In 1986, a second-year NBA player named Michael Jeffrey Jordan scored 63 points for the Chicago Bulls in Game 2 of their playoff series against the Boston Celtics. The remarkable performance still stands as a league playoff record. At the end of the 2nd overtime period, the scoreboard read 135-131…in favor of the Celtics. Two games later, the Bulls were eliminated from the playoffs. In 1987, the Bulls once again met the Celtics in the playoffs and realized the same fate. They were swept 3-0 in a best of five series.

By 1988, Jordan had established himself as the game’s most dominant player. Yet, the Detroit Pistons knocked the team out of the playoffs in three consecutive years. In 1991, under the guidance of third-year coach Phil Jackson, Jordan and his teammates led the Bulls to their first of three straight NBA titles. Moral of the story: No matter how talented someone might be, it is impossible for any single person to outperform a finely tuned, highly focused group of individuals committed to achieving a unified goal.

Janet Bray Attwood, co-author of The Passion Test, understands the power of assembling like-minded people for the attainment of a singular purpose. Over the years, she’s developed powerful, close relationships with many of the world’s most influential people. However, there is a significant difference between establishing joint ventures and nurturing alliances. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Joint Ventures

Far too frequently, Internet marketers view business relationships as limited-scope joint ventures. Often, product A is promoted by company B and a joint venture is formed for immediate, mutual benefit. After the promotion, each moves in a divergent direction and, likely, do not work together again. This approach is shortsighted at best and results in tremendous effort being limited to a one-time gain.

As an analogy, consider residential real estate developers. There are typically two types: apartment investors and condominium developers. Tremendous work is allocated for the creation of both for rent, and for sale, units. The condominium developer seeks an immediate return. The apartment investor seeks long-term dividends. Both have nails hammered into walls. The condo developer is paid once for the nail when the unit is sold. An apartment investor is paid for the nail over and over as they receive monthly rent for decades. Joint ventures can be thought of as condominiums, and alliances as apartments. Joint ventures represent the antithesis of forging long-term alliances that create high-value interpersonal relationships.


Alliances are inherently cyclical in nature and each party seeks to provide benefit to the other. Therefore, as one party succeeds, both are rewarded. Janet chooses to conduct business only with those she feels so much resonance with she considers them to be friends as well as business partners. Developing and maintaining strong alliances requires understanding the art and science behind the magic.

The first step is to know yourself. Grant yourself time and permission to understand who you are. Devote focused, quiet time to identifying your WHAT—that is, the one thing you were born to do. In order to form powerful alliances, you must know who you are. The reason is simple: an alliance is predicated upon providing value to others. If you’re unclear about what you have to offer, providing meaningful value will be met with consistent incongruities. The successful know exactly who they are and how they can best serve the world.

Before seeking to form alliances, understand who are the most likely beneficiaries of your knowledge and identify partners who can provide access to those who fit your desired profile. Ideally, the more you choose to live like a sniper and takes aim for the center of the bull’s eye, the more success you’ll realize. The successful focus on forging alliances with perfect partners and bring tangible value to the relationship. Like marriage, creating long-term mutually beneficial alliances takes work—a lot of work. The time and effort required for this to happen represents the single biggest difference between a joint venture and an alliance.

Serve Before Being Served

The successful first seek to understand and then be understood. This is the polar opposite of how most choose to operate. A core strategy for serving first is to gather ample information to assess how immediate benefit can be provided to one’s partner. Janet describes this process as identifying your partner’s “critical need.” What’s most interesting about providing service first is that, often, as you help others solve their most pressing issue you concurrently solve your own critical need. By helping first, you’ll likely discover you don’t have to ask others for assistance. If you provide significant value, their natural inclination is to reciprocate.

Life, like business, is all about give and take. When it comes to alliances, give and ye shall receive. Take and you’ll only get taken.