“The most important career choice you’ll make is your choice of partner” so says Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, and she should know.
Ms Sandberg is a woman with an impressive CV. Business acumen aside, her success in personal relationships has been critical to her professional accomplishments. Ms Sandberg clearly knows a thing a or two about evaluating priorities, cutting her losses and moving on. Her first husband, Brian Kraff, was no less of a high achiever, given his own position as CEO of Market Hardware Inc. but perhaps in the area of supportive husbandry there was a miss. The demise of her first marriage did in no way dampen her ardour for fame, wealth and power.
Empowered individuals know there is no fool-proof Mr or Ms Right but an upwardly mobile Mr / Ms Right-Now-and-Maybe-Forever. Powerful people attract others in a similar vein but it depends on what or who you want. A trophy partner might seem attractive but will you be able to build a mutually beneficial relationship based on mere status and looks? Scholarly and inventive, sporty and adventurous, philosophical and creative, agnostic and eccentric or plain old rich and famous can these partnerships work?
Yes, no and who knows? “Every marriage is a mystery”, Hilary Clinton said, in the wake of her husband’s infamous adultery with a White House intern. No one knows what works and what doesn’t unless you’re shrewd and forward thinking enough to prepare a mental checklist. Needs, wants, desires, respect, kindness and compromise should be high on the list. Strategising and bouncing ideas with a like minded partner is a plus as long as you both know how to enjoy down time together. I’ve no doubt that Ms Sandberg, with her steely intellect knew that all her boxes were not ticked the first time around.
A woman of substance and aspiration knows that you marry an idea and, by no means, an ideal. Whatever floats your boat is going to be a worthy pursuit though you’ll have to be ready to plug a few leaks. Elizabeth Taylor had a penchant for husbands and diamonds. The former she disposed of and the latter she retained – if that’s not an astute merger and acquisition I don’t know what is. This glittering icon of a by-gone era held on to her rocks through the tumult of several divorces.
When two people from a similar career background get together it intensifies their personal and professional potential. The partnership may not endure but there will be a gain from the intellectual stimulus. As a result of one spouse’s occupation you may widen your circle of corporate contacts. If you’ve been involved in philanthropic projects you may find your passion in such an area. Creative niches may be identified through marital social networking. Ivana Trump is a smart investor of property and art works thanks, in part, to advice and skills gleaned from of her entrepreneurial ex-husband.
A shining example of altruism is Magic Johnson, ex-US basketball champ and his wife Cookie, who have raised millions to help others, spread information and raise awareness about HIV prevention. Magic contracted the disease from another woman but Cookie stood by him and showed that love conquers all. Another famous pairing who have created a brand for themselves are the Beckhams. This former Spice girl has a flourishing fashion line that has been more than a little helped by her husband’s prolific sporting profile. Power players on the red carpet include Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The new kid on the royal block, commoner Kate Middleton, now Duchess of Cambridge married up to become the proverbial power behind the throne.
Power couples have more than ambition and good looks. Most likely they are raised by determined and motivated parents. In a good many instances, effective single parenting has proved that coming from a “broken home” is no barrier to high achievement. White House Incumbent, Barack Obama credits his late mother as the driving force behind his success, reportedly, waking him at 6am so that he could get in a few hours study before leaving for school in Indonesia. Lance Armstrong, seven times consecutive winner of the Tour De France and cancer survivor, was born to a 17-year-old who left his father shortly after the birth.
A high net worth partner is an enticing prospect; an entrance pass onto the “six figure income” circuit is not be sniffed at but what lies beneath? Still waters that run deep or shallow flotsam? If he possesses incisive and judicious mental faculties combined with professional and social capital to complement your own then hoist the sails! Material things should be an enhancement to good character, not to be used as a distraction for glaring deficiencies of spirit. He could be a tightwad behind the façade, cruel and bitter, lethargic and disinterested or a spend-thrift and bon viveur. Pay attention to your head but follow your heart.
Sheryl Sandberg is a hard core intellectual and though we all might not reach heady heights in the corporate stratosphere, hers is a blueprint to emulate. Her senior thesis on: “how economic inequality contributes to spousal abuse” promoted her feminist flair. Career envy will chip away at a relationship, playing home-maker if it doesn’t fully satisfy will frustrate you and your loved ones. “Keep seeking out promotions and new opportunities otherwise you’re going to be bored because you should have kept your foot on the gas pedal“ is Ms Sandberg’s wise counsel. She has not slowed down despite the birth of two children.
Working long hours at the office will not be welcome unless you both appreciate that it’s necessary at times. Long-term vision and common goals will keep you both fired up and, more importantly, maintain equilibrium. An effective partnership is a marriage of values, principles and shared risk-taking. Walk down the aisle and say “I do” to your ideas if you are in any way seeking a meaningful personal or professional outcome. Analyse your personal strengths and weaknesses; don’t be brought down by someone who feeds your insecurities. Someone with a perception of progress and prosperity that mirrors your own will hit the target.
The offshoot of the correct balance of essential qualities is contentment, joy and peace. When two powerhouses unite it’s the forging of a monumental conglomerate; a new age personal venture capitalism. No life coach, mentor, or careers advisor is ever going to tell you that the spark or adrenaline rush you get from your partner will assist your ambition but a savvy business woman knows that it does.