Been thinking about you.
I don’t know what you’ve been up to, but I’m sure it’s good and I can’t wait to find out. I’ve been working on this thing I’m calling The Pillars of Our Partnership. I’d give anything for a window into your world, if even for only an hour. Here’s a little window into mine.
The other day I was telling Nate, you know, my buddy who started The Loveumentary — the podcast where he’s interviewed hundreds of couples and relationship experts like Gary Chapman who invented the 5 Love Languages — yeah, that guy. I was telling Nate I think he needs an anthem.
Not a song (are all anthems songs?) but like a creed.
(Brian, from Boston, said, “yo! a manifesto!”)
Yes, a manifesto.
A statement of values, the pillars he is gonna preach and that he can build a community around. Something that people listening to Loveumentary episodes, and who might show up to one of his events or a conference or a meetup or join a Loveumentary Facebook group, could all point to as the foundation of what they are working on in their relationships, and a set of ideals they can use when offering support to each other. In Seth Godin language, it’s the “people like us do stuff like this” situation. For Nate, “things like this” hasn’t been codified (yet).
So I suggested he do that.
A few days later I thought, “why wait on Nate? I’ll write my own.”
Before I share what I’ve got, a few obvious things:
 It’s a work in progress.
It’s about partnership, and until you and I actually start working on our partnership, all this counts as preparation.
And preparing for a thing isn’t the same as doing the thing.
 Perhaps even more importantly, I can’t even say we’ve come to a “first draft” until you add your say.
What’s below are my words. I know I’ve come a long way in learning and practicing the fundamentals of partnership, so I believe in my contribution, but that’s just it. It’s my contribution and I’m awaiting yours to round out this super rough draft.
I know you’ve got so much to contribute that’s unique and powerful. What you’re doing right now, what you’re learning . . . ah, I can’t even imagine how much awesome you have to contribute. Your perspective will deeply impact my understanding of partnership, as well as my performance of actually being your partner.
 These aren’t practices and positions I’ve perfected. I am a work in progress. It’s OK that you are too.
Just as preparing for a thing isn’t the same as doing the thing, knowing enough about something I’m striving for to write a handful of paragraphs about it doesn’t mean I’ve come anywhere near mastering the practice of it. Working with and toward the ideal of these pillars is something we’ll do together. I imagine that even if starting in a “maximally prepared” state (I read all the books! Listened to all the podcasts! Went to ALL the seminars!), actually being in a partnership will be incredibly challenging, shaping, stretching and growth-inducing. (Those are positively sounding words for HARD, incredibly frustrating and at times SUPER challenging.)
So yeah . . . this is my first cut and I eagerly await your input to get us to draft 1.
From there, every year and month and day we’ll get to revise and refine.
There are a couple life fundamentals that aren’t unique to partnership in my book, but are necessary pillars for living. Those are Choice, Responsibility and Communication.
Choice: people get to choose and we not only tolerate choice, we celebrate and embrace it . . . man, this is the first one and I’ve already re-written it several times. There are SO MANY THINGS that go into what all I mean by “choice” and how important it is. Our words and actions allow for others to choose. Every moment is a surprise because in humility we cannot predict and should not judge what others will do, and even when we do predict and predict correctly, we don’t arrogantly assume our prediction had anything to do with the outcome. Like I said, there’s a lot here. I could really use your help boiling down my thoughts. God’s ultimate gift to us is power to choose; we choose, circumstances and other people don’t choose for us no matter how much it seems the contrary, and we’re responsible for our choices.
Responsibility: directly following choice . . . because people choose, they and they alone are responsible for their choices and the following consequences. If this has a boundary where it’s no longer the case or becomes conditional, I don’t know where that is yet. This makes a lot of people uncomfortable. I feel uncomfortable at times. Especially nowadays when people love to blame life’s circumstances on “the system” or “the man” or some external object. Yikes. Ah . . . so much to say!
Here’s another thing on my mind in this realm: expectations! Expectations are like choices we try to make for other people. They represent, among many things, made up rules we think everyone knows and has agreed to, even when they haven’t.
Example close to us and what we may face as we date: “If you really wanted to be a good boyfriend, THEN you would _____.” SAYS WHO? I mean, maybe. But is there a DEFINITIVE manual on being a good boyfriend? No! So if you WANT me to ____, ASK me. If you don’t ask . . . I may . . . but I also may not! It may not be something I’m even thinking about . . . so if you want to be sure it happens, and you’re thinking about it, then ask me! Then I can choose to say Yes or No. And then I’ll be responsible for it, truly, because I have chosen.
