Lennon and McCartney. Pierre and Marie Curie. Watson and Crick. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Jobs and Wozniak. Joel and Ethan Coen. Batman and Robin. In technology, science, music, and movies, partnerships have been a fountain of creativity. In fact and fiction, the idea of two mutually complementary partners forming a transcendent alliance that exceeds the abilities of either partner is ubiquitous. It is the fundamental premise of the buddy movie, the perennial staple of Hollywood summer action flicks.
At the same time, solitary geniuses such as Isaac Newton, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, or Rembrandt van Rijn are often given special reverence for their unique talents. But upon closer examination, these lone islands of genius are found to have either less known collaborative partners or competitive foils that propelled their work. Newton famously battled with Leibniz over their differing approaches to the mathematical study of continuous change, Calculus. Mozart’s sister Nannerl was a gifted musical talent in her own right and a confidante of her better-known brother. Later, Mozart’s marriage to Constanze Weber was a fruitful collaboration in life, and even after his death, as Constanze assiduously promoted her late husband’s compositions. Rembrandt’s patron and benefactor Constantijn Huygens served a critical role in bringing attention to his work, and his mistress, Hendrickje Stoffels, served as model and muse, and later, manager of his business interests.
Even in the best of collaborative partnerships, there is an element of competition that often rends the partnership. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were amicably close in the lead-up to the American Revolution, working together to draft the Declaration of Independence. But, as time went on political differences over “big government” versus “small government” visions of federal power and other matters divided the two men. John Adams, a Federalist, advocated for a strong central government, while Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican, championed state’s rights. But in later life, perhaps as the sharpness of their disagreements were blunted by age, they renewed their friendship and mutual admiration. They shared fond memories of youthful glory when they led the American colonies to shrug off the yoke of British imperialism.
And so it goes for many partnerships. What begins as a fruitful meeting of the minds ends in tempestuous acrimony, as the competitive nature of the partnership comes to the fore. Competition and collaboration, are they two sides of the same coin?
Perhaps that is why partnerships in the collaborative, creative sense have always eluded me. I have ideas that I think could blossom with the right collaborative partner. I have ideas for board games, businesses, and other creative projects, but my default gear is neutral. Seeking out a partner might get me to switch gears. If someone could tell me “No, you’re doing it wrong!” or “Why don’t we try it this way?” But the inevitable competition just rubs me the wrong way – too stressful.
When people say they are going to a meeting to “network”, it just doesn’t click with me. Maybe I’m just not cut out for it, for better or worse. It is a recipe for regret. Stress free regret.
Written in response to a WordPress.com Daily Prompt: Partners