In my last year at university, I was madly in love with a beautiful girl named Miranda, had a passionate relationship with her for about a year, and was devastated when she left me for someone else while I was away traveling after my final semester. In other words, distance had apparently become an issue in our relationship.

Distraught, I curtailed my travels and went home to my Mum for some comfort. Mum tried her best to make me feel better, but, as you’ll probably know from your own experience, hearing that “Time Heals” doesn’t really help when you have a broken heart. She did, however, help me to realize that maybe Miranda wasn’t the One & Only True Love that I’d imagined her to be, and the evidence of that was simply that we were no longer in relationship. Miranda had left it. The distance had apparently killed the love.

But my Mum gently and carefully let me know that this outcome wasn’t – and isn’t – an inevitability. Mum had grown up during the war, and told me that whilst she’d seen some women have affairs while their husbands were away, she’d seen many, many others wait faithfully for their husbands to return and had maintained the relationship, over great time and distance, and in conditions of huge difficulty and anxiety. Some husbands, of course, never made it home, and again, while many widows remarried, some chose not to. “Some people can wait all their lives,” she said. Even death, the ultimate separator, had not ended these particular relationships.

Perhaps if we can increase our capacity in business for generating vital, robust, and resilient relationships, we do not need to focus so much on the challenges of geography, cultural conditioning, time zones and imperfect technology, far less our always-flawed organizational structures or designs. All these conditions seem to get in the way. But maybe we can create effective relationships that can get work done despite the distance. Maybe distance is a problem when we let it be.

If we are not committed to creating something magnificent, and if we don’t see our relationships with others as the channel and means for co-creating it, then we’ll find we have plenty of opportunity to explain to each other, and indeed to any one who will listen, that the distance was the real problem. If we do, we may be letting ourselves, and each other, down – and ultimately giving the lie to the ability human beings have always had for making extraordinary things happen together, whatever the circumstances.

From Making a Living to Creating a Life is available here.