Want to Do Something Great? First, Find a Partner.

Early in June, I had a very strange day. I walked into work, and my colleagues were all congratulating me on winning an award called Fundraiser of the Year for my work with EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute. Apparently, my former employer had actually sent out a press release on it, along with a blast to the entire company! The fact of the matter is, I don’t deserve much credit. It’s my partnership with our CEO, Brandon Chrostowski, that deserves all the kudos and recognition. On my own, I would never have the courage or craziness to launch this groundbreaking social enterprise – but I was inspired by Brandon, who actually quit his job to pursue this dream. For other social entrepreneurs thinking about doing something great, I would encourage you to find a collaborator who inspires and motivates you.

The ancient rabbis weren’t kidding when they exhorted us, “Acquire for yourself a friend.” In fact, the Bible is full of examples of great partnerships: Abraham and Sarah were a dynamic duo, long before Batman and Robin popularized the term. Moses and Aaron co-led the Israelites through the desert. And, perhaps most relevant, Adam and Eve defined partnerships for all time through their “ezer k’negdo” relationship – good collaborators simultaneously support and challenge each other, depending on what the situation requires. There’s a reason why so many of America’s most successful companies – Microsoft, Apple, and Google to name a few – were started by co-founders, two individuals who balanced each other through the good times and bad.

The opposite is also true: Biblical figures who were loners tended to really struggle. How great would Samson have been with a partner to help him control his temper? Or Joseph, if someone had worked with him to tone down that ego? Or Noah – perhaps if he had had a co-builder of the Ark, he wouldn’t have gotten inebriated shortly after the flood. A partner, chosen well, balances your strengths and weaknesses and speaks the truth regardless of the consequences. In my experience, one visionary and one pragmatist can make great things happen. In addition to creating a well-rounded team, your partner's hard work will motivate you to complete your own tasks. Without one, the work – particularly when it comes to social justice or fundraising – seems lonely, frustrating, and downright daunting.

EDWINS is off to a great start, and the organization won’t need me forever. As I think about my next venture, do I have the courage and chutzpah to launch something groundbreaking on my own? Definitely not. But do I have the humility and vulnerability to find a partner to work with me? Absolutely.

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