Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Holes & Headlights (repost)

I used to tell a story to I heard on the West Wing (early seasons) to certain friends.
This guy's walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can't get out. 
A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, 'Hey you. Can you help me out?' The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.
Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, 'Father, I'm down in this hole can you help me out?' The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. 
Then a friend walks by, 'Hey, Joe, it's me can you help me out?' And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, 'Are you stupid? Now we're both down here.' The friend says, 'Yeah, but I've been down here before and I know the way out.'
You show up for friends when they need you--that's what real friendship is. And then when you fall into your own hole with steep walls? That's when you find out who's showing up for you.

And when the same guy that fell in the hole walks past, and you catch his eye and see that deer in the headlights look? You really get a sense for what character really means.

When you're building a company, you have to make a lot of decisions that aren't always clear cut. It becomes even less clear if you're making decisions on the basis of relationships instead of metrics and performance. I think one of the major mistakes I made was failing, at times, to hold people accountable on the basis of performance because of the relationship.

Once you do hold someone accountable for performance, it's unlikely they'll be as forgiving as you had been up to that point. The bottom line is that you have to act in the best interest of everyone--not yourself, not your friendships, not your trusted relationships. It's a balance I can easily confess I haven't always gotten right.

Show up for your friends. In fact, show up for people who aren't your friends but need a hand anyway--that's what makes communities strong, what gets the sandbags piled up against the flooding river, what pulls the miners out of the darkest of all holes. You always do so at some personal risk, but the place where we don't show up for each other isn't one I want to hang my hat for very long.

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