If you think that being a successful person, professional, entrepreneur, or human requires that you “do it on your own,” boy are you making life hard for yourself.
I’ve been on my own for almost 7 years now—7!—since I was laid off from my magazine job. And people always say, “Wow, you went out on your own. You built this on your own.”
Kinda. And kinda…not.
I wouldn’t be anywhere without other people. And if we’re being honest, NONE of us would. It’s a misnomer, the idea that you have to do it all on your own.
Being independent does NOT mean you seek no help from anyone. What it means, to me anyway, is that you’re resourceful, capable, and not able to do everything, but that you know how to enlist the support of those who can.
I’ve had some very successful collaborations with other people. Some are long-term, like the business partnership I have with Paula Rizzo, co-founder of Lights Camera Expert (who was a friend for years before we started sharing a bank account).
In fact, people ask Paula and me all the time how we made, and continue to make, our partnership work. Granted, some people are JUST business partners, meaning all biz all the time, and they don’t have a friendship outside of their work. Fact is, Paula also happens to be one of my very best friends, too. That means there’s some balancing to do.
HOW TO KEEP YOUR PARTNERSHIP ALIVE AND WELL
1 | Know your roles
I know what I’m good at, and what she’s good at. And most important, we agree on these things.
If I’m going to benefit from Paula’s gift for creating spreadsheets and general order out of chaos, I have to admit that that’s not my jam. And while Paula is a published writer and is quite capable of drafting copy, she knows that’s what I do really well (and really fast) and so she lets me do that. If pressed, either of us could do the other thing of course! But we move more quickly and efficiently if we allow each other to do what we’re best at.
2 | Keep romance alive
To be clear, Paula and I are not romantic partners. But when I say “romance” I mean the part of us that keeps us connected as humans, keeps us in love with what we do and if we’re being honest, in love with each other (albeit in a platonic way).
If all we do is email, we will lose that. We make it a point to have dinner, to hang out, sometimes drink Aperol spritzes on the roof of her apartment building—and not talk about work. We need to remember that we are people and friends, and to laugh at stuff and have fun. NOT just worry about our email funnel. The minute Paula and I have nothing but email funnels to talk about, it’s over.
3 | Don’t get it twisted. I love texting, and I do it ad nauseum. But. Sometimes texts can be taken out of conTEXT. They can be misread, or misunderstood. They hit the wrong tone, by accident, and before you know it, one of us is thinking that the other is mad or isn’t listening. Bad news.
So what we make regular practice of now is voice text. Meaning: You leave a message via text using your voice (sorry Android users, not sure how that works in your world).
This makes all the difference in the WORLD. Because then you hear the message and the tone, and this prevents anything being taken the wrong way.
I make sure I do it particularly when talking about things that could easily be misunderstood, or when I want her to hear the tone, and warmth, in my voice. She does the same. It can also be really fun.
AlSO, SEE OTHER PEOPLE
Paula is very important to me. She’s a long-term partner. Others are short-term, meaning we partnered for a few successful one-off projects, and we keep looking for ways to do more stuff.
Take Tricia Brouk, and we come from different industries, with different backgrounds. Tricia is a force. Choreographer, director, podcaster, coach, writer, artist. TEDx curator and producer. She’s really something to behold. (And I like being around people like that. So I make sure I’m around her as much a I can be.)
We have similar interests. We even offer some similar services in the speaker consulting business.
In the short time since we’ve met, we’ve gone to and supported each other’s shows. We’ve asked for each other’s opinion and given honest feedback. She wrote me into a screenplay she was working on. If you look closely at a video she did to promote her fitness business, I’m in the background doing deep knee bends.
She produces TEDxLincolnSquare, and I will send people her way whom I think could be a great fit for her show. The first year, she booked me to do standup comedy at her TEDx event…and then the following year, invited me to host the thing!
Why does this work? Because Tricia and I know the difference between managing and collaborating. We trust each other to do our thing, and create safe containers in which to do it. THIS IS KEY if you want to do more stuff with more amazing people.
We recently did a FB live together to discuss the art of collaboration, to promote the premiere of a mini-doc she directed and produced, called “Just Enough” (more about it here).
Our next step together as collaborators?
I’ve invited her to be a featured speaker once more at my live, in-person workshop, Tapped to Speak LIVE, where I’m helping professional speakers up their game and create their own TEDx talks. Remember, Tricia and I both work with private clients to do this. (Here she is, doing her thing at Tapped to Speak LIVE 2018!)
So how to do you invite more short term opportunities and feel out potential longer-term partners? You need to date them. Here’s how:
Show up to—and support—the people you admire. As you meet new people, and separate the ones you like from everyone else, take an interest in them. Show up to their shows, their events. Buy tickets, reserve seats, opt-in to their lists. Share their stuff on social media. Take them out to lunch. Show an interest in what they’re doing, not just how they can help you.
Don’t push to get “married” too soon. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you’re looking for a long-term partner, you need to start with short-term. Paula and I didn’t start our business on day 2 of our friendship. We had had a long time observing each other at work and play before we made that jump.
Plus, if you push for something with high stakes and big commitments before you know who they are or what they value, you not only risk a potential partnership, you could ruin the relationship.
Take some low-stakes gambits, and find out what they’re like stressed. Dream big, sure. But start very small. Rather than attempt to collaborate on a 2000-person event with someone, start with a little workshop. Or a webinar. Give yourselves each a chance to try taking risks and even losing a little together.
It’s like what they say about picking a life partner: Seeing them at their best is easy. What you need is to see them at their worst. Make it a point to be around them after they’ve been drinking too much, or had no sleep, or under a lot of stress. THAT is the person you’re dealing with.
You can’t change a person, but you must know what you’re getting involved with. That goes for marriage, and business partners, and friends, too. The best and most successful partnerships will be those with a capacity and real interest in knowing and working with the other person as they are, not as you wish they could be.
…Pssst. Is giving a TEDx talk on your bucket list? Join me for Tapped to Speak LIVE, a transformational two-day in-person workshop in Boston on April 4&5. Walk in with a bunch of half-formed thoughts, walk out with your TED-worth idea. To learn more and reserve your seat, visit tappedtospeaklive.com.