Underneath all the noise may be a nugget of gold. It’s your duty as a leader to unearth that.
“I really started eBay on the notion that people are basically good.”
Pierre Omidyar, founder
“Racism isn’t born, folks. It’s taught. I have a 2 yr old son. Know what he hates? Naps. End of list.” – Me, 1992. True now as it was then.”
Two very underrated traits of leaders are:
1) Having a Thick Skin
In my article on the importance of reinvesting to avoid decline and death, I referenced how in 2016 my advisor Ted Prince had introduced me to Lance Conn, who was Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s lieutenant at Vulcan. Lance was interested in joining us as executive chairman (his “dream job”). Once we took off like a rocket ship on YouTube, our success had drawn competitors. Lots of ’em.
More on competition in this ContextTV video:
If I push my team in a vacuum, I was always worried it may be perceived as being “Greedy” and ungrateful.
If I push my team because we have competitors attacking us, I am playing off humans’ “Fear” which is a rather effective tool. Having sheltered my team from the many risks we faced, they were never truly aware of the threat of competition. To me, such competition was actually welcome.
WHAT You Say Isn’t As Important as HOW and WHEN You Say It
I was making an argument that sustainability meant adhering to community guidelines and best practices, at which point he changed the conversation by replying:
"I would most humbly suggest that all of this would supersede any effort you plan to put into a book about your success to date. Ok, that last bit was harsh."
Now in my defence, I’ll just state that I wrote that book – all 300 pages – while on vacation that summer; and it was intended to be fictionalized and adapted into a feature film a la The Founder or The Social Network. It was source material for our “New Formats” initiative in our WM2020 expansion efforts.
I read that email on an early morning while on vacation, so you can imagine why the past fifteen years of my life involved one struggle or another.
Most people would not have cared that Lance was a successful businessman who worked alongside one of the forefathers of technology. To me, aside from the fact that we had developed a great rapport, those where the moments I knew I could trust someone: when they could give me tough, direct talk. I’m a tornado, so when someone can channel my energy away from a path of destruction, I pull them into my orbit because I know I can increase my velocity and intensity to create value.
The point is, when people take the time to give you feedback, you may be tempted to ignore them (at best) or tell them off (at worse). Instead, take a moment, swallow your pride and set aside your wounded ego and consider the following.
2) Ignoring the Noise to Focus on the Underlying Core of One’s Message
We live in a bizarro world where uber successful executives like Lance have to set aside their own ego and pride (we all have these) and try to appease to the new generation of business leaders. Thanks to the disruptive nature of the Web, those leaders tend to be young, inexperienced, and unfortunately, cocky. Again, due to my Nature and Nurture, no one will say I lack confidence; but no one will call me rude and unappreciative. Humility and modesty come in different ways, to me it’s graciousness when experienced and accomplished people like Lance take an interest in my affairs (and I’ve been blessed to have dozens/hundreds of such people in my life).
Lance didn’t need to help me, and his insecurities (which, again, we all have) were actually probably fairly limited and small. I have seen many accomplished veterans seeking to give back and “stay in the game” by aligning themselves with younger entrepreneurs. I am going through that myself, to be fair.
The second underrated trait isn’t actually when “made men” like Lance reach out, but in those instances when less experienced, less fortunate, less successful and maybe even knowledgeable people speak up.
In those times, it’s easy to want to discount what is said to be rooted in envy, jealousy, pettiness, and the messenger’s own insecurities. As all human beings struggle with such Vice, it may very well be true that some of the feedback you get lacks in sincerity but ultimately, if you really want to get to the top and stay there, your superpower is being able to see through the layers of negativity and Evil in order to listen and discern the rawest form of what is being said, what is Good about it.
Reality and Limitations
For me, as I never got around to formalizing an official board, I viewed the collective group of stakeholders – the WatchMojo community, my employees, partners, fellow executives and so on – as my sounding board. I sincerely believed (and still do, within reason) that the 21-year old junior employee could provide an answer to your problems – especially given the new world order. In fact, one reason why I always bet on youth is because, to paraphrase that sage known as Dennis Leary, youth is good until society wears them down and over time they give in to forces of evil and darkness.
In the end, it’s about Balance
To ignore those who criticize you is a surefire path to your demise; but to lose your sense of Good and give in to Evil whenever someone takes a shot at you means lowering yourself to their wretched reality. Sometimes, it’s not malice, but a cry for help.
Channel the negativity to feed your light, and you will find yourself on your course to success.
It’s as that saying goes: “They Tried to Bury Us, They Didn’t Know We Were Seeds.”