Teamwork is an Individual Sport – Teamwork #5


Purchase the original | Purchase a print | matte and frame available


Here is the most ironic thing about teamwork is that each individual has to do their own individual job for it to succeed.  Now, it is true that each individual doesn’t have to perform perfectly at every moment.  And it is also true that on a team individuals pick up the slack for one who isn’t able to perform. Nonetheless, no team succeeds if all the individuals fail.

In Concert

What that means is there isn’t some magical potion that transforms all the individuals into one entity. They remain individuals with their own thoughts, their own drives, their own motives.  BUT, if the leader is doing things right then those thoughts, drives and motives, while still belonging to the individual, are in concert with the other teammates.

Examples in Life

Being an example is another successful element of teamwork that often goes overlooked.  The individual on the team who successfully sweeps away fear motivates his or her teammate (or neighbor) to do the same.  The individual who keeps anger under control helps others on the team believe they can do the same.  And the individual who does not descend to hate inspires the teammate to do the same.

These individuals can be doing it for themselves but they are also doing it for each other.  This is how teams win, this is how societies become better.

Drawing and commentary © 2016 Marty Coleman |

Quote is a Polish proverb


A Single Leaf – Teamwork #2



Ok, a single leaf provides SOME shade, as my periscope viewers kept saying while I was drawing this live.  But the point is, as evidenced by the sunburned sunbather with the silly silhouette on her stomach, it doesn’t provide ENOUGH shade.  But enough shade for what?  That is the question. And the answer reminds us of a larger reason behind teamwork.


We watch the teams in the Olympics and they are so focused in the pursuit of their communal glory that we often don’t see who else they are fighting for. We forget that in their mind they want to win the Gold not just for their teammates, but for their parents and families and friends and nations.  When they breakdown and cry at a medal ceremony it’s often because they are thinking of how they made their country proud, their families happy and their sports club back home so filled with pride.  It wasn’t just about the team, but about what the team did for others.

And that is the essence of great teamwork: having a purpose that includes, but at the same time transcends, the team.


Drawing and commentary © 2016 Marty Coleman |

Quote adapted from a quote by Chuck Page


Be Made of Sticks – Teamwork #4


Buy the original | buy a print | matte and frame available

You Are the Bundle

This was an interesting one to draw. Once I finished the drawing I didn’t really like it much. It just didn’t make sense. A woman holding a bundle of sticks is going to stop some jerk?  The I realized it wasn’t the bundle of sticks doing the stopping, it was the woman. the WOMAN was the bundle. She was strong because of all the various ‘sticks’ she was made of.  She isn’t just strong as one thing, she is strong because she is many things.  Each of those things by themselves might be a weakness, but even the weakest stick is strong when in a bundle, right?

All Of You

That is why your supposed flaws are really only dangerous to you if you are ONLY your flaws. But you aren’t. You are your strength, your humor, your perseverance, your attitude, your skill, your craft, your intelligence, your wisdom, your judgment, your toughness.  In with those things are also your fears, your anger, your panic, your laziness, your self-righteousness, your forgetfulness, your selfishness, your lack of common sense.  They make you stronger than if you are just one thing.  And that means, if you bring all those things out, even some of the negative ones, at the right time, you won’t be broken.

Drawing and commentary © 2016 Marty Coleman |

Quote is a Kenyan proverb


Placing Blame – Teamwork #3


Buy the Original | Buy a print | Matte and Frame available

Blame and Glory

As funny as this is, it brings up a pretty good point. The whole point of teamwork is to not place blame on individuals. The blame, and the glory, goes to the team instead. You see this all the time in sports during interviews after games that a team has lost. “WE let our fans down”, “WE didn’t execute properly”, “WE were slow to adjust” are all things you might hear from a coach or a player. No pointing at one person.

Even sports analysts not connected to the team do this. In American football, you often will hear an analyst talk about how a team is weak in a certain position. not that a particular teammate is not good enough.


Yesterday I watched at Katie Ledecky was interviewed at the Rio Olympics. Her relay team had just won the Gold Medal in the 4x200m relay.  She came back from 1 1/2 lengths behind to crush the competition and was the main reason the team won. But you heard none of that from her. She only talked about the team’s performance, not her own. Others pointed to her as the reason, but she pushed off the praise, turning it back to the team.

Knowing vs Saying

Does that mean she doesn’t know she was the reason? No, she knew.  Among the coaches and athletes talked about above, did they not know who actually was to blame? Who dropped the ball at the crucial time, who didn’t live up to expectations? Of course not. They all know. But they didn’t say it outloud in public. In private, in the coaches room while figuring out the future team? Of course they talk about individuals and their performance. But in public? No. Because doing it in public is judgment. Doing it in private is evaluation. And the best teams thrive on neutral evaluation, not harsh judgment and condemnation.

Drawing and commentary © 2016 Marty Coleman |

Quote by Anonymous

“Teamwork is essential. It allows you to blame someone else.”

Sticking Together – Teamwork #1


Buy the original | buy a print | matte and frame are available

Name It

You name it and if you have enough of something it can’t be overcome.  Here are some examples:

  • Bacteria
  • Heat
  • Noise
  • People
  • Love
  • Pain
  • Stupidity
  • Anger
  • Girl Scout Cookies

They are all made up of individual parts, but put them together and they become unstoppable.  One angry person? Put handcuffs on him.  10,000 angry people?  You have a violent mob riot that can’t be contained with handcuffs.


I read a book called ‘The Innovators’  by Walter Isaacson earlier this year.  It is the story of the invention and development of the computer and the internet revolution.  A big argument that came up mid-20th century was who actually developed the first computer.  There was this guy at Iowa State University, John Atanasoff, working in his University lab who came up with the idea for a computer and started to build it. But he had no team of engineers and machinists to overcome this one issue of making holes in punchcards. Because of that work stopped, WWII started and he went off to war.  Meanwhile, John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert were doing the same thing at Penn State. But they developed a team that could fill all the roles necessary to make the idea come to life. In 1945 their machine, ENIAC, became operational and they are now the ones credited with making the first true computer.  The difference? a team instead of an individual.

Drawing and commentary © 2016 Marty Coleman |

Quote by Vesta M. Kelly


Subscribe and Join TheNapkin Kin

Get on the mailing list and get The Napkin Newsletter once a month and get a review of the months postings, with extra resources and features that will make your brain bigger and your day better!


Thanks, You Are Now A Napkin Kin!

%d bloggers like this: