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.
Sebastian, you're a badass. I'm inspired - I have a team of people I manage who do the same thing and it drives me insane. What's worse though is that I realized that outside of work, I do the same thing. I'm a problem solver and if it's creating my own business from scratch - that's not a problem so I don't solve it as such, I'm a joker and it stops today.
On Monday a similar email to my team (cleaned up for HR purposes of course) will be going out.
And to the people that are complaining about how can Sebastian be such an ass - have you ever managed people who CAN do the job, have unbelieveable skill, are great people but DON'T do the job? Those who have told you time and time again they will finish something or ensure the project moves forward but doesn't and just make excuses? You put your heart and soul into giving them the tools and knowledge they need but they still don't deliver? Well I have - for years and honestly it would be better for them to be pissed at me and quit than to sit around and NOT do their damn job.
Emergencies & blow ups - while they are stressful, breathe new fire into project/team. Things that used to take 5 hours a week take 1 because new eyes are on it.
Screw it - time to put up or shut up and if his team can't do it he can email me and I'll try!
I don't know if you were out of line, or if your causing the downfall of your project without meaning to. But the point of the post came through loud and clear to me. If you set a commitment, keep it. You can adjust your tone and figure out how to deal with your partners on an individual basis over time, but you have to establish the culture first, and your doing that. It sounds like your efforts are working and you are on track now, and that's the important thing. Your playing at a higher level now, and its not your fault if they can't handle it. If they can't you find someone who can. I just hope you don't lose any friendships over this.
I think I mentioned this to you before on your first days of blogging, but here's again. You've been a dick with your tone in the prev post, and now you're getting back some of that from a subset of your visitors. That's normal. I don't know if you're right or wrong, but you have to keep moving.
Wow you are an ass.. You are a REAL ass.. I can't believe these guys even tolerate you. You're lucky they're "your friends" (for who knows how much longer). You sound like you bring absolutely nothing to the table, and yet want to push everyone over the edge.
I give it 1 month until they all tell you to fuck off....
Hey Sebastian, I tend to like your content and style. I just want to say that when I read:
STOP BEING GOD DAMN EMOTIONAL
I thought to myself, who's being emotional here? I can sympathize with the difficulty of rallying the troops when they're half way around the world, fine. But I know, from first hand experience, that when leaders snap, morale goes down the drain.
Keep us posted on your project.
I have a question for you. Did you dedicate everything you could to the project? Or to other projects? Or to this blog instead.
If you actually want to hold yourself responsible, then DO THAT! But asking loaded questions or being pedantic doesn't get it done. Jon is showing an amazing amount of restraint working with you.
I've worked with two guys very much like you. It was always their team that carried them, not their so-called inspirational leadership.
So the question for the team is, what do you bring to the table? Would they be better off firing you and working with each other or themselves instead. I was in a company that got together for a SWOT analysis and by the time we were done we decided it wasn't necessarily the team leader that was the problem, but the owner, and the consulting company agreed and asked us why we were still working for him. We didn't have a good answer but I can say in 6 months, we had all moved on. We had been suckers, not jokers.
Not passing the buck is great. But feigning taking responsibility while you play mental games with your staff is not stopping the buck.
Now I'm really curious what this project is given all the drama and effort about it.
Seems to me a lot of us are really just functioning on crisis management. I know I do, and I'm a one-chick shop.
I like the part about watching tv. "Because it wasn't urgent to get things done"
I am currently blowing off a jv because one partner is down with a kidney infection and the other is falling love with her infant. We knew this would happen, we budgeted the time for mom to be unavailable to us, but I'm still using it as an excuse not to deliver. It stops now.
Thanks for chronicling this, SM. You're always an inspiration.
Get a coffee and some popcorn ready before you read this one. Love it or hate it, either way you'll be wildly entertained. Names and details changed, for obvious reasons.
Subject: Very important email from Sebastian. Please read ASAP.
This is a very important email. Please read it, wait 10-20 minutes before replying and just think about it (don't surf the web, just think), and then reply with your thoughts.
First, the tactical things -
1. Anyone one of you can use the following credit card to sign up for anything.
Why am I nervous?
Something's got me on edge. And it's been growing all day.
Well, I finished Sally's writing. That's off my plate.
My arm still hurts a lot, but it's feeling a hell of a lot better than it was this morning. I give it another 2-3 days till I'm fully healed.
The pie lady whose name I should add to my Anki is having us over for lunch to taste her pies...which we will then sell.