The average successful start-ups have 3.8 failures before they succeed, as founders learn from mistakes and move on. What would happen if you applied the same mindset to relationships?
Young people are told to be entrepreneurs, to take risks, try new things, and, when things go bad, summon the courage to try again. The entrepreneurial approach to business and work is popular, so can you treat your love life like a start-up?
What would happen if you approached your love life … like you did a start-up?Credit:iStock
Arthur Brooks, author of the new book From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life, says we can. In a recent YouTube video, the writer argued that a start-up mindset should be used when approaching romantic relationships.
“Failure is part of start-up life. Entrepreneurship isn’t really about business creation. Entrepreneurship is about creating explosive rewards, it’s about faith in resources you don’t currently have on hand. It’s about a vision of a better future,” he said.
Brooks argues that “falling in love is the biggest start-up enterprise anyone can engage in.”
Dr Owen Spear, a Melbourne-based clinical psychologist specialising in couples therapy, says the metaphor is a novel way of approaching life’s relationships.
“It’s sort of like having a business partner, and you are working together to see if you can … build a strong business, with the business being the relationship,” he reflects.
“Just like a start-up, you would absolutely assume you have to do ongoing work after the initial excitement has worn off. You’ve got to keep working on a relationship even after the six-month honeymoon period is over.”
But with enterprise comes risk.
“The average successful start-up has 3.8 failures before their first success,” Brooks said. “[If] you’re going to have a happy, successful entrepreneurial life that has a lot of love in it, you need at least 3.8 nasty break-ups.”
Spear says using the language of “failure” is not always helpful when thinking about relationships – because, he says, “relationships ending and hurting is normal” – but says it’s helpful to take an entrepreneurial approach to evaluate a relationship’s outcomes.
“I would add that just like when you end the first or second or third start-up, you want to learn from it each time, and learn about yourself and how to do things differently next time. Once you’ve got over the grief and sadness, you want to be thinking that ‘I don’t want to be like that in a future relationship’.”
It’s an approach taken by Australian start-up founder Rebekah Campbell, who approached her quest for a partner online in the same way she would have approached a start-up: lots of criteria, funnels and clear objectives.
Over 138 dates, Campbell gathered insights about herself and the men she dated. “I learnt to regulate my emotions … I learnt relationship skills, and I let go of the ego and expectations that had blocked me from finding love,” she wrote. (Her strategy worked: she’s now married to a man she met online.)
Ultimately, no metaphor does justice to the complexity of human relationships, psychologist Spear says. But having a hopeful, action-driven approach to love might save you one less heartbreak.
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