“There is no I in team”.

Despite those who swear by it, there is no evidence Green Bay Packers Head Coach Vince Lombardi was first to use the phrase. He certainly may have been a devotee of the phrase and it’s meaning, and he might have even coined it somewhere down the line, but he very likely, possibly, maybe, was not the first. He may not have even said it at all.

That’s called “hedging your bet”.

The earliest known printed and provable use of the phrase goes to Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Vern Law, as noted in this excerpt from the 1960 “Daily Review” newspaper:

“One of his most famous rules, although Law would be the first to admit it did not originate with him, is ‘There is no ‘I’ in team.’ Perhaps that one rule is the reason why the Pirates are out in front, winning the pennant, not backing into it.”

The phrase was always about sports. Over the years, it has come to be associated with everything from games of skill to cooking shows, but it still does mean the same thing.

One cannot succeed by oneself. No matter what you do, it’s about team and teamwork. The only way to make it all work is to realize you are not the “only cog” in the machine, merely a participant who owes everything to being all about the collective.

You succeed only because they succeed with you.

The time has cone to break down this phrase and think about it in another way, one that is much more potent when it comes to winning any game, any challenge, personally or professionally.

There are “hidden I’s” in team. To be successful, you must “Always Be Closing”, secure in the knowledge you are embracing this concept of actual “I”‘s in every team, making them work for you and allowing those around you to see how you put this concept to use. 

Before proceeding, one must accept this is not about ego, hubris, arrogance, smug self-importance, a lust for power or any of the other selfish reasons for one to believe it is all about them and no one else. At the core, this is exactly the opposite.

While success can certainly be measured in group speak, we need to halt a moment and give the individual effort it’s due.

Especially in the business world.

Without you realizing the power of “I”, you will not and cannot succeed in a group setting. Without realizing and using the power of “I”, you will be the piece in that wheel that falls apart and takes any chance of winning as a team with you. Until you fully grasp the power of “I”, you will founder about, lose your focus, experience your aim being off course and misguided.

You must, without fail, put these 5 absolutes in “The Power of I” to work. Every day. Every situation. Every moment.

Or you will fail. Then, so will they. All because you didn’t start with the inner affirmation.

INFORMATION: Makes no difference the business, your station at the company, whether you work alone or have surrounded yourself with dozens or even thousands of co-workers and mighty brains. Winning takes information. You must dedicate yourself to gathering every scrap of information about yourself, the team around you, the circumstances of your task, what it will take to succeed, why and how others before you missed the mark, and what they failed to learn.

We live in the greatest information age of all time. There is no reason why you don’t go into a task, a job, a competition, without being fully armed with every facet of information you need. This means demanding of yourself an inquisitive nature the likes of which you may never have before thought was necessary, or thought yourself possible of achieving. It takes serious time and effort. It could mean going beyond your own intellectual scope, but that’s OK. The need for information to get the job done properly will make you smarter, more agile, more attuned to the world around you that is surrounding your project and your team.

You will not always be handed a playbook with the answers. Many times you have to strike out on your own to find the answers. You will be wrong more often than you are correct, but every time you are wrong in your search for knowledge, it will force you to dig deeper and seek the answers.

There is no such thing as “information overload”. That’s for losers. You will train yourself how to best seek the answers, and how to put them to use in a fashion that will serve you and those around you.

You’ve only just begun. The road gets harder from here on out.

INNOVATION: You have your answers, the base knowledge from which you will learn and grow. The next step is bringing it all together, understanding what you have, and then splitting it into the necessary pieces that will serve the various aims of your effort.

What have you learned that will innovate? What knowledge have you gained that will turn up a new way of doing business, a new method of serving the customer, perhaps a new invention, one that has been sorely overlooked?

Most important, what have you put together that will innovate you? There are ideas hidden within all this research that will make you better at your job. Better at working with that team. More refined in how you process and share your knowledge.

It will change you. It must. You are awash in a flood of new ideas. It’s up to you to reach out and grab them, collate them, sift thru them, make the right ones work for you. This is what innovation truly is. It is not simply the latest and newest widget. It is what turns you around, excites you, rejuvenates you, turns you into a living dynamo of ideas that refine current concepts and forge entirely new ways of going about your personal and professional life.

Create. Ponder. Strive. Reach for something that was never there before. Innovate.

Then turn that page and move forward.

INTEGRATION: You have come into a team setting, a new career, a new place, new people, and loaded with new ideas. Many times you come into this scenario as something of an interloper. This is the most dangerous time on this specific path. You are brimming with ideas that can, and in your mind will, become part of something special.

