From early on in childhood, we’re shown images of ‘damsels in distress’ awaiting their prince to come and save them from their lonely tower. Many conversations have evolved positively to help women understand that we can’t anticipate a partner who will come and ‘save us’ from anything. One has to be a whole person to unite fully with another whole person. We will always have room to improve and grow, but we do that work for ourselves, and invite someone into it, rather than anticipate that their arrival will magically make it ‘all better’ and allow for ‘Happily Ever After’.
We get that now. Yet, have we translated that lesson into our businesses?
Recently, I had a memory pop up when I sent a happy birthday email to an old professional contact. I had an instantaneous flashback to a time when I thought he was the savior who was going to come and help me to launch a book project. I felt not only that he would get it off-the-ground, but that he would do it better than I could; more so, I believed he was the key to my success.
I was on pins-and-needles when he would call or email as I awaited his approval, his buy-in, and his telling me that he would stand behind the project to champion it and make it grow. I waited around between our meetings, as I ‘knew’ that he would come back to me with the secret sauce for success.
This may not be much of a spoiler alert, but guess what? It never happened. We had meeting after meeting and call after call, and eventually he just stopped reaching out or following up. He’d moved on and I felt deflated. As the creator of this project, I gave all my power away to someone who sold me a dream, and I bought it. I wasted time and hope, because the bottom line was, at that time I wasn’t willing to believe in myself enough to do it, whether or not he could help me to advance the mission.
It made me realize that I’d turned this narrative away from my dating life (where I knew better) to my professional life. And it was all-the-more startling because it unearthed the realization that there is a thin line between working with others to make bigger things happen than one can do on one’s own, versus praying that one person’s magic is going to turn the whole thing around.
The more I thought about it, the more I saw it in business culture (and in my past). Whether it was hoping for that big PR hit, wanting to get on Oprah’s favorite things, or expecting that this one collaboration would be ‘it’, I was waiting for someone else to do what needed to be done. When I compare those thoughts to the way I’ve found success in my two other companies, it was night and day.
In those instances, I simply did it the old-fashioned way: I worked hard, was persistent, and built sales through making real and valuable relationships (many, not one) with people who opened doors for me, and I for them. There was no one magic bullet that made it all work. It was the compilation of so many little choices and partnerships that made the sum a success.
Eventually, I chose to put my book project on auto-pilot, because until I was ready to re-invest my energies into its success, hoping for a savior figure to appear and make it a winner had proven to be a misguided effort.
Like any good tale, there’s a moral: You are the savior in your own story. Don’t lose sight of that.
Originally published at medium.com