Some believe creating great ideas, from science to art, is the work of a lone genius. Others argue that greatness emerges from a network, an environment that stimulates brilliance. (It’s the ongoing nature vs. nurture argument.) But I recently read a book that says when you look closer, you find great work is the result of pairs.
There have been famous pairs, like Jobs and Wozniak founding Apple and Lennon and McCartney at the heart of the Beatles. But many of the great creators of history were part of an unrecognized pair. Van Gogh’s brother did far more than send him money. He theorized and empathized day after day. They were roommates for a time and then constant companions for even more. Van Gogh’s mental breakdown happened after his brother moved away and stopped playing his part in their pair. Picasso was only able to paint with the intense help provided by his live in mistress of many decades. She didn’t just set up the studio and make the food, she helped him get through his near daily depression (the stories told of this by his friends are quite dramatic) and actually get into the studio to paint.
At the heart of greatness is two working as one.
My own life is a small-scale example to how powerful a partnership can become, including a friend who has partnered with me on leadership projects for years and another who is partnering with me to create a board game.
I do need to let you know that halfway through the book the author starts rambling, speculating on the nature of creativity and life philosophy. And by the end, when discussing pairs breaking up, he merely tells the stories of pairs who broke apart, offering no insights or framework to understand why or how to prevent it. If he had finished at the same level he started at, it would have been one the best books of the year for me. As it is, it’s still worth reading.
And whatever the quality of the book, I’m convinced that finding a partner who can co-create with you might be the key to creating something great.
Have you ever experienced a true partner in creation? I have and it permanently changed my life.