Original Thought · Teamwork · Uncertainty


What does it take to make a successful partnership? According to Chuck Marohn in his post on Strong Towns this morning there are four elements. 1. LIMITED AND QUANTIFIABLE RISK 2. MUTUAL SKIN IN THE GAME 3. A REALISTIC CHANCE FOR A POSITIVE RETURN 4. A PROPORTIONATE SHARE IN THE GAIN

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Chuck is referencing public-private partnerships that make our communities stronger. If you have an interest in the public domain, the post is well written and interesting. I am going to approach the four elements of a personal relationship/partnership lens. I am often asked how my beloved and I had managed 42 years together when we were really just kids when we got started. I often say ” to live happily ever after; you need to work hard every day on being in a respectful, reciprocal relationship.” Some days, it is my job to make her smile, and other days she forgives me when I make her frown. We share the best and the worst of our days with each other and I am learning that most of the time, I just need to listen and hear her. Over the years, we have worked out a rhythm for the daily, weekly and annual tasks that need to be accomplished. We share the load unequally on lots of days, but over the course of time, we achieve balance. So what would Marohn’s elements look like in a personal partnership? 1. Limited and quantifiable risks – In every relationship there are risks. If everything is certain and assured, it is probably failing. Communication helps mitigate risks. What is at stake if an agreement misses its mark because I misunderstood, misheard, or misrepresented my understanding, interest, and willingness? Can my partnership withstand multiple risks at the same time? If I promise to spend more time at home but stay at the office late into the evening four days a week, what are the odds that this will be the straw? Is there an easy to use way to ‘calculate’ the liability and risks. According to Bayes Rule, if I am deciding whether to head home at 5 or stop for drinks with some friends I should ask ” Will J be upset?” If I was going to bet that she would be miffed or angry would I wager $1.00 or $100? My intuition would tell me to place a big bet so I should head home and have a drink with her. If we are considering a major decision that has been discussed and debated, we should be able to use Bayes Rule to improve the odds of success and happiness.

Mutual skin in the game – “A true partnership never allows a situation of heads-I-win-tails-you-lose.” I seem to discover one of these easy to say harder to do quotes every day. At its most basic level, I need to elevate my partner’s needs and desires to the same level as mine. To do that I need to investigate what those needs and desires are. Asking awkward questions and listening to uncomfortable disclosure sets the tone for discovery and in the discovery is a possibility that we can both have our needs met, PS – I hate the concept of compromise because I have only seen it presented as a lowest common denominator. If we can work harder and be more transparent, we can find an as yet unimagined solution that serves both parties fully. Skin looks like honesty, communication, and reciprocity. Both parties need to do their share and graciously recognize the efforts and contributions of the other. Partnerships where one constantly serves and one constantly receives are doomed.

A realistic chance of a positive return – According to Statistics Canada, about 38 percent of all marriages taking place in 2004 will have ended in divorce by 2035. I admit that staying married may not be the realistic chance that some are considering and it may, in fact, be a pretty low bar. I naively believe that all partnerships have a realistic chance at the onset and the chance improves as effort, adaptation, and understanding increase.

A proportionate share of the gain – Gain isn’t necessarily financial or anything as easily measured. I believe, and research supports, that we both are and will live better and longer in our strong commitment to each other and in the ways that we make our coexistence work. Gain might be that one of us shovels walks and does laundry or arranges the social calendar and keeps up to date with friends and family. I can gain time to do stuff I love doing when I don’t need to do ironing, painting or home repairs. I need to make sure that my benefit doesn’t exceed the other person’s by too much or that I am feeling used and resentful about doing more than my share. Whether an intimate relationship, friendship or a more formal partnership, both parties need to understand the scope and accountabilities. We need to be open about concerns and listen to anxiety and unease of partners.
Partnerships certainly aren’t easy, and these four elements won’t maintain or repair every situation, but if you begin with caring and communication, you are likely on solid ground.

Make Today Remarkable for a partner,


Original Thought · Self Improvement

The Cutting Edge of Prosperity

Prosperity is a double edged sword when it is dispersed inequitably. Prosperity as defined by Dictionary.com relates to a successful, flourishing, or thriving condition, especially in financial respects; good fortune. From the Middle English prosperite < Old French < Latin prosperitās. Inequity by its impact reduces the ability to thrive for some/many. Where I live, in one of the most prosperous jurisdictions in North America, more than 10 % of the population (about 130,000 people) live below our national Low Income Cut Off (LICO). While LICO is a better measure of wealth distribution than poverty it does serve as a range proxy. For the 130,000 the impact of inequity is poverty, social exclusion and an eroding hope. Not having enough to meet your expenses limits any consideration of flourishing. The good fortune of a prosperous condition is bound in opportunity and as margin to make decisions diminishes so does the opportunity.

For the past 60 years we have been attempting to ‘level the playing field’ using the principles of universality, equality and privacy but what if those are now barriers rather than solutions? What if we need to disregard the sacred 3 in favor of equity; the quality of being fair or impartial and ensuring that everyone is getting what they need rather than what everyone is getting. Some might receive a bit more (of whatever resource we are discussing) and others might only need a tiny amount to get over the hurdle and on their way. In the universal and equal allocation of resources waste is created and dis-empowerment happens. If a virtuous circle of equity is created we can all assume that when or if we are in need that the system will have resources to accommodate. By using assets differently we can begin to empower recipients to take charge and control of their own lives and circumstances rather than becoming beholding to outside authorities.

I have worked on poverty reduction for 15 years and realize that some of what we planned and executed was immediately useful but generally limiting. We had x resources so we divided them by the number of registered recipients and then gave them their share that in almost every case wasn’t enough. If we had courageously chosen to divide the resources differently; equitably some may have gotten double and some nothing. But if that meant that some got over a hurdle and on to a different path that meant they required less or nothing in the future, we may have moved the needle. Rather than poverty reduction maybe I should have been working on prosperity creation.

In an imperfect world, we do the best that we can today and if we are sincere we evaluate and acknowledge our shortcomings and adapt.

Make Today Remarkable, by practicing equity and adapting,



Balancing the Books

Where I live, we just had the government present a budget with a $10Biliion deficit and a forecast that we won’t be back to balancing the accounts until 2024. I have been thinking about the ramifications and reasoning of the document (runs more than 300 pages) and considering the absurdity of trying to reconcile dollar$ and meaning every 12 months.


My 60+ years have been a roller coaster of credit and debit. I get close to being in a positive position when my actions bring positive value to  myself, my family  and my community. When I am greedy, self-centered and uncaring I draw down on the balance. If I was keeping record of the meaning of my life,in a 12 month window,  there would have been years that were so depressing as to completely depress any hope. If a calendar is the way to balance the books then I am a mess.

There are critics of the deficit the budget proposes but I recall 20 years ago when we were in similar economic crisis, we slashed and burned and literally blew up hospitals so expenses matched revenue.Single moms, people with mental illness or developmental delays, elderly, children and those living in poverty carried the burden of short sighted thinking and single minded focus of dollar$.

I am fortunate that I get to take the long view of my life; measuring by debits and credits and contributions and withdrawls over 80 years. At my last breath, I hope to have had a positive impact in my little corner of the world.

I am therefore looking at the fiscal plan over 30 years 1994-2024 and feeling like this phase is necessary so that we can all benefit from prosperity and all contribute to recovery.

Make Today Remarkable, by taking a long view,