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Mental Model

Some of the smartest most successful people in the world state that who you decide to marry is the most important decision of your life. But yet, it can be a decision based on emotions and illusions in our mind instead of reality. We underestimate the influence that our partner has on our work life, and what we can achieve. Your chances of happiness and success skyrocket with a partner who shares similar values and character. The pain, conflict, and lower work performance await when you are in a relationship with the wrong person. The complexity grows when kids are involved. Think slow (not fast) when deciding who to take on the journey.


    At first glance, you may be wondering why the framework extends the focus beyond yourself to a partner(s) with who we share our life or time. The answer is that our partner choice can dramatically influence our career path, the emotional support, and the mindset we need to achieve the goals we set for ourselves. 

    If you choose the wrong partner you will find your ambitions, freedom, and potentially constrained. Notable people such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett both state that who you marry is the most important decision of your life. While I am not a relationship expert, I do share perspectives and strategies to consider when going through your decision process to determine what person(s) are aligned with your career and broader life goals.

    We have all heard one of these painful stories before – likely about someone, we know personally.

    The person who chooses a business partner that steals their money, company, or dignity.

    The person who chooses a romantic partner that turns out to be someone different than their expectations – narcissistic behavior with the ensuing mental abuse, deceit, divorce, a financial mess …..

    As much as we don’t want to acknowledge or talk about it, this is the real world.

    Situations like this can ruin your precious life.

    A partner has a profound influence on your career success.

    This can be the most important decision of your life.

    Consider this as a key part of your career strategy.

    We need a set of ideas to protect us from our naivety and thinking fast.

    A test for compatibility of who we spend our precious time with.

    This is not an exact science – the best we can do is reduce the risk of getting into or staying in the wrong relationship.

    What follows is not an exhaustive list of how to choose a partner – it’s a set of recommended actions to shape your thinking on who to take on the journey.

    I have personal experience with each of the directives below and how they could have saved me valuable time and heartache. I encourage you not to see these as negative, but as realities of human nature.

    You will be rewarded by choosing the right partner that shares the same values and aspirations for what you will achieve together and individually.


    1 – Balance emotion with logical reasoning.

    Favor the head over your heart when making a partner decision – seducers know how to choose the right victim.

    Analyze the potential partnership methodically and unbiasedly.

    Take your time to form an opinion and uncover red flags. This may save you from years of pain.

    Resist the temptation to easily explain away concerns you may have – time tells.

    2 – Discover their character stamp.

    Study people’s values and behaviors over an adequate period.

    Be curious about their childhood and life experiences.

    Notice habits, patterns, and behaviors – expect these to repeat over time.

    Look deep past the facades and myths to uncover the hidden character flaws for a more accurate sense of their true persona.

    3 – Escape the deep narcissist.

    Be aware of people’s need for constant attention – this will lead to compulsive behavior that does not have anything to do with you.

    Run for the hills if everything must revolve around them.

    During a conflict, look for signs as they position themselves as the wounded victim and draw sympathy.

    Think about and measure their ability to admit a mistake or say sorry.

    4 – See through people’s masks.

    Observe more – talk less.

    Accept that much of life is role-playing – people’s appearances are not reality.

    Balance what people say with their non-verbal cues – these give insight into what they may be thinking or hiding.

    Establish a person’s baseline expression and mood – notice deviations.

    Trust your intuitive, gut instincts of someone when something feels off.

    5 – Piece together people’s Shadow.

    Take note of off-character actions and situations that occasionally leak out – their dark, shadow side.

    Plan and expect to see this behavior again when the conditions are right – such as when drinking alcohol.

    Shine a light on people’s dark side by uncovering the opposite trait that people vehemently demonstrate.

    When someone shows you their dark side and who they are – believe them.

    6 – Beware the friendly facade.

    Be cautious of those that are overly friendly and charismatic early in a relationship.

    Discount these first appearances as the opening act – they are likely seeking dependence.

    Measure people’s overwhelming need for control.

    Look deep to understand people’s ultimate quest – they may do anything to obtain it.

    Be bold to aggressive people – they are counting on your fear to fight them or your habitual surrender.

    Maintaining your dignity and self-worth is more important to your long-term well-being.

    7 – Decode envy.

    Notice people’s reluctance to praise your successes or qualities.

    Recognize the praise with a poisonous putdown.

    Be aware of criticism without a basis, but makes you feel guilty.

    8 – Plan an exit strategy.

    Plan for disagreement in advance – always have an escape ready and available.

    Create a document that outlines how the partnership ends.

    Know how to end things on an ambivalent note.

    Keep yourself balanced during a conflict – bring closure by finishing it well.

    Plan not just to the end but past it, to the aftermath.

    Experiment With This

    • Write down the values and character traits of your ideal partner. It’s unlikely that you will find someone that fits this perfectly, but it will help you determine what are non-negotiables.
    • Study your current relationship to confirm behaviors in yourself or your partner that requires a change to improve the health of your relationship. Is your partner who you think they are? What changes do you need to make to improve your relationship?
    • Relationships can have a way of evolving over time with subtle changes that compound over time. Have you fallen into a mentally abusive or narcissistic relationship without realizing it and its impact on your well-being?


    The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene

    • Chapter 2 – The Law of Narcissism
    • Chapter 3 – The Law of Role-playing
    • Chapter 4 – The Law of Compulsive Behavior
    • Chapter 9 – The Law of Repression
    • Chapter 10 – The Law of Envy
    • Chapter 16 – The Law of Aggression

    The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene (Chapter 22 – Know How To End Things: The Exit Strategy)

    The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene (Part II – Choose the Right Victim)

    Warren Buffett, Melinda Gates and Sheryl Sandberg agree: This is the most important decision you’ll ever make