1. Asking for someone to list the project they're most proud of is a million times more valuable than asking for a resume. People with standard resume accomplishments obviously included those, but filtering only for great resume means looking for great "paper compilers" - a few of the top candidates had one or two outstanding accomplishments and no paper credentials.
2. I turned down everyone who wrote in with a "kind of sort of trying" vibe. A surprisingly large number of people talked about how they "hate their job" and "this would be a fun opportunity to try"... umm...
3. Likewise, I was very wary of people who had long stories/narratives about their struggle and how hard they've worked, that didn't include actual results. A number of good candidates went "RESULT -> Story -> Results again." Many good candidates didn't talk about struggle or work at all, and just said what they can do and have done.
4. I turned down four of my favorite candidates - a graduate student at Harvard, two people in private equity, and a guy running a successful startup. It didn't seem right to get people out of a guaranteed solidly good place to put them into something risky. I'd have taken all four if I could have guaranteed success and patience, but I can't, and by turning down great candidates who this isn't a slam dunk fit for, I feel stronger about advocating strongly for people is a good fit for.
5. There's a lot of random variance in something like this. The first 3 people I took on, I bought their plane tickets for them. The next 2, I guaranteed I'd pay their airfare if things didn't work out so they wouldn't be out of pocket. There were 3 more people who were excellent, but didn't get that guarantee... and it's purely a variance thing based on my mental evaluations of cashflow, and the fact that as roles are filled, it becomes less crucial and more of a luxury to get others onboard, even if they're talented. I worked from both the top and the bottom at different times in different email clients, so there's nothing that could have been done to control this. Weird how little things potentially make a big difference on your life/prospects, but you never get to see that from your end.
6. The candidates from South America were all surprisingly excellent. There weren't many of them, but they were all super impressive. Could be a weird coincidence, or maybe reading my blog and being from South America means you've got a very strong command of some pretty abstract written English?
7. I took only candidates who could be net-revenue-producing very fast. That means I turned down a few very solid people who had intangible or slow-build-big-returns skillsets. I'll likely follow up with some of them later.
8. I gave candid feedback to everyone I said no to. I appreciate everyone who wrote in.
9. A few people asked for various details, but no one - literally no one - asked about money, gave me the minimum they wanted to learn, or gave me their suggested/preferred role. This strikes me as a gigantic blindspot - instead of asking for details passively, why don't people suggest what they can do and are really good at? (Actually, two guys did - and I took both of them on; one of them is mentioned in the next point)
10. All the email subject lines were basically the same "Interested in the project" and "Changing the world" type stuff, except two - "IMPORTANT>>>>>>READ NOW!" and "Shit just hit the fan in Colombia," both of which got read out of order too early, and both guys I brought on and either got airfare paid or a guarantee. So, the deck isn't totally random...
Still have 40-some more to go through, but my mind is cooked. I'm waking up early tomorrow and will close this out first thing in the morning.
Exciting times, exciting times...
"but no one – literally no one – asked about money, gave me the minimum they wanted to learn, or gave me their suggested/preferred role."
I think you could look at this another way - maybe people just had such respect for you and trusted you that they figured they'd apply and things would work themselves out. I know that was my thought. I figured that stuff could come later, but initially I just wanted to be involved with a smart guy doing cool shit, who I happen to trust.
In a lot of ways, the fact that nobody did that could be a complement - or maybe that was just me.
I'm so detail-agnostic right now and I assumed you were too. A process is possible if resources and time permit. If they don't, choose another process.
If you feel bad about (5), it might help to think about the law of large numbers: Successes often *look* like luck, but mostly the successful people are going after enough opportunities that a successful outcome (not necessary the particular one that came about) is inevitable.
I'm sure this has been written about extensively, but I don't have references on hand.
Good luck with your project. Your writing continually inspires me to do better, and I can only imagine how much more for the people who get to work with you.
I'm intrigued by this concept of quick return skillsets versus "intangible or slow-build-big-returns" ones. Can you give some examples of each? I would love to hear some advice about how to strategically choose which skills to build up (eg based on an analysis of what you already have and your goals) and which to outsource or ignore in a small business setting.
The main thing i want to ask you about is jobs, specifically applying to them. At the moment I have limited contacts when it comes to finding a job, and I'm relying on career fairs in the town i live in, school jobs, and recently internet searches. I'm wondering, what would be the best way to find a job, specifically when you are not relying on contacts.
I had the idea to write a short letter along with a resume when applying for a few jobs at once,telling about my limited experience but strong enthusiasm to work hard and learn while producing value for whomever hires me. I'm not sure how frequently this tactic is used, or if a genuine letter would even be effective. I know you've never held a salaried job, but perhaps you've been asked this enough to have some experience in it by now.
The main point is I want to know if it makes a difference to have a genuine desire to learn and do good at your job, or if your employer won't be able to tell. And if it does make a difference, can it help you overcome short comings (like lack of that vital experience everyone is looking for).
Sorry this emails is getting a bit long, however I think I've only asked one big question with some small questions mixed in, so i hope it wont drain to much of your time as i would very much appreciate a prompt response on the issue, before you take time to write out a longer reply if you are going to do so. If this interrupts the process you usually use, again, sorry about that.
Wrapping this up now, I've noticed you have a lot of references to others websites and have a fair collection of them. Would it be a great deal of work to slowly gather them up and give them their own section, so your readers can see all the cool places they can go without crawling obsessively through the comments section? Not sure how hard it would be, but thought i should ask.
I'm going to start posting a story from most of the places I visit. I'm going to start out with Madison, Wisconsin:
Alissa (Muse_of_Fire) and I were in the car, driving to a daycamp for pre-teen boys and girls in Madison. This was the first day we were working with Girls, Inc (the group that runs this camp), and we had absolutely no idea what to expect. We didn't know whether we'd be working with boys, girls, or both. We didn't know what kind of facilities we had to work with, or how many people we'd have to work with.
The night before, Alissa, Chad (her training partner), and I had dinner and planned out what we were going to do the next day. It took about two hours, and due to The Game (if you say certain words, you have to do 10 pushups), there were pretty constant distractions - but we finally worked out a rough lesson plan. We would start with a Julie Angel video, give a brief talk about Parkour, then, boys or girls, we were going to focus heavily on games.
We pull up to the driveway and get out of the car. We examine the Kennedy Heights Community Center, it's pretty much just a big temp building. There's a wooden fence outside for balancing, and a playground around the back. The director of the camp came out to meet us, introduced us to the girls, and we were on our own! There were eight girls, I'd say age 12 to 14. Long story short, they were not impressed by our pep talk, or by the Julie Angel video. Looking back, we probably needed something a bit more action oriented.
Once we got them outside though, we started to play some warmup games. Alissa started by having them all run in place, and then drop into the landing position whenever she said drop. We did some side QM, and did some other fun warmup activities. We wanted to start off with a game, so I ran a game of QM Redlight/Greenlight. Went to the fence to do some partner balancing drills, and then we played a balance game. Two people would stand about arms length apart, and try to push each other over without moving their feet. The first person who's feet moved, lost. We then played a finger jousting game, and then I taught precisions.