Thought Starters

Flowers & Gardeners: How to Nurture Your Career with Personal Relationships

Whether you’re growing a startup or beginning a side hustle, we all lean on others to support us as we bloom. Over the coming months, Bicycle for the Mind will be exploring the roles that personal relationships play in the lives of makers and creators. This is Part 1 in our three-part series on Flowers & Gardeners.

Advice for when it’s your time to bloom

Maybe you’ve heard it — the theory that, in a successful relationship, there is a gardener, the one who does the nurturing, and a flower, the one who does the blooming.

It’s a pretty black-and-white breakdown; it naturally runs the risk of being overly simplistic. Relationships are complicated, after all, and the people in them, along with their roles and circumstances, are always changing.

Still, the flower-gardener theory has the ring of truth for some of us, including Melissa Kjolsing Lynch, co-founder of a recently launched startup. Melissa says she is the flower in her marriage right now. She also says that, as such, she’s learned a few things about keeping her relationship healthy. 

1. Think before you share

In January 2017, Melissa co-founded Recovree, a company that develops software to help those with substance-use disorders recover through improved connections to their peer-support specialists. It was a passion-filled career move for Melissa; the business is very near and dear to her heart.

Her husband’s support of her effort, she says, has been critical. “He sets up the environment for me to be successful,” Melissa says, acknowledging that her husband, in typical gardener style, ensures that their basic needs (and those of their pets) are handled.

But because Melissa’s husband is invested in her success, he in turn takes her setbacks seriously, much like an investor or board member might. “It can be difficult for him when I talk about challenges” she says, noting that when she voices her concerns about her business, he becomes concerned about it too.

As a result, Melissa has learned to think before she shares every challenge. “I try to share enough so that he understands what’s going on,” she says, “but not so much that it makes him feel stressed out.”

2. Find other flowers

Though Melissa relies on and is grateful for her husband’s support, she knows it’s not enough; a single gardener, she says, cannot possibly give a flower everything it requires.

“No one person can meet all your needs,” Melissa says. “If you think they can, you’re setting yourself up for failure. I’m a big believer in that. It is not my partner’s job to provide everything I need for my startup.”

Because Melissa knows she needs more support than her gardener can give, she actively seeks out the support of other makers and founders—other flowers you might say—who can relate to where she is at and support her via shared experiences. “I’ve become really intentional about these relationships,” Melissa says of her connections to other flowers, “and building them is on me.”

3. Expect imbalances, but adjust quickly

That Melissa believes in the power of relationships is no surprise; she’s built a company on the premise that relationships can drive substance abuse recovery. So when she falls out of sync with her husband—her gardener—she feels it. And, she says, it’s a feeling that comes with some frequency.

“It’s a constant pendulum,” Melissa says, “making time for my partner, making time for the other people that I’m trying to give to and get from professionally. I’m often in one extreme or the other.”

What does Melissa do with these imbalances? The only thing she can do, she says, is to adjust. “If I get home late, and I see he is feeling he didn’t get enough time, my focus shifts,” she says. “The next day, I’m saying to myself, ‘Okay, how do I adjust this course?’ and then I make time to make it right.”