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The Power of Many vs. the Power of One

I recently wrote a post called “The Power of One,” in which I talk about just how much difference a single person can make. And I truly do believe that every person on this earth can make a big difference in their personal lives, their families, their communities, and the world. But while I believe that each “one” of us can accomplish great things, I want to make sure that we don’t discount what many “ones” can do together. As important as it is for us to realize our individual power, it’s also important to appreciate our collective power. We need to recognize the power of many vs. the power of one. 

The dark side of the “power of one”

Knowing and harnessing your individual power is undoubtedly important. I see too many people (especially creatives) doubt themselves, even to the point where they stop trying (thereby cutting off their personal power and justifying that self-doubt). But when people do embrace their “power of one,” and put their talents, abilities, and plans into action, it becomes very clear very quickly that even one person can create big change.

However, like any strength, when the “power of one” is taken to the extreme, it starts to become more like a weakness. 

Consider these thoughts:

  • “I’m going to do it all myself.”
  • “I don’t need anyone.”
  • “You can’t count on other people.”
  • “I’m independent.”

Occasionally, such thoughts might come in handy, or even be healthy. But if repeated over time, a person with these thoughts is more likely to become cynical, burned out, and/or isolated.

We all know someone who is a “if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself” type of person. These people take on every project, don’t accept (or want) help, and often push themselves beyond a reasonable limit in order to get everything done. 

If I were to sum it up, I would say this: Believing in yourself gives you power. Believing only in yourself (i.e. refusing to believe in anyone else) limits your power. That’s because as real as the power of one is, so is the power of many. 

The power of many

Think about modern-day visionaries: Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg, Elon Musk, etc. Yes, those individuals had big ideas, and they were willing to put in work to make their visions a reality. They had a lot of individual power. But would any of their dreams or goals have been achieved if they’d only worked alone? Of course not. They may be creative, intelligent, and innovative, but even they can’t do everything themselves (certainly not successfully). 

Here’s why. 

We need each other. 

Humans are made for connection. Strong interpersonal relationships make us healthier and happier. That’s why isolation is considered to be such a harsh punishment—because it cuts you off from a very real biological need. 

Specialization is real.

Steve Jobs may have dreamt up the iPhone, but he couldn’t actually build, program, market, and ship millions of iPhones single-handedly. Big dreams require big time and big talent—more than one person could ever have or give.  

More brainpower = better ideas.

Collaboration works, because it allows multiple minds to work on the same problem at the same time, opening doors to solutions you probably wouldn’t have thought of on your own. 

You need moral support. 

Making things happen is hard work. Bringing your dreams to life is not for the faint of heart. If you’re trying to do everything yourself, where will you turn when the going gets tough? To the people you’ve been shutting out? (Not likely.) When you keep other people on your team the whole way through, you have moral support to help you get through the hard days. 

Yes, there is power in you. But there’s power in other people, too. When all of that power comes together for a unified purpose, you all become that much stronger. 

How to know when to use the power of many vs. the power of one

As I said, there are times when your independence and “go it alone” attitude may benefit you, and there are times when the power of many is absolutely essential. But how can you tell which is which? It all comes down to a few simple steps: knowing yourself, knowing others, and being honest.

Know yourself.

Getting to know yourself is a lifelong endeavor—and sometimes it’s more complicated than you might think. Knowing yourself means knowing your strengths and weaknesses, your unwavering and unsure positions/opinions, your preferences and dislikes. It’s not always easy to admit to yourself that you aren’t as good at something as you thought you were, or that you don’t fit the mold of what you think you “should” be. But like many hard things, knowing yourself is extremely valuable.

When you really know yourself, you’ll have a better idea of what you can handle and what you can’t. You’ll have confidence in your ability to do some things, and you’ll recognize that you need help with other things. Knowing yourself plays a huge role in being able to make smart decisions about doing something yourself or asking for help. 

Know others.

Likewise, getting to know others is also vitally important. The people around you have their own unique talents, strengths, and abilities. Do you know what they are? Who would you turn to if you needed help planning a trip to Europe, or repainting your kitchen, or fixing a problem on your computer? Knowing others’ strengths can help you know when it’s best to bring them on the team and to choose the power of many over the power of one. 

How do you get to know others? By spending time with them. Build your network and invest in those relationships. Ask people what they think their strengths are. What sorts of projects do they like participating in? Gathering this information will help you know when it makes the most sense to ask for help.   

Be honest with yourself

I believe that truth lives within us all. Call it intuition, inspiration, or just knowledge based on experience—but I do think that when we listen to that inner voice and are honest with ourselves about what it is saying, we end up a lot happier and more content. 

The problem is, we’re really good at talking ourselves out of what we should do because we want to do something else. 

When you’re facing a choice between doing something yourself and asking for help, be honest about your abilities, your time, and your energy. Be honest about what you can do yourself and what you could delegate.

Don’t lie to yourself and say you don’t need any help. Don’t lie to yourself and say you’re completely powerless in this situation. Be honest. The truth is inside of you and when you find it, it will feel right. 

The power of one is real, and it’s important to recognize and use your own personal power. But the power of many is real, too, and sometimes, it’s way more valuable to ask for and accept help than it is to try to do something yourself.

Learn to embrace the power of many and the power of one. Recognize your power and the power of others. Applying these powers at the right times will help you “create happy” in your world. 

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