The Person I Love Working With

My Partner

You’re no mercenary

No fair-weather friend

You’re with me in the trenches

We’ve embraced the same end

And no darkness did prevent

The light you’re ready to lend

As your efforts continue to save

And your hands continue to mend

Another crack, another tear,

Another wound that needs care

Your heart, your mind, your hands

Find ways that weren’t there

And I am grateful for the fruit

That working with you does bear

I’m looking forward to the beauty

Of a future with you there

My Ideal Partner

If I had to choose three descriptions for my ideal partner, employee, co-laborer, I would choose the following: high integrity, impactful dynamism, and bridge builder. High Integrity because I don’t want to be watching my back when working with a partner. The whole point of getting a partner is that you have someone to help you cover the areas you can’t. Impactful Dynamism means they have a high level of agency and ability to figure out ways and make things happen. Bridge Builder means they’re able to build strong relationships and connect seemingly disconnected things. 

As I thought about my “ideal partner”, I thought about what the opposite qualities would be (low or no integrity, lack of impact and results, and inability to connect with others and synergize), and who much of a pain it would be to work with someone like that. Then I thought about how a person develops into such a pain in the ass and a liability to the team. What are the mindsets and practices that, if left unchecked, will make a person more and more the opposite of an ideal partner?

This reminded me of an old article where I wrote:

I identified some particularly widespread “evils” we can easily observe today:

  1. Entitlement masked as Human Rights.
  2. Vanity masked as Self-Esteem.
  3. Superstition masked as Spirituality.
  4. Impatience masked as Life Hacks.
  5. Unreasonableness masked as Political Correctness.
  6. Irresponsibility masked as Freedom.
  7. Externalizing Evil masked as Social Justice.
  8. Materialism masked as Progress.

I realized that those traits, entitlement (thinking we deserve more than we do), vanity (being more preoccupied with how we’re perceived than who we really are), superstition (having beliefs with no solid basis), impatience (being unwilling to plant roots and cultivate fruit that takes long), unreasonableness (being unable to look at things unemotionally and consider multiple view points), irresponsibility (being unable to take accountability for results), externalizing evil (blaming others instead of improving oneself), all those traits, if undealth with, will lead to someone who is either low integrity, low impact, and low synergy, or a combination of the three.

So how does one deal with these insidious traits? Here are two very practical things to do:

  1. Seek Understanding More than Resonance – When looking for answers, when thinking of ideas, when sharing your thoughts, look to learn from others and deepen your knowledge. Don’t simply look for people who will agree with what you say or cheer you on. Look for people who know more than you on that topic and get their thoughts. Look for people who disagree with you and get their thoughts. Look for people who you trust and get their thoughts. Then use what you learned to refine your ideas. I’m not saying wholesale copy what they say, but allow your thoughts to be refined as you grow in understanding. There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind, realizing you were wrong (or not completely right), or that adjustments need to be made. That’s how we grow wiser. That’s how we progress. But when you’re superstitious and unreasonable, you will reject anything that clashes with your preconceived beliefs and miss a great chance to learn.
  2. Surround Yourself with People Whose Disciplines and Achievements Make You Uncomfortable Enough to Get Off Your Ass – This is straightforward and simple, but something people reject a lot. Instead of taking a high standard and striving to become more and more like that standard, we reject high standards as oppressive, insensitive, and unjust. Don’t be like this. As uncomfortable as high standards are, they’re very instructive. They are like the picture on a puzzle box that guide us as we find our life’s pieces and connect them. My personal way of dealing with anything, let’s say a new business or a new project, is to look for as many books or articles on the topic, read them all, connect with as many experts on the topic, call them all, and identify what the new gold standard is for me and my team, and look for ways to achieve it. Usually, these conversations are daunting and sometimes even embarrassing (since I don’t know much yet), but the learning is enormous, the insights are useful, and the progress is evident. If you’re entitled, vain and impatient, you’ll never appreciate the value of an expert telling you, “David, this idea sucks. You’re going to have to reach this standard if you want to win.” You’ll never reply to him, “Tell me more about this standard. What does it look like? How do people achieve it? What would you do to achieve if if you were starting over?” You’ll be too busy feeling offended and bitter. You’ll waste the energy you could have spent learning on attacking the very person who could have guided you.

Beware the One Thing

Last Sunday, while swimming with my wife, Yasmin, and son, Elijah, I thought about how lucky I am to be able spend time with them. It wasn’t so much the activity, there’s nothing special about us jumping into a simple pool or a drizzly day. It wasn’t becaue that we have no problems and no challenges. (We literally keep documents called Backlogs for every company we have because there’s so much to address.) And it wasn’t because I have all the answers. (I once made a list of questions and realized I have waaaay more questions than answers, and that I need to get comfortable with forever be seeking.) I realized I was lucky because, somehow, despite all the challenges, frustrations, and accusations, I had not lost my ability to appreciate the beauty of a moment. In that moment, in the satisfaction of that moment, I was happy and excited for the future.

I share this because I’m glad my father once told me during a very frustrating moment in my life, “You have a choice. You can become bitter because of this, you can write others off, and you can blame God and your circumstances. And you’ll find reasons to defend that. You’re perfectly capable of that. Or you can refuse to be bitter, to focus on the lesson, on the thing to improve, and so get better. Both paths are open to you. One is easier right now but will get heavier as the bitterness grows. The other will set you free.” It’s a lesson I remind myself of regularly, “Beware of bitterness.”

I hope my thoughts on my Ideal Partner somehow helps you think through your own character and the characters you want to connect with. Even more, I hope something deeper for you, that in your journey to be a better person and others, you find yourself set free.

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