He was a farmer's son and amateur poet who answered an advertisement in a music magazine. His expectations were low when he sent a sheaf of lyrics to an obscure record label in 1967. As destiny would have it, Reg was a frustrated young blues piano player who had just broken up with his band mates. He was auditioning for the same label. The executive was unimpressed with the young piano player's songs, so he tossed Reg a stack of lyrics from the farmer's son and said, "See what you can do with these."
Some people say partnerships are formed by happenstance, luck, or chance. I don't believe in luck; I believe in destiny. Steve Jobs was destined to meet Steve Wozniak through a mutual friend when Jobs was in high school. They came together out of shared values, interests, and passion. Bill Gates met Paul Allen at Lakeside High School in Seattle because the school had one of the first computers in the state. A fifteen-year-old Paul McCartney went to see a skiffle band he had heard about, attended a party with the band after their performance, and ended up auditioning for the band's leader, John Lennon. Sparks flew on E-Street when John Landau heard Bruce Springsteen for the first time at the Bottom Line Club in New York. Kismet! Alone, these men would have struggled along in relative anonymity if not for their partnership as a dynamic duo. In every industry lay examples of 1 + 1 = 10,000! Think of Scorsese and De Niro (and now DiCaprio), Laurel and Hardy, Martin and Lewis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Joe Weider, or Dr. Bob Smith and Bill Wilson.
These unique relationships rarely endure. Most have a beginning, a middle, and an end. John and Paul's professional relationship lasted 11 years. However, certain elements must be in place for them to work. I call them the Six Elements of Synergy.
A Turkish word from the Persian qismat, kismet means a power believed to control future events. It is fortune or fate. In relationships, it's an instant connection of shared values, common interests, and a strong desire to do or make something unique, new, or uncommon. Both parties knew in the first meeting this was the guy they were looking for.
Separate but Equal
From the beginning, a fifty-fifty split in credit, shares, contribution, and time seems to be needed. It's said John Lennon would finish the lyrics of one of Paul's half-written songs. Paul would offer just the right musical bridge to complete one of John's tunes. It was a magical mystery tour from the start.
Jobs was the marketing guy: outgoing, abrasive, manipulative, charismatic, charming, and driven. Woz was shy, unassertive, withdrawn, and brilliant with the technical things Jobs knew nothing about. Like a successful marriage, opposites truly do attract. Knowing the best and highest use of your time and being honest about your weaknesses is vital. The other person completes you.
They genuinely like each other's company. They have mutual respect for the other's gifts, along with a real affinity for the pursuit of cool. Passion and preference can't be faked. Springsteen knew Landau had the influence, knowledge, and experience to take him to the next level. He fired his manager, Mike Appel, once he got to know John. They stayed up all night talking about the future of rock and roll.
It's Too Much Fun
Because it's too much fun, long, hard hours are logged. While still in high school, Gates and Allen spent 10 hours a night in Seattle's U-District working to make a giant mainframe crash for a Fortune 500 company. The work was unpaid, but access to equipment the rest of the world was not even aware of allowed for preparation to meet opportunity. Theirs was a case of 10,000 hours or 10 years, whichever came first. Gates had logged his 10,000 hours by age 23. It felt like play, 14 hours a day.
Nothing Lasts Forever
Most magical collaborations don't last. It's rare they last a decade. Relationships like Keith Richard and Mick Jagger are the exception, not the rule. Ego, pride, greed, spouses, or a desire to go solo conspire to break up dynamic duos.
Reg and his rural poet have been together for over 40 years. They have sold over 250 million records, over two dozen albums, and written hit songs like "Your Song," "Rocket Man," "Daniel," "Crocodile Rock," "Bennie and the Jets," "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues," and "Candle in the Wind."
Yes, Reg Dwight (Elton John) and the farm-bred poet (Bernie Taupin) are polar opposites in every way. Bernie writes fully-formed lyrics and e-mails them to Elton, who proceeds to pound out the music to match the lyrics in less than an hour. Their new album, The Diving Board, is proof that they still have it. Since 1967, when Liberty Records put them together, they have truly become the dynamic duo in music.
Remember what Steve Jobs said: Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something-your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
He also said: If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.
Are you thinking of forming a partnership? Make certain you go into it with your eyes wide open and understand the Six Elements of Synergy. Otherwise, you and your friend will be like "A Candle in the Wind."