I spend a lot of time evaluating people. I’d say it’s perhaps the most important part of building a business: identify the job to be done, set expectations, find someone you can trust to get it done, and then give them the support they need. It’s hard work and requires both curiosity and brutal honesty, but it’s also extremely rewarding and interesting. I’ve always been curious about other people. What makes someone get up in the morning? What drives them?

I believe smart people who are prepared to work hard will always be able to make a living in a peaceful democracy. And for most people, that’s enough. A job, a family, and the joy of everyday things. I respect that, and I understand that. Some, however, for some reason, need more. I really don’t think such people are inherently better or happier, but they are typically higher-performing employees.

The highest performing people I’ve come across are driven by something like: “proving myself”, “winning”, “helping others”, “being the best”, “a calling”, “the joy of learning”, or “problem-solving”. For a while, it can be “making money”, but that quickly fades when you have enough to live comfortably.

Lower-performing people tend to be driven by fear. Fear of being wrong, fear of failure, fear of disappointment, fear of not being good enough. They do not “scale” since they will be unable to rally people around them. People do not trust a leader who is scared. They also will not trust someone who is reckless, so find a balance. My point is that there is a fine line between motivation, fear, and recklessness, but there is an important difference. And you know it when you see people in action if they are driven by fear, joyful determination or if they are just gambling.

When you push someone, their motivation will be revealed in my experience. Put someone in a high-pressure situation and ask them to choose, and you will learn a lot about their motivation. When reading about people that build huge companies, or become prominent politicians, I sense they are all people who never say “this is good enough, I don’t need more” or “no, it’s not worth more effort”. Sustained determination and grit a rare thing because it usually does not make sense. Working really hard when you are already financially comfortable or successful in your field does not make sense. But some keep going.

I do not stop for some reason. It’s still never “not worth it” for me. I’m prepared to fight through a lot of pain to build. Why? Deep down I guess I want to prove that I can. Probably to childhood bullies. Probably to my mother. Probably because I was an awkward nerd growing up. I’m fine with that. I like my life. I enjoy the pursuit. I treat myself. I feel alive when building things and solving problems. I cherish the appreciation that comes with that. I get to meet fascinating people and experience exciting things and I’ve made great friends doing it. Somehow that gives me the energy to keep going.

Let me repeat that I don’t think that makes me better. In some situations, it absolutely makes me a worse person. Either way, it helps to know where your partners are on this scale. If you want to build something great, partner with people that keep going. They exist, and they will take you really far.