Tom The Architect

Technology and other Interesting Stuff

Month: November, 2012

Never Give up the Tools

My Father, was a carpenter by trade, He once told me “Tom, never give up the tools. Anyone can make lists and give orders, but only a small number of people can make something out of nothing. Someone will always be willing to pay you to make something out of nothing or pay you for something you have made.” Being a 20 year old, his point was lost on me, I didn’t know any better.

Now 20 years on and seeing and mentoring others, I understand the points my Father was trying to make. So this is what I think he was trying to say:

  • You lose more than you think when giving up a skill so choose wisely.
  • Money and power won’t satisfy your need to create and see things completed.
  • People value what you can do more that what you say.
  • There is no substitute for hard skilled work.
  • Always have something to fall back on. (Or as Reid Hoffman in the The Start-Up of You called it a plan z,a backstop)

What do you think about giving up the tools?

Do you have Professional Courage

Aristotle wrote in the Nicomachean Ethics:

Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.

And for a great example how it applies to our professional lives watch Ben Horowitz explain the importance of courage in his interview with Kevin Rose. His explanation starts at 17:50 but I recommend watching the entire interview. Ben Horowitz is brilliant and if you don’t believe me try reading his blog.

Within companies there is always talk of openness, honesty, integrity and many more virtues. How often do you hear courage being discussed. I wrote about the Steve Yegge’s approach to presenting to Jeff bezos. Steve describes his source of courage, he writes:

I worked hard and had fun, but every day I honestly worried they might fire me in the morning. Sure, it was a kind of paranoia. But it was sort of healthy in a way. I kept my resume up to date, and I kept my skills up to date, and I never worried about saying something stupid and ruining my career. Because hey, they were most likely going to fire me in the morning.

His courage came from believing he had nothing to lose. He could suffer a fate no worse then being fired.

Bill Treasurer of Giant Leap Consulting and former member of the U.S. High Diving Team has a good article on courage , he writes:

courage is the lifeblood of such important business concepts as leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship. Indeed, in the absence of courage, these concepts don’t exist!

It is not often you see or hear of courage in a professional setting. No one has an annual objective to demonstrate courage, but in the end we all must possess it and demonstrate it. Without courage, we would be full of honesty, openness and integrity but with no willingness to act.

Courage first and then everything else.

Steve Yegge on Presenting to Jeff Bezos

Steve Yegge over in his Google+ feed has a post I just found about his experience presenting to Jeff Bezos. His description of the experience and his approach was great. The entire post is interesting but my favorite part is the second to last paragraph.

You have to understand: most people were scared around Bezos because they were waaaay too worried about trying to keep their jobs. People in high-level positions sometimes have a little too much personal self-esteem invested in their success. Can you imagine how annoying it must be for him to be around timid people all day long? But me — well, I thought I was going to get fired every single day. So fuck timid. Might as well aim high and go out in a ball of flame.

We all have seen the timid presentation, that’s why I like the last lines so very much (my emphasis added).  Read the whole post you will enjoy it.