Google the term “rugged individualism” and you will find multiple links to President Herbert Hoover’s October 22, 1928, speech, “Principles and Ideals of the U.S. Government”, which he delivered at the end of the of 1928 presidential campaign.
“We were challenged with the choice of the American system of ‘rugged individualism’ or the choice of a European system of diametrically opposed doctrines – doctrines of paternalism and state socialism,” said Hoover. Though Hoover initiated many public works programs at the beginning of the Great Depression, some of which Roosevelt expanded, he remained consistent in his belief that too much government intervention would be counterproductive to an American society in which the power of individuals to lift themselves up was celebrated.
Hoover’s rugged individualism is also celebrated in the workplace. We are encouraged to take a self-assessment of our interests and the natural gifts unique to us as individuals and marry the two. This is not bad advice. And lucky is the person who succeeds. Work, however, is not limited to the function of our responsibilities and the execution of those responsibilities as individuals. Work is accomplished alongside others. Regardless of the joy we find in the function of what we do, it is those working beside us – and our relationship to them – who have the power to determine our fulfillment.
We can reasonably expect to sometimes disagree with our colleagues, and we can reasonably expect to resonate with some more than others. Collegiality and consensus are not synonymous. Still, collegiality and fulfillment are closely related. When we set out to figure out our fulfillment we should carefully consider the environment of where we will work, for rare is the individual whose goals are not achieved amongst others.