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“Partnering” by Jean Oelwang

Tangible lessons from 65+ of the world's most remarkable partnerships.

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3rd Degree of Connection


Stay all-in through a moral ecosystem, alive with the daily practice of six essential virtues.

Watch the video above for a concise but meaningful overview of The Ecosystem.

Six Virtues that make up the Ecosystem for deep connections.

Unshakeable Mutual Respect
United Belief
Shared Humility
Enduring Trust
Nurturing Generosity
Compassionate Empathy

Floating Stones. Martin Hill and Philippa Jones

Floating Stones. Martin Hill and Philippa Jones

Over time, these virtues become reflexive responses, creating an environment of kindness, grace, and unconditional love.

The virtues don’t just magically appear in a partnership. It takes hard work and curiosity to practice and build them until they become a part of everything you do. Of course, no one is perfect, living these virtues is a constant evolution, a constant growing and learning experience.

3rd Degree of Connection Exercise – Virtue 1.

Unshakeable Mutual Respect

A respect so deep it celebrates differences and can’t be broken by inevitable human mistakes. An honoring and awe of one another that allows you to live your truth.

We’ve all had the experience of trying to communicate something important while the other person is somewhere else, not listening at all. We’ve also all been guilty of doing the same ourselves. Not only is it disrespectful, it undermines the connection, sapping the person’s willingness to share and damaging their confidence.

And then there is that more rare occurrence where someone listens deeply, with great attention and consideration. This is what Paul Bennett, Partner at IDEO and photographer Jim Cooper’s spouse, meant when he said, “When your partner speaks the world stops.” Paul and Jim discuss how respect is as much about deep listening and being present as it is about praise and affirmation.

The world stops when you speak
Think of a Deep Connection that embodies this for you and write down 3 ways in which this person deeply listens. Consider how they tune in and hold onto each word, make you feel seen and heard, and show they remain fully present with you.

Share the list with your Deep Connection, letting them know their gift of listening and unshakeable mutual respect for you doesn’t go unnoticed.

3rd Degree of Connection Exercise – Virtue 2.

United Belief

A shared confidence in each other and faith that together you can make the impossible possible.

“He’s given me huge confidence,” Jane Tewson said of her husband, Charles. “He is an absolute rock. He tells it like it is, which is pretty hard sometimes.” Great partners are constantly pushing the boundaries and helping us take on something much bigger. Encouraging United Belief helps individuals and organizations step into their highest potential.

Ask Yourself
Which Deep Connection in your life is your anchor of confidence? Who is your rock and believes you can do anything?

Send them a text in honor of being your anchor of confidence. Let this message remind them of your gratitude and United Belief in one another.

Pay it Forward
What Deep Connection can you be an anchor of confidence for? Who would you like to support more often, to be their rock?

Having an anchor of confidence can give you the power to be an anchor of confidence for others. Gift them with a message of confidence and keep the chain of United Belief alive.

3rd Degree of Connection Exercise – Virtue 3.

Shared Humility

The ability to keep your ego in check and constantly learn from and be in service to each other. An understanding of our own limitations and gratitude for what others bring to the relationship.

The sense of humility that emerged from all the partnerships was aided by their focus on Something Bigger and the realization that we are in service to our partners and our mission—not in control of them. As Paul Bennet mentioned about his partnership with Jim Cooper, “I think one of the best by-products of our relationship is that my ego has gone in a very healthy way. I feel like I’m in service in this relationship. I feel like I’m in service in my work.”

Practice shared humility by being in service to a Deep Connection without expecting anything in return. What Deep Connection keeps your ego in check?
How can you thank them by performing an act of service that would help them thrive?
When will you perform this act of service?

Put it in the calendar, set a reminder, tell someone, and hold yourself accountable. Once complete, remember to notice how it feels to give without attachment. Keep the humble sharing alive.

3rd Degree of Connection Exercise – Virtue 4.

Enduring Trust

You trust each other with your lives. The first phone call type of trust. Grounded in trusting in good intentions, in Something Bigger and in yourself.

This level of trust takes time and can be fostered through intentional practice.

The co-founders of AirBnB, Joe Gebbia, Brian Chesky and Nate Blecharczy, developed an authentic activity, creatively titled Elephants, Dead Fish, and Vomit, to cultivate Enduring Trust within the organization. Elephants are the big things in the room that nobody is talking about. Dead Fish are the things that happened a while ago that people can’t get over. Vomit represents the thoughts that people need to get off their mind with someone to just sit there and listen.

Try it out for yourself now before playing with others. Think of a partnership that already holds a level of trust where you assume good intentions.

Consider the ‘Elephants, Dead Fish, and Vomit’ and answer the following questions:

1. What are the big topics that I avoid discussing?
2. What lingering sentiments from my past experiences need to be resolved and released?
3. What do I need to get off of my chest and into the open?
4. What can I commit to sharing with this partner after answering these questions, and how can I give them the space to do the same?

Keep up the practice and see how you can cultivate trust in all your relationships by bringing the Elephant, Dead Fish, and Vomit questions into other partnerships and group settings.

3rd Degree of Connection Exercise – Virtue 5.

Nurturing Generosity

A giving mindset that competes only through acts of generosity.

Generosity is about loving before being loved. Trusting before being trusted. Giving without demand—or even expectation—of return. And interestingly, when you live generously, a lot more actually does come back to you in a powerfully affirming way.

1. Close your eyes and think back to a time where you were generous and/or shared a loving affirmation with a Deep Connection. What energy does this memory give you? Memorialize the feeling by writing the act(s) of generosity and affirmation that you have gifted in a partnership:
2. Close your eyes again and call upon a memory where you felt the power of a partner’s generosity. Memorialize the feeling by writing the act(s) of generosity and affirmation that you have received in this partnership:

Look at this often and use it as a daily affirmation that serves to nurture generosity.

Contemplate: How might you practice more generosity in every type of partnership you have?

3rd Degree of Connection Exercise – Virtue 6.

Compassionate Empathy

An understanding of the “why” underneath your partner’s actions and reactions. The ability to be vulnerable and go beyond standing in one another’s shoes to loving action to help end your partner’s suffering.

Compassionate Empathy can be seen as the ability to step into someone else’s shoes and not diminish them for their differences. This allows us to actively celebrate diverse dreams and alleviate suffering.

Consider how the shoes on your feet represent who you are. Reflect on what your shoes “say” about yourself through cost, brand choice, style, wear and tear. Think about how they can represent your life experience.

What would it be like for someone to walk in your shoes?
Next, bring to mind a Deep Connection. Think of their shoes (maybe even ask them to send you a picture of the shoes on their feet!) and play out the same dialogue with yourself.

What would it be like to walk in their shoes? How can you step into understanding their “why” and let them know you are there for them?

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