Thinking (& Building) Long
Yesterday I wrote a post about how great it was to be in a new context with people who I’ve known and loved working with for a dozen years or more. Got lots of good feedback on it.
A couple of comments I got in various places, from Fred and others, were along the lines of “Yep! But make sure you add new people all the time.”
That’s of course exactly right. And driving in this morning it made me realize that yesterday’s post, in a lot of ways, describes a sort of dividend of long term thinking and community+network building.
Probably the single best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten from anyone was from a Stanford professor named Tom Kosnik — although I didn’t know him at Stanford, I got to meet him in the context of Trilogy, and have collaborated with him since. He said something like this: figure out who you want to be on your team, and make sure you invest in those relationships every week, every month. His ultimate message was this: make active choices about who you line up with, who inspires you, and who you share values and goals in common with — and once you find those people, whenever you do, just keep spending time and energy making those relationships better and better and more productive.
My partner Reid has always shared this sort of network+community outlook — he calls it his “tribe” — the people you’d go into battle with just because of who they are.
Even the way I got to Greylock illustrates this. Way back in probably 2003, I got an e-mail from an old friend named Sean White — I hadn’t heard from him in maybe 5 years, and the e-mail was to me & Reid, who I didn’t know at the time. It said, essentially “You guys should meet, I think you’d like each other.” Well, Sean was part of my tribe, so I immediately said “sure!” to meeting an exec at PayPal — but it wasn’t quite clear why. Reid & I had breakfast a few days later. We liked each other, so did it again the next week. And the next, and started developing what would become a long term relationship — it was clear to each of us that we wanted the other in our tribe.
He started working on LinkedIn, which I told him I thought would never work since people would never put their networks on line — not A listers, anyway. (Obviously, history has proven my position correct! Erm…) I started thinking about Mozilla, we both jumped at the same time, and he introduced me to Joi Ito, now at the Media Lab, part of his tribe then, and part of mine now. Eventually Reid joined Greylock, which led to me meeting folks there over the years and now being a partner here.
And so over the years, people in your crew, your tribe, if you’ve built it right, will tend to lead you to others who are great, others who are lined up. And that’s generally how networks are built.
My point is that when you think long term about the community of people you want to build and be with, you tend to think less about the immediate particulars of their situation — less about any specific company or deal or technology or campaign — and more about who they are, and who they can be, and who they can help you to become over time. And, ideally, how together you can go make that dent in the universe.
The main thing is to always be looking, always be active in your decision making about who you want to be around, who you want to invest in. You should be open & eager to start new connections to build, and relentless about strengthening the ones you’ve got.
It’s worked amazingly well for me throughout my career, but more than that, I think it’s just helped me to become more of the person I aspire to be, and fundamentally happy, too.