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Relationship Advice: Navigating Start-ups (and Downs)

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Just like marriage, start-up life has its honeymoon phase. Ping pong at 3pm, why not? Four cups of espresso, yaaasss! T-shirt and vans? Standard. 

But after the novelty of all-you-can-eat olives and fruit snacks wears off, it’s the relationships with your team that make or break the dream. And, just like marriage, there is no manual when you start. 

Here are a few relationship tips I picked up from sports—and from the many hours my hubby and I have spent on therapy—that may help navigate start-ups and downs. Hopefully I can save you the awkward moment of having a therapist say things like, “Well did you ask?” Um. Whatever, take his side. 

1) Just ask:

The first few months of living with my partner went like this, “Why didn’t you set up the lamp?” and “You never empty the dishwasher.”

Two counseling sessions and $400 later we learned this secret…just ask. No need for colorful commentary or broad claims.

Revised approach: “Can you set up the lamp?” “Can you empty the dishwasher?”

We’re all new at this. No one knows what’s going on because it hasn’t been done before. Give your team a chance and just ask for what you want. 

2) Assume good will (this is thanks to Coach John Wooden):

Younger me’s inner monologue: Um, why haven’t you texted me back? Insert daydream of boyfriend on boat with swimsuit models.

Revised inner monologue: He’s most likely coaching kids and will call me when he’s free. See the difference? In one I assumed ill will and in the other I assumed good will.

Assume good will from your team. You didn’t get a response to your profound email? Ok, after you assume good will, I direct you back to #1.

3) No one is perfect, but everyone can make a valuable contribution:

My husband is not exactly handy. But, he’s hard-working, thoughtful, and very romantic. 

No one can do it all and be good at everything. But if you find yourself with a partner, at home or at work, who says, “We’ll figure this out together,”  that’s waaaaaaay more valuable than a fancy degree, a perfect resume, or a partner who’s hard-working, thoughtful, romantic, and handy. Roll up your sleeves, be vulnerable, and let your partner or your teammates do what they do best. Who knows what you can build until you try.

To sum it up: If you want something or don’t know something, ask. Assume your team is acting with good will. Talk—and listen—to your teammates, and let them be the best at what they do. And, have some fun!


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