Whose shoulders are you standing on?

March 14, 2022


Great teams value conflict and tension, they embrace diversity in a meaningful way to challenge perspectives and mental models, and they do so in service of a greater purpose.

It’s easy to say and hard to do.

Whose shoulders are you standing on?

“If I have seen further,” Newton wrote to fellow scientist Robert Hooke, “it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

There is no such thing as a self-made person. The lessons you have learned, good and bad, are because of the people and circumstances you have had the fortune of encountering.

I often joke that I was the beta-test subject for my father’s theories on performance and continuous improvement. It regularly garners a laugh and there is some truth to it. It wasn’t always easy growing up with a father who forced you to look at perspectives and deal with the brutal truth of situations. But in a world that can be frustrating and can always be better, Dad provided a lens to see systems, flow, and constraints. He also supported and instilled a deep respect for curiosity, knowledge, and learning.

Living abroad, chasing changing goals (athletics, photography, Not-For-Profit), and learning from other leaders and cultures exposed me to different ways to get to nine. The pursuit of the empirical method of inquiry through my graduate work, under the supervision of world class thinkers, matured the way I understand the world. Great books and great conversations continue to challenge me today.

Different books call it by different names: Lateral thinking, intellectual humility, situational intelligence, authentic curiosity, a generalists approach. At the end of the day, look at the purpose that drives you, the goals you’re chasing, your environment, and the people around you – it will tell you a lot.

Most importantly, look at the people on that journey. Those who have provided you with the right questions at the right time. Those who have supported you when you faced challenges.

If we have been able to see further, it is because we are truly standing on the shoulders of giants.

Whose shoulders are you standing on?

Have you thanked them?