I recently had a masterclass on one of my failed investments – a personal relationship with a family member. As a woman, I would say I’m a natural at investing in relationships – it’s who I am. Some build on themselves (parents), some you put in a lot of effort because they are too big to fail (children), and some you nurture throughout (or through phases of) your life (friends, colleagues, extended family).
And really, building a relationship is just like making a venture capital investment. Or maybe like investing in stocks. Some you may inherit – like parents, but mostly you get to pick your own – childhood friends, favourite colleagues and the like. Sometimes (I’m an Indian woman) a spouse. And with every person you want to get to know, you invest in nurturing some semblance of a relationship. Though science talks about the many benefits of personal relationships – alleviating depression, sense of belonging, stronger hearts and whatever else – I feel that most people don’t recognize the one thing that makes it your biggest reward for having invested in it.
Some relationships one tends to take for granted. Parents, for example. My father used to say that one can never divorce their parents after all. But other than that (and for some people, even that), most of us build and work at our relationships for thirty to forty years before we see the real fruits of our labour. The one big crisis that threatens to blow our lives apart, and the people that stand by our side, helping us weather the storm. All of us are aware at some level that, even though we have a complex network of personal relationships, very few of them survive the test of time. And the ones that come through at a moment of crisis are even less. And those, my friends, are the ones that any VC would call a 10-bagger. While all the daily benefits of nurturing relationships are like regular dividends from well chosen stocks, the true friendships, the family that surround you and protect you when things fall apart, are the true jackpot.
You may not realize it at the time, but sometimes people work on these for years. It could be the goodwill your parents built over a lifetime, or the shadow effect of your spouse’s excellent relationship-building skills. Call it the power of compound interest, but the thing is, one never recognizes the significance of the role these relationships play until it is time.
Do relationships never fail? Duh. Of course they do. Most of them. Almost all of them, in fact, if you look at the sheer numbers, and depending on your criteria for labelling a relationship as a failure. So do most venture capital investments, as any VC would tell you. The truth is that, with full awareness of this fact, they go ahead and invest in many ventures, in the hope that few would break even and one would be a 10X. That’s an investment that makes ten times its money, and makes the whole thing worthwhile, including the failed ones.
For most of us – the lucky ones anyway – this is usually one relationship. One person we can count on, which is usually more than some people have. And as for the ones that have the good fortune of having two or more such people in their lives – please don’t reveal it, you might jinx it 🙂