The followup to: "If you want to get rich, stop being a fucking joker."
Phone is ringing.
I'm not sure what to say if he answers.
He picks up. "Hello?"
"Are we still friends?"
Jon laughs. "Yes, Sebastian, we're still friends."
"Really? You seem furious. Like, not just furious, but like furious."
"No, Sebastian, I'm not angry at you. I'm worried about you. This isn't the kind of calm, inspirational leadership I'm used to from you. You seem on the ed--"
"I'm not man. I've never been better."
"You didn't sound --"
"-- dude. I just levelled up. Big time. I'm like a Super Saiyan right now. My hair is glowing. It's kind of scary, but I'm on the next level. It's fucking good. I want you to be here with me."
We talked some more. I asked Jon, dude, do you think I spent the time writing that for myself or him?
He says, for me.
I say, dude, I'd have canceled this project if I was going off pure rational value. I'm more interested to know that I can work with you guys, that you're solid.
We go back and forth some. He keeps saying my tone was wrong, uncalled for, etc, etc.
"Look dude. The project is late, is it not?"
"Yes, but your tone --"
"We'll talk about that in a moment. Actually, I'll apologize to you in a minute. But first you need to understand where I'm coming from. Is the project late?"
"Sebastian, I'm more interested in --"
"IS THE PROJECT LATE OR NOT?"
"Okay. Good. So, it's late. Now, everything happens in reality due to cause and effect. Due to causality. Something caused the project to be late. Okay?"
"It's a softw --"
"Hold on. Let me finish. The project is late. There's a reason it's late. Now, it's not Lee, who has been solid. So it's some mix of either you, me, or Sam. Right?"
"Well, that's the nature --"
"STOP DEFENDING YOURSELF AND MAKING EXCUSES I WANT TO MAKE MONEY WITH YOU AND I'M DOING SOMETHING REALLY COOL HERE... at least, I think I'm doing something cool. We'll get to my motivations and tone in a moment. First, let's establish causality. No emotion. Just causality. Can we do that?"
"Okay. So, in the end, THIS IS MY FAULT BECAUSE I WAS IN CHARGE. You understand that right?"
"Well, no, it's not entirely your --"
"NO. I was in charge, the project was late, and so in the end IT'S MY FAULT. Don't you get that? I'm not calling you guys out with that email. I'm calling myself out."
"Sebastian, that's not fair on you either. We all..."
He trails off.
I sigh. "Look dude. We all fucked up some. I don't think it's anyone in particular. I think that's just society. In society, it's okay to fuck up. Now, maybe that's fine for most people, but I want to do a lot of shit, and we had a dead project on our hands, and now I don't know if you guys are solid and we can keep working together."
"Sebastian, you're treating this like it's an emergency, but it's not. If we were three months late, then it'd be time to panic..."
"Okay. Maybe I've done this more than you Jon. Actually, I think I have. We're six weeks late... you're not done yet, we're not even done. We seem close, but you know that expression 'When it's 90% done, it's half finished'? Yeah. That's true. We're half-finished. At this pace, you'll take another week or two to figure out tech, AT BEST, and product doesn't get fixed for 2-3 weeks, at which point in time you two need to collaborate which will take another week or two, and marketing isn't even done. You get it? We're on pace to be six months later. But not just that. We're on pace for a dead project. Lee has mentally checked out. We've got a culture of slipping. We've got a dead project."
"Sebastian, you've done lots of projects, but maybe not as many in software. This is normal."
"So what you're saying, in other words, is that being a joker is societally acceptable?"
"Being late doesn't mean you're a joker."
"I defined being a joker as not doing what you said you're going to do when you said you'd do it, especially when someone is counting you. We haven't done. We're jokers."
"But it's normal."
"See where I'm going with this? Look, this next part will piss you off, but I don't care. Do I have enough goodwill built up to say something that will piss you off, that's totally unfair, but maybe worth thinking about even though it'll provoke an emotional reaction?"
"Alright, you just said you're going to be calm and think this through, not get emotional about it. Right?"
"Yes, go ahead."
"Have you surfed the net or watched any TV since we slipped on our deadlines?"
"Well, sure I have."
"Right. That's fucking terrible. If your Mom gets pneumonia or something, fine, be late! We'd all understand. If an earthquake hits, ok, not much we can do about that. Everyone thinks they're very busy, but it's bullshit. Whenever shit slips, no one says, 'Yeah, it slipped because I was jerking my cock 18 times a day and eating Cheetos.' No one says that. But you know, that's exactly what watching the TV and surfing the net when your shit isn't done is."
"Sebastian, that's totally fucking unfair. And--"
"Stay with me! STOP AND STAY WITH ME. JESUS MAN, I'M ON THE PHONE WITH YOU RIGHT NOW SO WE CAN RISE IN THE WORLD TOGETHER. STOP BEING GOD DAMN EMOTIONAL."
I inhale, exhale, and continue, "Listen. I agree it's unfair. But why do you think it's unfair?"
"Because it wasn't urgent that things get done."
"Right. Why wasn't it urgent?"
"Yeah. Exactly. It wasn't urgent because Sam was slipping, so you slipped, and how can I read the Riot Act to you when he's slipping? And so I'm getting less interested and so is Lee, and our project is DYING."
"I see. Yeah. Still, the tone..."
"I'm working 12 to 17 hours each day, sleeping very little, and it's my first day off in a long time. It's 4AM your time, you're losing sleep to have this call. This is the worst possible time for both of us to talk. But the only possible time we could in the next few days. Does a polite email get us on the phone at 4AM?"
"Yeah. So let's light a fire under all our asses. Myself included. I need to stop being a fucking joker and take charge, and we need to will this thing into reality."
We talked more - we covered everything else that needs to be done on his end, set timetables for them (which are all being met now), and talked about project management in the future. Going forwards, I need to be really careful with accidental scope creep. I'm careful anyways (I studied project management) but I can still do it by accident when fleshing out a seemingly innocent feature that we'd imagined differently, even with a clear spec.
And if I am forcing scope creep, Jon needs to email me and say, "Sebastian, project will be delayed X days per our conversation" explaining how my decision delayed things. We also talked about two local optimums of either checking in daily with guidance/clear spec, or just letting him freelance and checking in every two weeks.
It was brilliant.
Jon says, "Sebastian, I think... I think I'd lost hope of a world without jokers. Is it really possible?"
"I don't know man. But we seem to be getting there."
Lee took charge the next day after a 30 minute chat, and Sam wrote in that was an epic email and set his timetables to be done with all his stuff in 2-3 days, which is happening... now.
And you know what? I don't have the time for it. But I'll make time, god damn it, because these are guys I can go to war with.
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