Now, your task is to integrate your ideas into the group. You must do so in a manner that will soothe the concerns of some, appease those who are, or believe themselves to be, in charge, and bring them to see your way of thinking without discounting them.

You are not alone. You are an individual, but you now begin to accept and better assimilate your knowledge into a larger sphere.

This is where you will learn to be tactical. The veritable bull in the china shop will be the first one dispatched, either by it’s own accord or those who see it as a threat. Ease your way in. Learn how the group works. Listen instead of speaking. Reveal yourself at the right time to the right people, and understand how to make them believe they thought of something first. It’s tricky, but that’s how success in business is often measured.

You are integrating your ideas with the team dynamic. The possibility exists you could be on your way to leading this group. You could find yourself overwhelmed and out of your depth.

Not if you prepared. Not if you have the necessary information, know how to present it as an innovation all will benefit from, and how it will integrate with the ideas of others, making your concept one that fits seamlessly into the team.

Great athletes understand how they think, many times at a difference competitive level than those around them. They then understand how to make their ideas, their strategies, work within the framework of others. While the Captain of the hockey team believes he or she has the raw talent, the knowledge, the uniqueness of what will make the team better, they also take the time to make it work for others.

Without being the jerk. Without seeming to be arrogant. Without making others feel inferior. Which will lead you to the next step.

INTEGRITY: For some, this will be the toughest step. For a select few, it will be the easiest. Regardless, you cannot and will not succeed either alone or in a group setting unless you have integrity.

Your words, your actions, the manner in which you work with others and seek to even perhaps lead, all comes down to integrity.

First, you must shape your level of integrity to the highest possible. You must believe that without question, without fail, and without reserve, you are trustworthy. You must believe that you are honest with yourself in all things. Lie to yourself, same thing as lying to anyone else.

The individual who lies to themselves first, cannot be trusted. If you can so easily lie to yourself, why then would you even consider the need to tell the truth and be honest with others?

Integrity is why people will trust you. They will see and believe you are not there just to ride roughshod over them with your ideas. You are there to share the wealth, bring the team with you in the search for greatness, take your individual skills and allow them to envelop those around you with confidence.

Don’t seek to gain the trust of the team. First, seek to earn it. It won’t make a difference if you are the leader of this team, because your integrity is based on something much higher than simply wanting to be the one everyone follows. You can lead from within, and become even more valued to those in charge. If leadership is offered and it feels comfortable, take it. However, do not make it your first goal. It will come in good time because of the foundation you’ve laid within yourself, and made available to others.

Once trusted, it is then you take that final step.

INSPIRATION: You have sought out what it takes to be completely informed. You have the knowledge, the right information. You have integrated your knowledge into the team, allowing everyone to share and learn from you at their own pace. You understand that there’s a difference between a gentle nudge and pushing others to greatness, for as they succeed, so will you. You have brought about a change in thinking for the group, one that allows them to see innovations in themselves and their task. Your integrity has proven to be the point of trustworthiness that could, at the right time, lead the team to follow you anywhere, anytime. 

All that leads to inspiration.

The singular moment or collection of instances where virtual light bulbs are snapping on around you. Where there is the light of discovery, leading to a more refined personal and professional path. This is where productivity takes a quantum leap forward for the team first, and it all comes back to your leadership.

The team will seek you out for inspiration time and time again. Those in a position of authority will recognize the hard work and tenacity you have brought to this job, the project, the company and the organization.

You have inspired yourself. You have inspired others.

You have changed your life, and that of those around you.

You have proven there is indeed an “I” in team, one that is necessary for the entire team to succeed. You are leading the way.

However, be cautious and keep something in mind.

You will stumble. You will fall. The chance exists that you might be personally humiliated, perhaps even suffer those same arrows from detractors around you.

In those moments, you have the choice of either picking yourself up and taking another swing at the opponent, or fading to the canvas in defeat.

“Always Be Closing” means you understand the critical importance of these five “I”‘s, never hesitate to implement them for your good and the good of the team, and consistently push these ideas forward as part of your closing pitch to co-workers, employers, and clients alike.

The opponent is always yourself. It is never those in positions of authority, those in the team who seek your demise, the selfish who make it all about themselves and never understood how to use that power of “I” properly.

That, however, is another story for another day.

On this day, hang up your professional gear and be satisfied you’ve done all you can.

Because tomorrow is almost here, and those who seek true victory always anticipate and are prepared for the same challenge.

Every day.