Co-Founders & Life Partners – Sharks, Minnows and Lifeguards

February 5, 2014

11:00 am

Public service announcement – I am about to get crazy Emo on your ass.

As the founder of a startup helping businesses do fast and easy conference calls, I am often asked by people how to find a solid co-founder. My standard response is to state that you are going to spend more time with your business partners than your spouse and you need to approach the relationship accordingly.

My response has changed and here’s why.

Recently, someone special in my life introduced me to the “Spiritual Ladder” theory. The essence of the theory is that our spiritual maturity is much like a ladder. People must ascend the rungs from top to bottom. The problem is that some people are happy to remain at lower rungs whereas the more evolved seek to ascend the rungs by constantly evolving, searching, climbing – improving themselves through spirituality, education, and other intellectual quests.

Those at the bottom can’t see the view from the top. Those at the bottom don’t want to do the work of climbing because it’s, well, work. Those at the bottom lack the tools to have deep emotional and spiritual connections. Those at the bottom eventually hurt themselves and their loved ones as they are transfixed in a personal survival state. Much like crabs in a trap they grasp and claw at anything and anyone who may ascend past them.

It occurred to me that the keys to finding a great partner, be it business or personal, are to ensure that you are both on the same rung and / or give a shit about ascending the ladder.

It also occurred to me that people tend to fall into three categories along your ascension of the ladder – sharks, minnows and lifeguards. If you want to get through this crazy life, you’ll need to at least be able to identify the sharks, the minnows and the lifeguards in your personal situation.

I’ll start from the end because fuck, I can.

Lifeguards

The lifeguards are the ones who really matter. These are the people in your life that will show up with a shovel and lime when you’ve “accidentally” killed the neighbor. A lifeguard is a friend who will tell their spouse off for crossing a line with you. A lifeguard is a co-founder that you never have to worry about falling for the old “divide and conquer” tactic. A lifeguard is a partner, a soulmate, who stands with you unconditionally. A lifeguard has your back come hell or high water. No matter what.

Don’t have lifeguards in your life? Then I feel bad for you shun. I got 99 problems but a lack of lifeguards ain’t one.

If you don’t have at least one lifeguard in your life, then you’re doing it wrong and I can’t help you. Lifeguards are earned not bought and paid for. Lifeguards are accrued along life’s journey. Friends from grade school. A chance introduction nearly 10 years ago. Tinder (not really).

Real talk.

Minnows

Oft mistakingly referred to as “haters” the minnows are those passive aggressive sea urchins in your life. I often compare them to broccoli. You definitely don’t like them, and you often find yourself questioning their benefit to your health and well-being. Or is that just me?

Alas, minnows are small, feeble and passive. They travel in packs and whisper heavily amongst themselves rather than roaring at the sharks.

They also possess extremely small genitalia so be wary. Motion of the ocean? I think not.

Minnows hate to see lifeguards ascend their ladder, and they cower in the presence of sharks. Minnows are useful if they are self-aware enough to know they are minnows. Although there seems to be a chemical imbalance in the brain that makes most minnows think of themselves as sharks or lifeguards.

Sharks

Sharks are the easiest of the three to spot and deal with. Personally, I like a good shark. You always see them coming a mile away, you always know that they want to eat your face, and they’re a known entity that’s fairly easy to deal with once you stop shitting your pants at the sight of them.

A shark is anyone who seeks to do you harm in the most in-your-face-get-medieval-on-your-ass-non-passive-all-out-aggressive-manner.

The good news? You can see a shark coming a mile away. The bad news? Don’t let a shark smell blood.

Conclusion

I’m 34 years old and have been working in startups, technology, products and design for nearly 15 years now. I’ve seen some shit. I am obsessive, stubborn, spiritually curious, excessive and driven. I also tend to be introspective to a fault and more self-aware than most.

One of my most significant realizations of late is that a) the rung of the spiritual ladder you and the other person is on matters. b) Climbing the ladder versus remaining content on your current rung matters even more. c) If you can’t spot the minnow in the room, then it’s probably you.

Happy swimming, good people, and I’ll catch you on that next rung.

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Danny Boice is the CTO of Speek – a 500 Startups-funded startup that lets users do conference calls with a simple link (speek.com/YourName) rather than using phone numbers and PINs. A serial startup/technology entrepreneur and executive, Danny started his career as a software engineer working for startups like Network Solutions and MusicMaker.com in the 90′s. You can find Danny on Twitter @DannyBoice.

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