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The Power of Partnership

Power of Partnership

James Joyce called it an epiphany, that moment, known to all of us, when life or some form of intuition seems to spark a new idea or creative endeavor.

Mine began as a spark and consumed me for the better part of last year– just when I was ready to take a sabbatical from writing.

“Let’s take a year off and concentrate on growing Visionary Women nonprofit,” I told myself.  I certainly have spent a good deal of time with my fellow co-founders in creating a dynamic women’s leadership platform in Los Angeles, and I am happy to announce that the hard work has paid off.

But just a few months into my sabbatical, I jumped right in and started reading the biographies of important change makers.  And then, out of nowhere, it struck me!  So many of the women I have written about have had fathers or men as their mentors, allies, and partners.

Sandra Day O’Connor, Shirin Neshat, Malala Yousafzai, Marina Abramovic, Amelia Earhart, Miuccia Prada, and Marie Curie are but a few women in my previous book, Visionary Women, who had a male figure or partner steadfastly supporting their work and advocacy.

And this flash of an idea was the catalyst for my year-long research and exploration on the dynamics of male-female partnerships.

It is uncanny, how this topic has captured our attention in the past few months. Men and women in every part of the world are struggling to come to terms with the global epidemic of sexual violence and the opportunities and challenges of gender dynamics.

The current state of affairs only creates a much-needed sense of urgency to discuss the ways in which men can become (and many are indeed) our potential allies and supporters in women’s growth.

Considering this momentum, I find it most interesting to step back and take a closer look at the dynamics of some of the world’s most important male-female partnerships.

How have partnerships changed through time? What are the varying dynamics of some of the world’s most important partnerships? What happens when the female partner has been the focus of attention or vice versa? And, most importantly what makes for a gratifying and productive partnership? Some of my case studies will be husband and wife teams, while others will be partners in work only.

Above all, one quality seems to stand out more than any other—partnerships are energized by a shared purpose and a desire for collective success. And when partners bring out the best qualities in the other and complement each other’s strengths, the output and creativity is exponential.

As Rei Kawakubo, the revolutionary founder of Commes de Garcon, once said in a Wall Street Journal interview, ”Collaborations have no meaning if 1 + 1 does not equal much more than 2.”

Just recently, while I was going through the vast TED TALKS library, I came across a fabulous duo— Conservationists and National Geographic Explorers in Residence, Beverly and Dereck Joubert. You will find their collaboration to be simply exhilarating and inspiring!

[To view this TED TALK, click here.]

For nearly three decades, the pair has celebrated nature and wildlife in documentaries, books, scientific journals, photographs and magazine articles. The couple’s arresting visual work has earned them five Emmys

Their life’s work validates the famous saying: “If you want to go fast, work alone. But if you want to go far, work with others.”

So, here I go! I will start the new year with writing my new book on partnerships!

Strong Women of the Week

For those of you who follow my blogs, you know that I had been in NY for another book event last week. It really is one of my favorite things to do—to connect with my readers and create a dialogue about topics that have meaning to me.  I was lucky enough to plan some meetings with some exceptional women during my stay in NY.  Pat Mitchell, who is a pioneering woman in every sense, (she was the first woman to become president of PBS and she also organizes TED Women Conferences) extended an invitation for a lunch and an interview at the Payley Center. I had the distinct pleasure of watching Pat interview Nancy Pelosi. Who would have ever thought that a mother of 5 kids decides to run for office in her 40’s and later become the first female speaker of the house? Her story was really inspirational!  I did also get a chance to chat with Pat and talk about the many projects that I am working on in the coming year.

Dina Powell, the director of Global Corporate Engagement for the Goldman Sachs Group, is another dynamic woman that met with.  First of all, when you meet her, you think she should be on the cover of some magazine! She is absolutely stunning and at the same time brilliant. What a combination. Dina leaders the 10,000 women program at Goldman Sachs which helps women start up their dream business all around the globe.  As a matter of fact Dina had just come back from a trip to Delhi and was energized by all that was happening in women’s start-ups.

I guess you can see that the theme of the week was about strong women. And to cap it off, I made sure I visited Cindy Sherman’s exhibition at the MOMA, which is a must see! For years I have been following Cindy’s work, but I have to admit, I didn’t get some of her photographs. It was only last week, when you see decades of her work, side by side, that you truly grasp the evolution of this gifted artist. And speaking of gifted artists, I paid a visit to the new studio of Shirin Neshat and Shoja Azari.  Shirin is indeed a good friend of Cindy’s and I am proud that we have such a prolific artist representing Iranian Women today.  Shirin was excited about her upcoming project with Natalie Portman and LVMH for Dior. Her idea for the short film is provocative and insightful. Can’t wait to see it!

