Dating advice literature has a bad reputation, and reasonably so — we live in a world where The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right is a best-seller. The Rules authors pride themselves on offering “a concrete set of do’s and don’ts,” as opposed to “other books and philosophies that preach ‘do whatever you want’ and ‘anything goes.’”
Typing those words just made me quiver with rage. The idea that smart, career-minded women should devote themselves to a series of rules that manipulate (clearly insecure) potential mates into maintaining interest makes me sad, and honestly, has turned me off the whole genre. But Neely Steinberg’s Skin in the Game: Unleashing Your Inner Entrepreneur to Find Love, now available on e-book, is one of the few women-oriented books covering dating and relationships that doesn’t offend me. Steinberg’s premise is essentially this: Treat your love life as you would a start-up. You, as an entrepreneur, are responsible for investing in your dream love life. You imagine it. You create it. You own it. Steinberg doesn’t offer rules, or do’s and don’ts — rather, she provides strategies for being more mindful of who you are and want you want, as well as lots of emphasis on self-love, a concept typically absent from the genre.
What’s helpful about this book is that it routinely encourages self-reflection. This is huge. Steinberg demands you to sit with your thoughts, no matter how uncomfortable, and reflect on your unhealthy (and healthy) patterns and habits. So whatever your ultimate love agenda may be, even if you don’t have one, the book’s exercises are highly valuable.
“Being entrepreneurial in your dating life is all about experimenting, flexibility, being open to new ideas, resilience, creating your own opportunities, and self-knowledge, among other things,” Steinberg tells Bustle. “It takes time, effort, commitment, and investment.”
If your agenda is to take control of your love life like an entrepreneur, here are the book’s top takeaways.
1. SHUT IT DOWN
You want to be pro-active about your love life, right? OK, first step: shut down the part of you that says, “I can’t do this,” or, “I’m going to die alone, why bother?” This type of thinking will sabotage any venture, whether it’s a start-up or a potential romance. “That voice has the power to become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Steinberg writes. “Which is why you need to silence it starting today.”
2. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
To achieve anything, you MUST have the desire. Figure out exactly what you’re looking for in your love life — this demands serious self-reflection. Take notes. Talk to your friends. Ask questions. You owe it to yourself to own your desires and to act on them. No settling allowed.
3. RECRUIT ADVISORS
Steinberg recommends rounding up a “board of advisors,” which can include friends (and professionals, like a therapist or dating coach), to guide you on your dating venture. “Why should someone seeking, arguably, the most important thing in the world — love — be alone on this journey?” If you’re uncomfortable asking people to be a part of your personal dating-advice posse, as I certainly would be, make sure to recruit even just one friend who can support you and who tolerates listening to your trials and tribulations. Remember: it’s almost impossible to be objective about our own selves. This is why it’s crucial to have a human sounding board that isn’t you.
4. ACT YOUR WAY INTO THINKING
Start acting. Physically going on dates (and meeting assholes aplenty) is what’s going to help you develop a clearer sense of what you want — and what you definitely don’t want. You’re going to fail a lot, but that’s OK — failing builds knowledge. Steinberg quotes entrepreneur Sam Hogg’s article in the October 2013 of Entrepreneur: “Too many people spend far too long thinking and planning when they should be doing. I say, just start…If you spend too long analyzing how difficult it’s going to be to launch your business, you will likely learn that, yep, it’s too hard to even start.”
5. (BUT DON’T STOP THINKING)
Self-Awareness is key, here, and that requires regular reflection. Make sure you’re able to answer the following two questions with serious thought: Who am I? What do I know? Having clear answers to these seemingly obvious questions will help you stop wasting time and energy on men or women who don’t matter. “You’ll have less tolerance for men who aren’t consistently treating you in ways that match up with values that are important to you,” Steinberg writes. Pay attention to your love life! And date like the smart woman that you are.
6. LOVE YOURSELF. A LOT.
Steinberg encourages readers to create an elevator pitch for their “personal brands.” She asks you to take a moment to articulate all of your awesome qualities. So: Know your strengths. Love your strengths. Do not wait for someone else to decide you are worthy of love. First and foremost, YOU must believe in your “brand.” The entrepreneur terminology might make you cringe, but the underlying principle is spot on: recognize your worth, and demand that others recognize it, too.
7. FAIL SMARTER
Entrepreneurs take big risks, as do daters. Failure happens. The question, then, is: How do I fail smarter? Identify the risks you’re comfortable taking, and then identify possible losses. To embrace failure, you have to understand it. “If you can learn to turn the concept of failure on its head, to de-educate yourself from what you’ve been taught about failure, you can learn how to pivot and adapt in the face of wrong turns and setbacks” Steinberg writes. “If you learn how to intelligently de-risk your risks so that you can take smarter, healther, more informed, more productive risks, you will put yourself in an excellent position to achieve your vision in away that doesn’t make you feel drained, demoralized, and damaged.”