Wow, there’s so much in here about boundaries of responsibility to unpack, but for now I’ll say: no circumstance can force choice upon a person, all choices are ours, therefore all results are ours.
OK OK OK some more here too . . . when it comes to development and personal needs, it’s my job to find out what I need to learn, it’s my job to then learn what I need to learn, it’s my job to seek mentors and teachers, it’s my job to learn and develop; it’s my job to be healthy, it’s my job to be fulfilled, it’s my job to discover what I like and what nurtures me and then do the work to obtain those things; it’s my job to ‘discover’ and decide what’s important to me — my values; it’s my job to declare for myself that “I am enough.” It’s no one else’s job to do any of those things for me. The same is true for you. Can I ask for help? Absolutely. I look forward to yours. Can you ask me for help with those things? Absolutely, I want you to.
Communication: pretty inescapable from the above on responsibility. Communication is . . . using words to express yourself as accurately as you can — yourself, meaning mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually; all the aspects of you.
Communication is using the words “will you” for requests (see my unfinished rant on people saying “Do you want to ____?” as an imperative or invitation). In response to people’s requests, communication is using the words “Yes,” “No,” or “No, and here’s my counter offer.” Communication is verbally expressing wants and desires, and then for the ones you want right now actually making the request (Will you…?) beyond the statement of desire.
Communication is transforming all internally held desires/hopes/expectations into words. Communication is not ever putting someone else in a position to mind-read their way to connecting/helping/working with/serving/loving you. Communication is not attempting to mind read, but is instead asking questions to let the person you are interested in hearing from speak the truth from their own mouth rather than getting answers from your imagination.
Communication is knowing you can only hold people to the promises they have actually made with speech and signatures (that sounds like responsibility and choice too).
Communication is acknowledging fulfilled promises and healthy behaviors; I think that’s a not-yet-complete functional definition of gratitude.
Communication is: owning and stating your stake in the ground, what’s important to you, what you value, the thoughts and intents of your heart, and taking the responsibility to let the world know what you’ve chosen in those realms.
See? I need your help here.
What’s missing? And how can it be said better . . . more simply and in fewer words?
With all that in the background . . .
Here’s my start at:
The Pillars of Our Partnership
Because we believe that all performance is elevated and enhanced when done with the support of a dedicated partner. Even if the ‘act’ is solo (such as running a race or giving a speech or performing a piece of music) . . . a human preparing/practicing/living/acting without a dedicated partner will always, in the long run, underperform a human acting with the support of a dedicated partner.
What do I mean by dedicated?
Tennis star + coach > tennis star + coach(*0)
tennis star + coach + spouse > tennis star + coach + spouse(*0)
A coach could be called a partner. But a coach isn’t a dedicated partner. A coach is a partner for the activity they coach. A dedicated partner is a partner for all things.
This ‘math’ is our belief.
And it’s not performance alone that’s elevated and enhanced, but experience too.
Shared sorrow is half sorrow.
Shared joy is double joy.
Remember in Into The Wild when Alex Super Tramp writes “happiness only real when shared”? Yeah. All experience of that sort happens in the space between the Self and another.
The Pillars: Priority, Striving, Belief, Equality, Service, Togetherness, Forgiving, Vulnerability, Unconditionality
Priority: Partnership is a relationship that comes first. When I can respond to several people, I respond to you first. When I choose to allocate my time to several opportunities, I allocate time for us first. Regardless of circumstance or proportion and in all cases of competing choices, consideration goes to our partnership first.
Striving: I am a human. You are a human. I live and act imperfectly. Even when my intent is thoroughly pure, my actions will fall short and be laced with imperfection. The measuring stick, therefore, is not result or absolute ability. What counts is striving, putting forth effort that matches the bounds of present ability, accompanied with a willing heart that were it immortal and perfect would perform perfectly. Jesus asked if anyone had any fishes and loaves. He didn’t complain when the numbers were few. They gave what they had, and He made that work. Likewise, I give what I have and you make that work. You give what you have and I make that work. Together, we give grace to each other for our imperfect humanity.
Belief: Ready for this?
- I believe in my own goodness. You believe in me believing in my own goodness. I believe in you, believing in me, believing in my own goodness.
- You believe in your own goodness. I believe in you believing in your own goodness. You believe in me, believing in you, believing in your own goodness.
