Managing Insane Growth

with Matt Mullenweg

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When managing your team, consider that inspiration comes from different places for everyone

Matt Mullenweg

Co-Founder of WordPress, Founder of Automattic, Investor with Audrey

Lessons Learned

Find something to like in everyone.

You can be inspired and take energy from everything in life.

It is important for people to understand the why’s of things.


Lesson: Building a Unicorn with Matt Mullenweg

Step #9 Inspiration: When managing your team, consider that inspiration comes from different places for everyone

I'm lucky that I'm easily inspired, so I get a lot of energy from everything in life. I love going to museums. I love just trying to be open-minded about observing nature, even on my patio, the small slice of it there, the hummingbirds that go by and how the plants change with the seasons, and these sorts of things.

I think everything in the world has a beauty in it. Every person has something about them that, if you get to know them, you could find out this thing that they're really passionate about and that's infectious. Or something about their life that's really interesting. It's true of almost everything in the world.

Most of the time I think we're turned off to it though. We sort of have this tunnel vision of what we're working on or what we're focused on and we're totally blind to the beauty around us. And if you can tap into that source of energy you can get you through some tough times.

Inspiration comes from different places for everyone, but I do agree with some of the preconditions that we try to put in place. First, having something that's bigger, maybe that could be a life's work. I don't know if I'll ever be able to say we're done with de-marketizing publishing; by necessity, that being a huge amorphous thing. It is huge and amorphous. It's not like you can wake up in the morning and say, "Okay, today I'm going to de-marketize me some publishing."

And then two, and this is maybe a more recent thing that I figured out, that it's really important for people to understand the "whys" of things; meaning not just what should we do, but why should we do it? And I have a belief that if a set of people, a group of people can agree on assumptions and on the whys, they'll all come to the same conclusions and do the same whats.

So a lot of what I've been working on lately to inspire our teams to work in these directions I think are most fruitful, are trying to layout, "Why do I think it's most fruitful?” “Why do I believe that?" because if I can articulate that, or get people exposed to the same things that made me come to those conclusions, they'll be as passionate as I am for heading down those paths; and that is an unstoppable force. It's people running down a path; independent, economic, rationale actors going towards the exact same thing rather than someone trying to herd them towards a thing.

Optimism tax is something I got from Internet guy named Halcyon and he has a story of he and his girlfriend were at a party and they went out to a taxi cab and they had backpacks and they remembered they had forgotten to say bye to the host and they said, "Hey, can you wait here just a moment?" The meter was running and everything. “Can you wait here just a moment? We’re going to run in and say bye to the host really quick." And when they returned a few minutes later the taxi cab was gone with 5, $10,000 worth of electronics that were in their backpacks.

Halcyon is a Burning Man guy. He's often half naked when I see him. He has pink hair. He's very a friendly guy and he said he started approaching the world and people he would meet with sort of cynicism thinking about, "Oh, am I going to be taken advantage of by this person?" Being more guarded because he is an incredibly open person.

He realized that the cost to him was five or $10,000 of lost stuff, but the bigger cost was that every interaction he had all day long was now tainted by this close mindedness, and for him he decided that he was going to approach life in the most open and trusting way possible, but know that occasionally people are going to take advantage of that, so he calls that his optimism tax. Where every once in a while, the cabbie is going to drive off but it's a much better way to live life if you are just trusting and that 99% of the time people are good. People will do the right thing and be helpful and trusting and honest, so don’t let that 1% taint how you treat the other 99%.

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