These days, it seems like most of my reflective thinking happens in the car. I’ve got about a 25 minute commute from home to the office, and it’s become the default time for me to stew in my thoughts.
Stewing can be good, but, truth be told, I’m someone who’s better at thinking through ideas in conversation with other people. In a way, this blog has served that purpose for the last few years. Even when no one comments on a post, simply the act of writing my thoughts publicly often forces me to think through them in ways that I can’t when they’re just rolling around within the borders of my own brain. Stupid brain borders!
So, here’s what I was thinking about on today’s drive: I have the privilege of being at a point in my professional life where I feel like I’m surrounded by (both in-person and on-line) some pretty visionary people. The scopes and foci of those visions vary widely, but, all-in-all, I just feel lucky to be in that mix.
I’m pretty good (I think) at sharing in conversations about those visions — pushing ideas (both forward and back), challenging and supporting assumptions, sharing the, for lack of a better word, “joy.” But, I’m also the kind of person who tends to see things from about four or five different vantage points. Sometimes I think this is one of my greatest gifts; a lot of the time I’m sure it’s my biggest weakness.I fear that it makes me seem inconsistent, variable, unsure of myself and (more alarming for me) unsure of the people around me. This latter point isn’t the case at all.
What I realized this morning as I was mulling this topic over was that my guiding lights tends to be people not ideas. I think I’m good at talking about and through ideas, and there are definitely times when I feel passionate about the ideas I share with people. But, in general, I feel a whole lot more passionate (and consistently so) about the people I’m in conversation with. I’m pretty sure there are an infinite number of visionary ideas out there; I’m also pretty sure that there are finite number of visionaries.
So, this post serves a couple of purposes. First, I’m wondering if this makes any sense. Does it? Second, I want everyone out there that I have had the privilege of working with over the last several years to know: You’re amazing! Third, I want those same people to know that if I do ever seem inconsistent in my approach to ideas, this is why. Ultimately, I believe in who you are and what you are capable, and, for me, that’s the most important thing. Did I mention you’re amazing?! 😉
Okay. I’ll shut up now.
5 thoughts on “You’re Amazing! Yes, YOU!”
As the great Ralph Waldo Emerson notes: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers …”
So you’re in good company and you can use this quote at will to subdue any potential objectors 😉
Did we ever mention that you are amazing too?
It’s a well struck chord that while the tools and toys are neat, its the people that make them interesting. Carry on with those Big Thoughts While Commuting (Have you read Zen of Red Traffic Lights?)
The environment of thought that exists in and around DTLT is one of the most exciting parts of working here. The give and take, the push and push back that exists among us is because we have a group of people around (live and online) that believe that while ideas can be born of one mind, they are made real and effective by the inclusion of many minds working together. Each person has a part, each person contributes much, and the whole ends up transcending the number of parts.
While I have believed all of this to be the case for a long time, I’ve never been able to experience it in my professional life until the past few years. It takes trust, and the right mix of leadership, faith, fun, angst, and endless hope. It also takes the commitment of a team that believes we are doing important work. This mix is rare.
I’m privileged as well to be working in such a mix. I once described us as a “Dream Team.” Now, I think the more appropriate name is “The Perfect Storm.”
Given the fantastic comment that you just dropped on our site (it was you right, the one that began “Interesting. You still need a plan, you just need a kind of plan that is different than what we’ve always imagined a plan to be in the past…”)
Given that quote, I think you’re probably doing pretty well in the realm of ideas.
But I know what you mean. I once was Director of Sofware Development for a children’s software firm. And my slant was simulation-based learning. But the VPs above me saw the market as skill and drill, and the people below me said if you can get them to give us more creative license, we can build games that are technically skill and drill, but have a joy of life in them.
I fought against that in the first game we made, trying to push it into simulation. But I could tell they didn’t get it, or believe it.
What they were passionate about were games that had the love of life that good children’s books had. So I said let’s do it, and they blew me away. Not only did we produce the first Flash-based literacy site ever, but we produced web-based games, in 1999, that still kick the stuffing out of the competition in 2007 (see GameGoo).
Still to this day I’ve never worked with such a talented group of people, so fired up about what they were doing, and so good at achieving their ends. I mean, to do that soup to nuts, the songs, voices, animation, etc. off of game designs that were really little but sketches.
The point is had I held on too firmly to my idea, that would have never happened. And truth be told, I believed in what we were doing when I saw it. I got what they were doing, and it was making the world a better place.
It still does. One of the most moving moments of my life was when my daughter Katie had just turned 4 we were looking for stuff to do on the internet, and I thought why not go check out the old site. So we went there, and she played some of these games I had designed and the team had built. And then for days she was talking about this character named Tina from the game and repeating this “Is it real, or make believe?” line.
I’d built those games when she was 6 months old. At the time my boss had told me they were too simple for a 4 yr. old, that no four-year-old would play a game where the only point was to guess if a story was real or make-believe. My team thought different, and they built an implementation that rocked. And here years later it was my daughter’s favorite game.
So possibly the most genuinely moving moment in a life of educational software, brought about by a software series that on the whole was somewhat opposed to my theoretical take. But what made it great was the team and the people…
Rambling — but maybe that makes sense?
Jerry, you mention something that I didn’t in my post but that’s at the heart of what I’m talking about. Yes. With trust, these partnerships become truly amazing.
And Mike, that’s a great anecdote. And, again, at its heart it’s about trust, too. Learning to not only trust other people but to trust your own instincts about other people is key.