This is the ever presence and victory of belief (over fear and doubt). We give each other the benefit of the doubt. We assume first and always that the other has and is acting with the best intent — even when it seems and feels there’s ill will or intent to do harm. We assume positive will because we believe in each other’s goodness.
Believing in goodness also means believing you always have something to contribute and teach, while believing the other has something to contribute and teach you. Belief is believing in value.
Belief includes courage, and when I say, “you are enough,” you believe it, you believe that for me it really is enough and because I haven’t said so, I truly am not expecting more.
Equality: I hold myself to the same standards to which I hold you. Every agreement is a two-way street. Everything we ask for is also something we are willing to give. What applies to me, applies just the same to you.
Service . . . and Acceptance of Service: This is a pillar to love AND be loved. It’s not enough to give. Sometimes giving is easy. Service here is also to receive it. Sometimes, it is hard to receive help and support.
I look for ways to serve you, you look for ways to serve me.
You look for ways to ask me to serve you, I look for ways to ask you to serve me.
We both ask for help and support and service from the other. Especially in areas where we know the other may be lacking competence, comfort and confidence.
Because I know you embrace my meager, imperfect offerings of service, I look forward to you asking me to do things I’m no good at doing, but that will make the world of difference for you and for us. This is one way I really show my love and demonstrate Priority. Likewise, I look forward to asking for your help with things I know will be hard for you or that you may not enjoy, but you’ll strive (just as I strive) to serve because you, like me (equality), put us first (priority), being more willing to serve our partnership and be possibly embarrassed or frustrated, than tickle those insecurities and withdraw from growing our union.
Togetherness: We do all things together. See above re: how this holds even for solo performances.
You still have your victories, I still have mine. You are still responsible for your choices, as I am responsible for mine.
And yet we embrace an element of togetherness in all things.
We invite and value and recognize an element of shared victory. Of contributing service that enhanced the outcome. Of a material impact worthy of acknowledgement and commendation.
We don’t have boundaries about “my things” and “your things.” There’s always some shred of sharing and togetherness. If it isn’t obvious, or if it’s tempting to do solo and to push the other away, we resist that urge and look for and invent some way to do all things together.
Why? Because at least tangential involvement is always possible, and because of complementariness: my strengths support your weaknesses, my weaknesses are supported by your strengths. Complementary support IS how we grow together. And that’s what we’re committed to as partners: growing, excelling, experiencing . . . together.
Are we attached at the hip? No. Do we text each other every hour of the day? No. Do we relay every thing that happened to each other every day? No. Must we like the same things? No. Must we always travel together? No. Is asking for space ok? Yes, with a definite time limit of when we’ll reconnect.
All experiences are OPPORTUNITIES to grow individually and they are LEARNING experiences in how to come closer together, more fully knowing each other, operating together and fulfilling … partnership.
Forgiving: I see two kinds here.
One is forgiving in response to misperception: seeing that our experience of hurt follows our mistakingly and temporarily believing the other’s intent was for harm or driven by ill will. To come around and believe there was no ill intent and our hurt was not desired is to forgive. It’s not so much forgiving me as I didn’t intend to harm, but it’s forgiving yourself and our mutual imperfect communication that led to your misunderstanding. This again is a humble acknowledgment and an embrace of our common humanity, and it is where leaning on the Lord is so helpful. I didn’t mean for you to feel hurt. Yet, you felt hurt. It’s OK, because He felt that hurt. He can take the hurt. I didn’t want you to have the hurt. But now you’ve got it. Give it to Him. You can be whole.
The second kind is forgiving in response to actual ill will or intent to harm. I pray these situations between us will be few and far between. Ideally, never. To not include forgiving as a pillar would condition partnership on perfection. Perfection is unattainable in this mortal sphere. The moments we stand on this part of this pillar will hurt the most.
But the Lord has healed me and He has healed you. We can be made whole again and again and again.
Vulnerability: Vulnerability is a particular type of communication. It’s communication where you and I share and express all our thoughts and feelings, even the ugly ones.
There is a boundary here which is “dumping.” That’s vomiting all the nasty, which is sharing all that with no commitment for healing, improvement, forgiveness, etc. That’s not vulnerability. That twisted “vulnerability” is a form of dominating and emotional manipulation.
As Brené Brown says:
“Real authenticity actually requires major self-monitoring and isn’t . . . [communication with] the lack of self-monitoring.”
