get the word about what he’s doing to more people and help him make extra money at the same time. Eddie agreed, and we released our first course together recently called “How To Be A Full Time TV Composer”.
The course that I created with Eddie has been a huge success. We’ve sold a lot of courses and have received really great feedback from the people who have purchased it so far. Eddie was so pleased and excited by our initial results that he sent me this really kind email:
“Thank you again, I am really grateful. Yet again, you have contributed greatly to me.
This will all come back to you my friend....tenfold.
I hope you see this as a success in a long line of successful deals we will engage in.
I will continue to produce at a high level to ensure customer satisfaction and retention.”
This was such a nice email to receive, because now I feel even more inclined to continue working with Eddie and trying to figure out ways to help him with his endeavors. Reciprocity in action.
Expanding Pool Of Resources
Another great benefit to building a team and working with other people, is the benefit of having access to other people with other areas of expertise than your own. This is beneficial in a variety of ways. For one, if you have access to people with other skill sets than your own, you can accomplish a lot more than if you were trying to do everything yourself.
For example, I’m not a great producer. It’s not really one of my skillsets. So I tend to outsource production work to my producer, Gary Gray, which allows me to spend more time writing and marketing my songs. There are only so many hours in a day after all, and I don’t really have the time or desire to try to do everything myself.
When you bring other people, with unique skillsets, into your tribe, you are literally expanding your resources. None of us can do it all, and let’s face it, when it comes to something like the music business, there’s a lot to do. You need to be able to wear a lot of different hats if you’re going to do everything alone. You need to make music, produce it, market it and so on. It’s hard to do this in isolation. When you have a tribe, you’ll be able to share the workload with others and reduce your own stress.
Insights And Aha Moments
Another great benefit to working with others and building a tribe, is that you’ll increase the likelihood of having insights and “aha” moments during conversations you have with others. There’s something powerful about working and interacting with others who have different, unique perspectives, based on their unique backgrounds. I often get ideas and insights from others that I wouldn’t have arrived at on my own.
Just this morning in fact, I had a conversation with another co-worker who works at the same co-working space as I do that generated an idea for a way I could easily make 10 to 20k more per year, with minimal effort. These sorts of insights happen frequently when working with others, but I rarely seem to have them when working alone. Sure, I may occasionally get a great idea from a Youtube video or a blog post, but there’s something about real time, in person interactions that lead to these sorts of insights much more frequently.
And finally, when you’re part of a team or a tribe, you’ll have others to help boost your spirits when you’re down. This is really the essence I think, of the expression “no man is an island”. We need each other to function optimally. Sure, some people are more introverted than others and don’t need or desire as much social interaction, but we’re all essentially dependent on each other to function in modern society.
I consider myself a fairly introverted person. I love interacting with others, but I also enjoy spending time alone and doing things like writing songs, reading and so on. But, if I spend too much time alone I start to crave connection and interaction with others. There’s a reason prisons use solitary confinement as the most extreme form of punishment. It’s not a state most of us prefer to be in long term.
Embrace the role we play in each other’s lives. Whatever you’re doing in life and wherever you’re going, realize that building a team or tribe of people to work with and interact with, will most likely help you reach your goals more quickly. You’ll also be able to help others reach their goals. Successful human interaction is truly a win-win.
The blog of musician and thinker of deep thoughts, Aaron Davison.