I live in Boulder, Colorado, which means any given day I’m having an adventure somewhere in this fine state. Trail running, skiing, rock climbing, cycling, fly fishing, kayaking or about 50 other activities can take place almost any day of the year.
There is a joke about the level of fun you are having while participating in these: Level 1 fun is fun while you are doing the activity, and you enjoy remembering it. It might be comparable to going for a nice hike with friends.
Level 2 fun isn’t fun while you are doing it, but you have fun reminiscing about it. Level 2 fun might be that same hike but during a hailstorm.
Level 3 isn’t fun at any point during the activity. You don’t have fun remembering it, either. Level 3 is getting struck by a freak snowstorm while wearing a t-shirt, locking yourself out of your car, forcing yourself to walk 10 miles to find a payphone, and having to beg for a quarter to operate it.
After hundreds of adventures, I’ve realized that I have consistent Level 2 fun with a select group of people: my best friends. I know that if I’m in a dangerous situation, I can trust them to help me get through it. I have a lot of casual friends that I go on Level 1 adventures with and people I don’t like hanging out with that I’ve been on Level 3 trips with.
Long story short? I trust the Level 2 adventure friends the most to both have a good time and get me out of my comfort zone. I’d say yes to about any request they put in front of me (social and work included). We have been through some dangerous situations and come out as better friends.
Startups are hopefully Level 2 fun. You are up against all odds, and there isn’t much glory, even when there is a good day. You are running through the snow with a smile on your face.
Your cofounders should be the type of people who can go through this storm with you and look back thinking, “That was fun.” This goes for if you have a big exit, change the world or fall flat on your face. It’s the spirit of the game. And the spirit of the startup is the same — it’s a series of relationships and actions that lead toward a common goal.
So how do you set yourself up to have some Level 2 fun?
First, lead with trust. And do you trust those you are working with? Incorporating a company and clipping into a rope with someone is the same thing. Confidence in each other’s abilities and collaboration are key.
Do you share the same vision and priorities? Do you both want to change the world or go on the same distance trail run? Look beyond yourselves and discuss the long view.
Are you willing to pull each other? At different times in the trip, all parties are going to have different emotional, physical and motivational needs. Are you prepared to help — and are you willing to be helped — through the journey? You must be flexible enough to learn and adapt together.
How do you react to fear? Can you face it, or do you run from it? As a team, would you react to the unknown with stress? You have to experience fear to test how you will respond, especially in groups.
As a final thought: I don’t think I’d ever say no to a trip — Level 1, 2 or 3 — if I trusted the people involved. The act of going is living.