Healthy vulnerability, what I’m talking about, is that anything could be shared. There’s a willingness to share anything, and what actually gets shared is the complete truth of what’s relevant. (What’s relevant? Hmmmm . . . )
Vulnerability, in both directions is knowing it’s OK to be fully transparent because sometimes thoughts and feelings are just passing by and temporary . . . and hanging on to them and not sharing them has a way of keeping them around longer and allowing them to do more harm. So we share them, to be honest about how we feel and where we’re at in the moment. And (together) we work through them so they soften and then lose their grip.
It’s OK to share because I can stack up what you’re thinking and feeling in the moment as an experience you’re really having and not as something you’re committed to forever. And likewise, you won’t hold anything I ever share over my head, especially the stuff that I’m passing through. How can I say this better? Maybe we can borrow straight up from Neal A. Maxwell and Joseph Smith:
“Our light speeches from time to time, have nothing to do with the fixed principles of our hearts” said Joseph Smith. Should we not distinguish between the utterances of the moment and considered opinions? Do not all of us wish for that same understanding on the part of our friends, hoping they, “with the breath of kindness,” will “blow the chaff away”? (NAM, Mar 1986)
More . . . some of this came out in the section on service: vulnerability is asking for things that seem and feel hard to ask for . . . help where it feels embarrassing you can’t do it alone, desires that seem dark or weird or unconventional, challenges you’d rather me not know that you have.
Vulnerability is sharing the “darkness” within. Our inner demons. Our naughty thoughts. Our carnal natures. We all have light, and darkness. Vulnerability is letting down all propriety in each other’s company. It’s OK to be 100% you, even all the things you’ve ever thought were never OK about yourself.
Everything that’s there is you, and all that makes up the you that you are that I love. Therefore, it’s OK to share.
Vulnerability is also this: I can be strong for everyone in the world, but you are the one person where it’s OK for me to expose myself completely . . . I don’t always have to be strong for you. I will be strong. I will be strong with you and for you. But in my weakest moments, it’s OK to bare my all and be completely weak and exposed. It’s OK to have moments of powerlessness with you, moments where you have total advantage over me. And it’s OK because you’ll love me still. And I’ll love you still. And you won’t take advantage of me. And I won’t take advantage of you. And we won’t abuse the privilege of seeing the other in our weakest, most exposed positions.
I am a man. I’m supposed to be strong . . . and with you, just you, my partner, it’s OK in those moments if I’m not strong. While I’m strong for everyone else, you are the one person who gets to be strong for me.
Unconditionality: We live and choose and speak and love and act on these pillars. No. Matter. What. Nothing you do earns my fulfillment of my promises. Nothing I do causes me to deserve your fulfillment of your promises. We each, independent of the other, at all times and in all things, choose to strive to fulfill our promise in the partnership.
# # #
I have no idea how grand and soul-stretching a journey this is going to be.
If being an entrepreneur has been a rollercoaster, then I imagine we’re in for the face-smashing, extreme-Gs of interstellar space travel. But tell you what, and this is probably obvious, I’m up for it. Not looking for an ordinary-tier partnership. I want and am working and will work for what’s extraordinary.
So, there they are for now: nine Pillars of Our Partnership.
Nine though? Don’t like the number. Would rather there be 8 or 10 or 12. I bet you’ll point out some biggies I left out. We’ll get there.
I’m so . . . just brimming and teeming with anticipation for you and what you’ll add.
When you get this, will you holler?
Onward and upward,
P.S. also toying with mottos, crests, etc. “Truth and Kindness, in Deed and Word.” <== What do you think? (what led to this: strive to be kind, but never demote the truth. Words are powerful, but greater sermons are preached in action.)
P.P.S. [Nov 15] Had this thought . . . conflict and negotiation gotta go somewhere, right? Are they pillars? I don’t know . . . conflict is inevitable, you and I will never be 100% on the same page and that’s a good thing because it means we’re both continuing to have unique and meaningful contributions. We need each other. And when we’re not on the same exact page, that reality requires negotiation . . . which is communication that gets at how two people who want to choose differently will then choose to choose together . . . ok, so maybe there’s a second tier of pillars, things that combine pillars . . . communication + choice + togetherness ==> conflict; resolving conflict requires negotiation.
P.P.P.S. Guaranteed I will keep thinking of more facets; this chain of post-scripts will prolly get mighty long. Will work in those thoughts with you.
P.S.x4 [Nov 16] The word mindfulness belongs here. It’s laced in throughout already, but is so distinct it deserves to stand on its own, no? Perhaps as a pillar of living and there’s a version of it for partnership.