With all that was happening all around me, my heart was with a dear friend in Los Angeles.  Desiree Kohan was a dear friend of mine who had been struggling to stay alive in the face of stage IV cancer for the past seven years. I knew she was not doing well, and I made frequent calls to LA to check in with her.  I came back to LA on Wednesday evening, and Thursday morning I was at her side.  It pains me to think that such a vibrant and wonderful human being is no longer with us.  I hold her deep in my heart for her courage, her relentless grace, and for the light of her soul.  These past few days have not been easy to say the least and this Sunday I will speak at her memorial. I am holding her memory close to my heart as she was a spectacular woman.

Whirlwind New York City Tour

It all started with a red eye flight to NY. “You must be out of your mind to start our such a busy week of book promotion with a red eye flight,” everyone warned me.  But for someone like m, who needs very little sleep and is always scrambling for more time, the red eye flight was the answer! No bloodshot eyes or energy drinks for me…I was ready to go!  Part of the excitement comes from not knowing how the week unfolds and but a big part of it is connecting with all of the wonderful people I had planned to see.

Diving right in, Monday was an important day. I met with my publishers at their big office in the city — Assouline — to sign three-hundred books in preparation for the two big upcoming events.

I remember a few years back, before my first book was even an idea, going into Rizzoli’s and looking at all the beautiful books on display. I started to think back then how great it would be if I could one day write a book that would be sold in such a special place. Now here I am on my second book tour for “Pioneers of the Possible”, signing many books, prepping for parties, and am able to walk by Rizzoli’s see my own book in the window. It is such moments so personal that nobody sees that have such significance for me. These are the moments that make my heart full and remind me that anything is possible. The power of our dreams and of dedication is the magic that makes all the difference.

Tuesday, March 6th in the evening there was a packed book signing event at theLeila Heller Gallery followed up by a special dinner at the Americano. The very talented Shirin Neshat, photographer and filmmaker, was there as were many wonderful friends and some new faces.

Photo Courtesy: [Tory Burch, Jacqueline Novogratz, Dawn Ostroff, Angella Nazarian, Melissa Berkelhammer via BFA]

Wednesday was another huge day for me. That evening ( March 7th) Tory Burch & Dawn Ostroff co-hosted a glamorous Book Launch Party at Tory Burch’s Flagship store on Madison Avenue. What a delight for the senses! And what a turnout—250 people in attendance. One of the greatest gifts was that Jacqueline Novogratz, who is featured in the book, came and spoke. She is literally changing the face of philanthropy with her Acumen Fund. Featured on the Forbes cover in December 2011, she has created a new model for philanthropy, which combines venture capitalism in industries that support sustainable life in third world nations. For example, brining in clean water to a community, and electricity, etc.  It was nothing short of a magical event with some of the most inspirational people that work in media, philanthropy and women’s organizations all there in one room with the same heart beat — to make a difference in the world.

Thursday, March 8th, marked the eve of International Day of the Women. Tina Brown’s Women of the World Summit was in New York and drew in pioneering women from all around the world to speak. Among them, Meryl Streep, Hillary Clinton, Sheryl Sandberg, Diane Von Furstenberg, Leymah Gbowee, and Christine Lagarde.

Hillary happened to speak on the importance of women to living fearlessly. This, yet another common thread weaved through the lives of inspiring women who have changed the world.

I left New York full of inspiration. There were so many precious moments and seeds planted  that I know will tie into the greater message of my life… “We really can all pioneers, visionaries and accomplish great things in our own lives”…. But the first step is courage—developing that fearlessness inside of us!

Seven of my dearest friends came on this trip to support me and to celebrate the launch of my new book, which was so kind,  and I have to give them a public thank you for being what Arianna Huffington refers to as “my fearless tribe”. This is a group of women who all support one another in pursuit of our dreams, and are always there to celebrate one another’s achievements. Thank you my dear friends — you know who you are!

Reception for Shirin Neshat’s film– Women Without Men

It goes without saying that I am a major Shirin Neshat fan. What I admire about her is that her art is constantly evolving and her works has broken through the cultural specific genre of Iranian Art has garnered international appeal. Just imagine how excited I was when I could include some of Shirin’s hauntingly images in my book, Life as a Visitor.

My husband, David and I had a reception at our home to celebrate her and Shoja Azai’s most recent collaboration and creation—the feature film that earned them a Silver Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival—Women without Men.

It was wonderful evening. Friends, artists, and art patrons all gathered at our home in support of the film.  Laughter, discussion, and friendly banter could be heard everywhere.

Here are a couple of pictures of the evening.