Skip to content
Home » The Art of Collaboration » How To Have A Collaborative Mindset

How To Have A Collaborative Mindset

A collaborative mindset is also an investment mindset, and it has four essential components. 

#1: Understand the difference between a reward and a return. 

Imagine investing in a small start-up that explodes in popularity, yielding returns far beyond your initial financial input. Unlike a regular paycheck, this return isn’t tied to hours worked but to success in the investment itself.

Most people are raised with an employee mindset, where they’re expected to be rewarded in proportion to the amount of work they’ve done, in the form of money or benefits. More work, more reward. And the more experience you have, the bigger the reward for the same amount of work.

But investors aren’t trading money for effort. They are investing resources in a project hoping that the revenue will generate value many times over their initial investment. But a return isn’t guaranteed, proportional to what you’ve put in, nor is it determined by your level of experience, or how hard you’ve worked in the past. 

The success of any given project and the return it generates is based on many factors that you have no control over. 

#2: Understand the risk. 

Are you prepared to invest in a project with no guarantee of return? Reflect on your past experiences where taking a risk led to unexpected growth or learning, even if the immediate outcome wasn’t as planned. 

Every project you complete with your collaborator is like another stock added to your portfolio. If you manage your portfolio wisely, over time it will pay dividends.

But it might never yield a big payday — and you could lose it all. Even if you do everything right.

This is true of every investment. If you aren’t willing to lose what you put in, you probably aren’t ready to invest.

Collaboration is the same. It’s unreasonable to expect that every relationship will yield positive results, or that you’ll never face a situation where it feels like you gave everything you had and didn’t get what you hoped for in return. 

#3: Always aim for a win-win. 

Start each project by openly discussing your expectations, desired outcomes, and how you define success. This transparency fosters trust and ensures both parties are aligned toward mutual benefit.

If you always want your partners to do as well if not better than you, then you won’t be driven by ego or greed — the two elements that can obliterate what might otherwise be a brilliant collaboration.

If this isn’t natural for you, then consider a little reframing: think of your partner’s happiness and emotional fulfillment as a measure of your success. This makes it easier to feel good about things, even when they aren’t going as well as you would like for them to. It also nurtures the same mindset in your collaborator, which makes the collaboration run more smoothly.

#4: Recognize that money isn’t the only return. 

That should go without saying, especially after you’ve been collaborating for a while. But in the beginning, it’s easier to lose sight of what actually matters. It could take a while for your collaboration to pay off, and in the meantime, your return might be increased momentum, someone to share risk with, stronger stories that benefit from what your collaborator brings to the draft, or even someone who makes you feel more hopeful when things get hard.

Most of the books I wrote with Johnny didn’t make a lot of money, but holy shit squared on how much those stories helped me to evolve as a storyteller. Yes, some of them will eventually become movies or TV shows, but that is by no means a guarantee, and even if none of that was to ever happen, the reward of our collaboration is already earned. 

Growth is the number one thing we look for in any collaboration or investment. Your most valuable asset isn’t any one project or any one collaborator — it’s your ability to create and to work with other people. You’ll have successes and failures, but no one can take that ability away from you. 

At the heart of every collaboration is the opportunity for personal and professional growth. Embracing this mindset transforms every partnership into a journey of discovery, where the true value lies not just in the outcome, but in the shared experience of creating something meaningful together. 

See you next Wednesday!