Solving the Problem of Me

Most successful projects are group projects—but not everyone sees it that way. Some professionals prioritize their own interests over others. I call this the “problem of me.” When this occurs, projects suffer, and everyone involved bears the brunt of delay, mismanagement, or obstinance. My most successful projects are characterized by a spirit of collaboration where “we” replaces “me,” and not coincidentally, these experiences lead me to work with many of the same talented people again and again.   

Last year, a broker colleague of mine recommended our firm to a client who wanted to renovate a townhouse on Stuyvesant Street at a brisk pace. She hoped to move in within six months, so we quickly set about interviewing contractors and ultimately partnered with Think Construction. We had to jump in right away to stick to the timeline. To stay on track, we communicated early and often, flagging potential challenges and setbacks to our partners as soon as we saw them. Our client was equally collaborative, making herself available for meetings, and responding as quickly as possible to our questions.  It didn’t all go perfectly—because of the pandemic, six months stretched into nine—but in the end, we completed a full renovation of three floors, from the design phase through construction. We were able to complete a high quality project in a compressed timeline because everyone stuck with the program and worked collaboratively. I found myself eager to work with this group of people again when the project ended. It was very much a “we” endeavor, and that’s why it worked. 

The principal of Think Construction came up with a great idea as we closed in on completion: why not find a creative gift for our client to celebrate the project? Perhaps subconsciously, I suggested an artform whose structure and form happened to represent the spirit of collaboration I had come to so admire in this group: a tapestry. From a list of three shortlisted artists we presented, our client chose an artist based in Hudson, New York. We all visited the studio together to set the process in motion. As with the design and construction of her home, our client was decisive and communicative, working closely with the artist to produce the tapestry that now hangs prominently in her Stuyvesant Street home. Seeing it there now is very satisfying.

Would I do it all again? Definitely, and in fact I am: our firm is working with Think Construction on another project as you read this. Easy? Definitely not. But this project was (and is) joyful, which is more fulfilling than simple ease. Who doesn’t want to experience joy? Turns out there’s no mystery to attaining it: focus less on yourself, and more on others.