Building Community is just as Important as Building Products

22 Sep 2020

Move fast and break things. You hear that a lot in tech. And I’m here to call bullshit. Because you don’t build relationships fast and break them. You don’t create trust by breaking things. You don’t depend on things that break. You don’t step on the ice of a pond with a pair of ice skates to figure out if it’s strong enough to hold you. You figure it out before you trust it. You know if it’s solid. And that’s what enables you to soar.

What enables you to glide across the ice, what allows you to soar is the trust that comes from having that solid base. And it doesn’t matter how great the software is if you don’t have great people behind it, because if you don’t have great people the software will eventually fail. It’s possible to push through and make something great, but that doesn’t last without injury. When you push the people on the team so hard that they don’t have time to recover, that they never feel like they’ve won a minute in their career, you are responsible for the breakdown of the product, goals, and/or organization.

When you have a community who can trust each other, when you have a community who supports each other, when you have a community who can be honest and transparent, that’s when you have the potential to make amazing things. That’s when you have the potential to change this industry. Because you have the ability to soar because you can trust each other, because you know that if someone stops you, it’s for good reasons, because when they let you go, they’ll be there to support you even if the ice starts to feel a little thin. They’ll get you back to the shore and you’ll re-evaluate for next time. But you’ll be damn sure that no one lets you make the same mistake again.

One of my all-time favorite quotes is from James Clear in Atomic Habits:

Nothing sustains motivation better than belonging to the tribe. It transforms a personal quest into a shared one. Previously, you were on your own. Your identity was singular. You are a reader. You are a musician. You are an athlete. When you join a book club or a band or a cycling group, your identity becomes linked to those around you. Growth and change is no longer an individual pursuit. We are readers. We are musicians. We are cyclists. The shared identity begins to reinforce your personal identity. This is why remaining part of a group after achieving a goal is crucial to maintaining your habits. It’s friendship and community that embed a new identity and help behaviors last over the long run.

Driven by empathy and the mindset that each person on your team has something valuable to contribute, communities that have a growth-mindset, the ones that have each-others backs are the ones that change the industry. I’m not interested in being a part of something that doesn’t want to change the industry. I’m not interested in doing the things the way they’ve always been done. I’m interested in working with good people because I know that they are interested in changing the world. I know that they will inspire me, when I feel uninspired. And I’ll be there to inspire them some day too. Because, for me, there is no point in doing things if it’s not to change things for the better, if it’s not to make products or changes in the industry that will improve the lives of someone we know. I’m a firm believer that it doesn’t happen unless we can trust the people around us. And when both of those things align, something beautiful will happen.