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Finding Incredible Partners

This article was originally published on June 13, 2018 and has been updated.

How do you find the right partner in business and in life? A partner who can help you accomplish your business goals, personal goals, and life goals?

It’s simple: they must have certain core values.

finding incredible partners

Achieving my five-year dream.

One of the biggest achievements of my life was climbing El Capitan in Yosemite Park. It was the objective of my five-year dream.

I expected to feel intimidated and scared when I saw the object of my dream from the valley floor. But that’s the thing about accomplishing your dreams. As you step closer and closer to it, you feel a build up of emotion.

Of momentum.

With each 200 foot section my partner and I scaled, I felt momentum building. Euphoria and confidence were fueling my every step. I realized that—for the first time—my goal was within reach. After all the work and preparation, the fears and the doubt, the object of my desire was within reach. My momentum was building with every step.

This was a huge mental turning point for me in my journey.

But there was one major problem: My climbing partner, Smokey.

It was 1:30 p.m. We had ascended five pitches of climbing. We were 540 feet up the wall, and I was elated.

Smokey had already burned through three packs of cigarettes. If that’s not a bad sign, I don’t know what is.

Shaking, sweating, puffing cigarette after cigarette, Smokey declared that he couldn’t do it. He had to go down.

I should have felt disappointed–devastated, even. But I felt a big sense of relief. Better he said it now before we really got committed.

The experience taught me a valuable life lesson about what to look for when finding incredible partners, and the values I truly believe lead a person to success.

The power of suffering.

There are things people have to sacrifice to achieve their goals. Whether they are climbing a mountain, running a marathon, applying for a promotion—sometimes the best things in life require the most suffering.

That’s what I learned from Smokey.

Two days later, I asked two of my new potential partners, Dave Lavallèe and Paul Midkiff, a life changing question: are you willing to suffer?

Dave looked me dead in the eyes.

“Of course! It’s the only way we’ll ever make it to the top! We’re going to have a lot of fun too, but there will definitely be some suffering on our way to the summit. All worth it, Manley.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

I knew right then and there that I had found some incredible partners. We were going to do this thing.

That’s one of the biggest lessons in life—you can’t achieve greatness without at least a little bit of suffering. That’s how you grow and learn. But in the end it’s all worth it.

After a five day effort with multiple setbacks and challenges that would have made most people give up, we submitted El Capitan in June of 1997.



The secret to success is having the right partner.

In my decades of experience in business and climbing, I’ve spent hours upon hours analyzing what core values produce exceptional results. I’ve realized that these very values are also present in incredible partners.

The core values you must have to achieve success are the same values you must look for in the right partner.

I started realizing that my partners in The Vertical had the same core values as my business partners, and in my personal life.

Regardless of age, relation, or the length of the relationship, all the incredible partners I have had in my life shared the same values.

I found three common core values that were ever present in my incredible partners in everything they did in life: in the way they pursued their dreams, their incredible focus, discipline, and determination.

One thing I’ve noticed is, when any of these values are compromised in business, results always suffer.

I know that these values make a great partner. They are also the building blocks of business success.

If you seek these values in a person, and if you pursue these values with consistent focus in your everyday leadership, you will climb that mountain. You will finish that marathon. You will get that promotion.

You will find success.

The Three Core Values of Incredible Partners and Employees

1. Passion

What is your number one priority when you are hiring someone?

For me, it’s passion. It’s engagement. It’s energy.

Is the person I am hiring passionate about something? Both in their work and personal life?

All too often in the hiring process, I’ll find what seems like the perfect candidate. But when I look for engagement and energy—passion—there’s nothing there.

They are flat-lined.

“These people are already dead, they just haven’t laid down yet.” – Les Brown

Here’s something you should ask your next potential hire:

“What are you most passionate about?”

I’m not looking for a response related to the work they are doing. I’m looking for a fire in their belly.


Anything that will show me they are passionate, and that they have that drive, that willingness to suffer that only people who are passionate about fulfilling their goals and dreams have.

You’ve got to have something to work with!

Leaders are responsible for stoking that fire, bringing the best out of their team members, getting that fire going.

Finding that fire.

It’s simple: no fire, no hire.

2. People

In my experience delivering several Keynote Programs, I have learned how to let go of fears and embrace people. Help them. I focus on inspiring and motivating them with my energy, humor, and people skills.

These people skills are essential in finding the right partner or employee.

When you are hiring someone, try to find out if they are people-service focused. This doesn’t mean they have to be the most social of people, but they have to care.

Avoid people who aren’t like this.

This can be hard when trying to find someone for a position that requires exceptional intelligence. Many intelligent people aren’t very people focused.

You don’t always have to hire extroverted people. Introverts are just as effective as extroverts, and can be delightful, caring people. I’ve met extroverts who are social but not people-service focused.

The fact is, they just have to be the type of person who cares.

If someone can’t connect with people, they are not worth hiring. And they are not worth being your partner.

You can’t fix or train people skills. Someone who has no people skills can create significant disruptions to productivity and poison your culture.

All team member interactions affect your customers and your bottom line. Workplace collaboration and increased customers occur when you hire people who care. So, ask yourself:

Do they care?

3. Perseverance

This is a big one.

Smokey was passionate, enthusiastic, people-service focused and energized to accomplish anything out of his comfort zone. But he was missing something.


How people react when the going gets tough says a lot about who they are.

And when the going got tough for Smokey, he folded.

If you are pursuing a goal, you must be willing to suffer. How you respond in the face of adversity says a lot about your perseverance and your values. It says a lot about you as a partner, leader, employee, and person.

This is why it is crucial to have interview questions that focus on uncovering perseverance.

It’s a game changer.

Find out how willing someone is to suffer. Find out how willing someone is to operate in uncomfortable situations.

Find out how resilient they are. Learn about their passion. Their commitment to people.

Find out if they would truly be an incredible partner.

Then you’ll know if they’re worth the risk.

For help building your own momentum to reach your next summit, read the first three chapters of my book, Reaching Your Next Summit, for Free!

Want to learn more about the values of success? Check out these blog posts!

An Essential Tool to Building Momentum and Accelerating Results
The 2nd Most Important Gift – Influence and Lead Everywhere
11 Strategies to Help You Be Successful When You Feel Weighed Down


finding incredible partners

Dave, Paul, and me on the summit of El Capitan, June 1997

5 Responses to Finding Incredible Partners

  1. I appreciate your writing style. You present the perspiration along with the inspiration. You give practical examples to illustrate the point. It makes it more than just a feel good for a moment. There are practical steps to be taken after the fact to make it real.

    • Thanks Don! I appreciate your kind words. I strive to accomplish exactly what you said as I think we really need both. If the information alone was all we need, Google and YouTUbe would have already fixed us huh :-). I’m glad I hit the mark for your on this one!

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