People are great. They are a source of inspiration that can provide fuel for your endeavours and a boost when your motivation flags. They can provide feedback to help you learn, a shoulder to lean on when you are tired and a sense of validation of your efforts.

People are crap. They leech the energy out of you. They snipe and bitch at you, belittling your efforts, desperate to suck you down into the mire of their woeful, dismal, Stygian existence.

Uh oh, looks like your correspondent is full of the joys of the season. It might just be festive blues but there is also something on which I have been reflecting for a while.

In sport, we recognise the effects of a good team. Even our individual sports "stars" are swift to acknowledge the work of the team of people it takes to get them there. Indeed, that has been one of the salient points of the crises that have beset cycling in recent years - the scale of the cheating and the number of people involved to make it happen.

As we cram the planet with more and more bodies we accept (if only by default) the inevitability of human proximity. Thanks to the growth of the Internet, with Facebook, twitter and blogs at the van, we are more and more in touch with people's advice, guidance or opinions. And thanks to the greatest social leveller since the free press, the ability of people to pump every brainfart into the atmosphere via the written media gives those opinions a sense of validity out of proportion to their content.

In a work sense, businesses aggregate people, together in "teams" but, frankly, for many, that is where the relation to our understanding of the word both begins and ends. To be fair, this is also true in some sports settings but it is a problem that is spectacularly prevalent in commerce. The word "group" seems too clinical, too dispassionate, too far removed from the benefits we understand to exist in teams, that we hesitate to use it but it is closer to the mark.

Steel sharpens steel. We know this, we hold it to be true. So we look for like-minded people with whom to associate. We want the benefits to our cause so we seek to hone our edge with others. We look for signs and symptoms and then hitch ourselves to that star. And if we're not careful, we forget to ask the questions, to interrogate, to delve a little deeper to establish whether the full thing is what we're after. Do the methods and personalities sit well with us? Do the available results justify the sacrifice of our normal style? Because if you're joining an established unit, you had better believe that the expectation will be of conformity. Talk of diversity is a fig leave. Most will overlook background or attribute for the work rate and compliance of the here and now.

And there's the rub, teams come together around a common goal. People will work together, will cooperate, will help others for just as long as their purposes coincide. As Tenacious D said -"as long as there's a record deal, we'll always be good friends!"

I do what I do because I enjoy it. I do it because, for whatever reason inside my head, I believe, firmly, in helping others. My enjoyment will always come in second place to the judgement of whether I think I am helping. BUT I, and we, need to recognise that not everybody, even those with whom we identify, feels the same way. It is too easy to take this for granted. Just because you wear the same badge or work in the same building does not guarantee a commonality of purpose. Sometimes people just don't want to be helped!

Sometimes this will require a renewed statement of purpose and method. For those who think this is a faff, an unnecessary diversion from getting on with it, think on this - how swift are you to condemn others? How baffled are you by the apparent intransigence of others? How frustrated by their inability to just get on with it? Stating your purpose is about setting your parameters, about laying down the consequences of non-compliance - work with us or we'll work you over! Member of a team? Not sure you know the purpose? Not sure you're happy with what the team is about? Speak out or ship out. Ask the question. Aloud and to the right people. Don't bitch about it and backslide. That achieves nothing but irritating everybody, including you. It is draining and pointless. And you're not pointless are you? You can't be if you know what you're there to do...

As powerful a force for good as people can be, the same steel that sharpens will dull, blunt and ruin your edge. Who are you letting in, and why? The opinion that is now troubling you - why does it merit the slightest flicker on your radar? Each time you give somebody airtime, you are allowing them into your head, for good or bad. The extent of the impact also lies with you. How much weight do you give them?

Once you become too solicitous of the opinion of others you hold yourself hostage to other people and their bullshit and shenanigans. It is too easy to lose sight of your mission and what is important to you and to your team if you judge yourselves on the scales of public opinion. You owe it to yourself to be more selective about those to who you look. Legality is a question for the courts. Morality one for the clergy. Integrity, that is yours and yours alone. You set your standards, your rules, what is important to you. Your task is to put your heart and soul into acting in a manner that is consistent with this. Of course, since none of operate in splendid isolation, this may cost you a few "dream" jobs, a few "friends" along the way. There are no absolutes in any of this stuff. Whether it is the merits of people, the strength of your team or the question of what is important, there is a hierarchy, a relativity to it.

Ultimately, that is a matter for you, nobody else, you. Can you live with this? Can you look into your heart and be content with the outcome, your actions and their consequences?

So in summary, think on before you give anybody access to your head. Prioritise this stuff. What is important to you. Who is important to you? Must you externalise responsibility? Blood is thicker than water. Family and real friends before Facebook. Those who live with you, who know you and your performance. Those who sweat and bleed with you, who talk to you before the half-wit arse-clown with neither the faintest idea about what you do, not the balls to peddle their bullshit agenda to your face.

But then, this is just an opinion. Another arsehole venting in his corner of cyberspace. If it resonates, take it and use it. If it doesn't, don't give it another thought.


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