Opting out is how I’ve always dealt with stress.

Worried that bully will be valedictorian? Don’t bother doing your homework. Never going to measure up to your family’s musical talent? Do something else professionally. Got frizzy hair and big teeth and weird chronic rashes all over your legs? Wear baggy jeans and shapeless t-shirts. Throw a hissy fit anytime somebody wants to take you shopping for clothes.

This tactic of pre-emptive sour grapes actually does work in a world of competition. There’s something coldly satisfying about showing a person who’s determined to beat you that their efforts are so low on your radar that you couldn’t even be bothered to try. But what happens in the world of cooperation?

In a cooperative setting, opting out means you fail. It means the people who were trying to help you fail. It means the cause you believed in together fails. And it doesn’t make you look too cool for school anymore.

It makes you look like a jerk.

Developing a culture of cooperation isn’t just about learning to work in a group of equals. Sometimes you’re outnumbered and outclassed, and you need to know how to move forward without shutting down.

Figuring out how to make that work will help a lot on the road to true community. Because some of the coolest, smartest, most talented people in the world are working on this. They have bigger audiences and better skills than you. Are you going to opt out and pretend you don’t care about the world around you?

I hope not.

The rest of us who stink at this need you with us.

The grapes are tiny and misshapen, but so sweet.

Advertisements