Go Fast, Go Far, Go with Kindness and Respect

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We have all heard of the African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.

When I just started in Academia, I was still wet behind the ears. I thought I knew what I was doing but looking back now…mmmm…. I have my doubts. I irresponsibly threw around my brilliant (of course), completely inexperienced ideas that were implemented in some cases, but definitely not as much as I would have liked them to be.

You can imagine an immature, energetic 26-year-old, fresh in academia with the belief that changing the world is so easy – we should just do it. I believed in “going fast”, although as in the proverb, I was often “going fast” alone.

To deal with the frustration or resistance I experienced, I started making a list of people across the globe who moved at my pace, people who were “going fast”. In my imagination, I was going to start my own university and only appoint those who I considered as “the efficient ones”. I would escape to what I called, my Island University of Efficiency. It was clear that this fictitious university was all about progress, change for the better, energy, and outputs.

I was happy to go fast and alone, but I also soon realized, that I don’t need to go alone, I just have to surround myself with like-minded people. The efficient people who I added to my list of employees at the Island University of Efficiency.

As I moved through the ranks of academia, from lecturer, senior lecturer, associate professor, and full professor, I learned that one can go fast with some colleagues in certain projects and one can “go far and go together” with others in other projects. And consequently, the list of employees at my fictitious university grew. However, irrespective of pace, something was missing. I realized that I failed to consider key values. My focus shifted towards values of kindness and respect, rather than purely creating outputs and chasing one goal after the other.

I voted and of course, won the ballot (I was the only voter) and changed my university’s name to the Island University of Kind Efficiency and I started adding to my list of potential employees not only those who go fast or those who go far, but also those who treat others with kindness and respect irrespective of the level of appointment or position. Those who, in meetings, when the atmosphere is building up, resolve the impending conflict with a few calm words of wisdom. Those who stay patient in their emails, even when the email trail is 104 scrolls long. Those who are willing to offer a few words of encouragement when your idea was shot down in front of 22 others. Those who provide honest peer-review in such a way that, even when your paper gets rejected, you feel ready to tackle the project and make it better.

Let us value others for who they are whether it’s for going fast or far. The Island University of Kind Efficiency is recruiting, and this is your official invitation to a job interview.

 

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