"Okay guys, are we sorted out? I've got a few more things I've got to do this evening."
There's nods all-around. We just got our new office set up, and our first fulfillment staff just came in to sign the employment contract.
I pack up my computer and walk out from the glass-doored meeting room into the main room and head to the coat rack. I put on my winter coat, button it, and put on my ushanka Russian-style hat.
Then I remember - good, Tony's here.
I walk back into the meeting room. "Hey Tony, have you seen my scarf? I took it off the day we moved the furniture in and left it here, and I haven't it since."
Tony squirms. Tony never squirms, he's one of the most confident and controlled people I know. "Well, umm, maybe it's around here."
He walks out into the front room with me, and kind of half-heartedly looks on some obviously empty shelves. He looks behind a bookshelf. Okay, this is obviously stupid, but I'm not sure what to say.
He walks back into the meeting room and is about to halfway look around again - he's obviously thinking about what to say.
"Tony, you didn't throw my scarf out, did you?"
Our other partner laughs, which makes the new staff member laugh, and Tony laughs. In retrospect it was probably funny, but at the time it just ratcheted my pissed-off level up a notch.
Tony frowns. "Well, umm... was it the knitted one?"
"Yes, it was the hand-knitted scarf that was a personal gift, yes, that scarf!" My attempts not to look pissed are failing.
"Sorry Seb, but I think it might've..."
Okay. Don't look pissed. If it was just us guys, I could curse a couple times, but there's a new staff member here so I've got to keep decorum. I was leaving anyways and I've got things to do.
"Okay. Whatever. No problem, these things happen. I'll see you all later."
I walked out, trying not to be too terse.
I was pissed on my ten minute walk to Starbucks, but right as reached the entrance I laughed.
That's the nature of being a fast decisionmaker, which Tony is. Most people worry unnecessarily about all sorts of problems that never happen. And 99% of the time there is a problem, it can be fixed.
Hell, Tony could have thrown out any other piece of clothing I had, and we could have replaced it with just some money.
But there would be no sense getting upset about it - it's unfortunate it played out that way, but it's the nature of living a busy and expansive life. Tony is working on this project, he's an advisor to one of the top technology companies in the world, he's a top negotiator for a major investment fund, he owns a variety of majority and minority positions in a variety of different fields, and he's got a massively busy social calendar.
These little mistakes are a minor price to be paid for being an ultra-rapid decisionmaker - most people would be cautious and send out an email or ask everyone if it was their scarf. That would mean mean 3 minutes and 5 minutes of thinking about it, and it would be spread across 2-3 different times before coming to a resolution. Instead, Tony looked at the scarf, instantly made the decision that it wasn't a big deal to throw out, and did so.
Sure, it's a bummer to have that happen, but I wouldn't want to change him. Just the opposite, actually - I want to be more like that. Unfixable mistakes are rare - and in the final analysis, it is just a scarf, sentimentality aside. Making every decision instantly means a few more mistakes, but massively more good things that entirely overwhelm and mitigate the mistakes.
Act I: The Discovery of Conflict Invigoration
I recently discovered a phenomenon common among many highly successful people. I'm calling it "conflict invigoration" - this is a personality trait, a mixed blessing and curse. It's the kind of person who can move heaven and earth when inspired, but doesn't do as well when they aren't... and who is always invigorated by a fight.
I first noticed conflict invigoration among a number of the most successful people I knew personally. See, I don't think this is an entirely new observation, but a lot of the people that reach stratospheric levels of success are kind of deranged. You almost have to be, to keep going after you've "won" by every conceivable measure, to work yourself to the bone at the expense of your sanity and longevity and vitality, to neglect so many of the basic human needs and pleasures and comforts.
I saw this trait in lots of successful people, and then I started paying attention to biographies and histories. Indeed, many of the most expansive people in our generation and previous ones are conflict invigorated - they've perhaps always got a baseline of creativity and striving, but it really comes out when a fight breaks out.
"Competition is always a fantastic thing, and the computer industry is intensely competitive." - Bill Gates
For posterity, I wanted to document some of the most memorable moments I experienced in 2009. There have been some amazingly wonderful times . . .
Last January, I was blessed to visit my good friends Leigh and Chris in Seattle. I stayed for a few days and brought along Oreo and Buttercup. I ate a HUGE burrito, hung out with a troll, visited Bainbridge Island, visited the grave of Bruce Lee and his son, had a lovely ferry ride, wandered aimlessly through a cubist library, and pretty much took photos of O and B all around the city. More than anything, I enjoyed spending time with Leigh, Chris, and their beautiful daughter Sophia! It was the best trip ever.
In February, my sister made a second attempt at teaching me how to knit. The first time it happened I got really frustrated and tossed it all aside. For whatever reason, something stuck this time around. My first project was a beautiful maroon and beige scarf that I still wear to this day. So far, I've knitted eight scarves, two hats, a bracelet, and half of a throw blanket ever since. It is such relaxing and rewarding way to pass the time. I'll be knitting more in the next year. Here is a photo of the first scarf I ever knitted:
Last February, I visited Atlanta with my friend Chris. We were mainly there to see an Antony and the Johnsons concert, but we decided to make a whole weekend out of it. Of course, I took Oreo and Buttercup along. We visited some fancy malls, and I ate this AMAZING butternut squash dish that I will never forget as long as I live. It was a really wonderful trip. My friend Chris was the best host ever! Here he is being slightly embarrassed having his picture taken with a miniature piano and a rowdy bench:
Simply put, it was one of the best concerts I have ever been to. This was one band that did not need a bunch of crazy pyrotechnics and theatrics to put on a beautiful show. They were on tour to support the release of the new album "The Crying Light" and sang most of the songs from it. There was even a cover of Beyonce's hit song "Crazy In Love". I sat in the front row in direct sight of Antony playing the piano. It was so mesmerizing. After the show, my friend Chris and I got to meet Antony. He signed a copy of his CD for me, and I gave him a copy of my album "Seahorses". It was the best concert ever! For sure, I will see them perform again whenever I possibly can.