Running To vs Running From

How it affects hiring and startups

Disclaimer - This advice is for very early stage startups where you do need to be extremely, life-consumingly passionate about an idea for the venture to work. At some point, yes you do need to hire people whose reasons for working with you are in fact a paycheck but we’re not talking about that stage.

Running from something or running to somewhere?

I see his posts on Facebook from time to time. He’s an old acquaintance who is a Facebook friend in the loose way that Facebook friendship has become. Every single post is exclaiming in all caps about how this new idea he’s had is definitely going to be a smash hit and make him extremely wealthy or how this new person he’s dating is definitely the one. And there’s never any post about the business or relationship failing, I just infer that from the presence of the next one. I think we’ve all had that friend and I know I’ve spent way more time than I probably should’ve wondering why he went from a happy-go-lucky guy to someone who seems to desperately tries to grab onto whatever new opportunity comes his way whether it’s objectively a good plan or a bad one.

After seeing the process play out a few more times in other people I know, I’ve started to see it in terms of Running To vs Running From. You probably have heard this term before but just in case you haven’t… You want to be living your life running towards things and not running away from them. Running To something is pursuing a dream or getting you closer to where you want to be, it’s realizing your inherent self worth and acting on it. Running From on the other hand is not the way you want to be. It’s acknowledging that your current situation is bad and instead of taking the time, effort or work to point yourself in the right direction, it’s jumping onto whatever opportunity you can find and hoping that this time maybe your life will be perfect.

So I’ve given a bunch of very nice self-help style advice but what does this has to do with startups and hiring? Although that friend I mentioned never reached out to me directly asking for help on his ideas, on one of his ideas I did reach out and help him some since I thought the idea was novel (sorry, details kept vague to protect the innocent) but as soon as we ran into some technical issues, he quickly lost interest and moved onto the next project. He wasn’t running to this new idea because he cared about it or was passionate about it, he just didn’t like where his life was and this was a quick fix that maybe could bring him happiness.

Never hire or partner with someone that’s running away from something. You instead want to hire or partner with someone who is running to you or the idea. How can you tell this? Ask them why they want to do this with you when you either interview them for hiring or talk with them in hopes of partnership. If they’re an acquaintance, do some social media investigation and see if they’ve mentioned anything about whatever they said they cared about. Phone up mutual friends and see if they have talked about this idea before. If you don’t know them, see what information you can find, either through the magic of Google or through references they’ve given.

If their reasons for caring and wanting to be a part of your venture don’t match up with any evidence that you can find, then the risk of Running From is too high to make it worth it to you. Pass. These people won’t have the passion to push through when you need them to. If you’re already in a business relationship with someone you suspect to be Running From something, see if you can get out. It’s not worth the risk wondering if they’ll be there when it gets difficult.

It took me a while to come to this conclusion but I’m a firm believer in it at this point and I let it govern my life. Succeed or fail, I’ll never wonder whether the person I’m working with has my back.