Urban communities will be family

If you want to make new friends or nurture existing relationships, then find shared interests. Shared interests create shared experiences and shared memories. Find communities that work and play together.

Suburban America is compartmentalized into McMansions, high fences, and car friendly neighborhoods. Suburban America is not a healthy garden to grow a community. People have everything they want at their fingertips but are still isolated and lonely. When last did you have a conversation with your neighbors or fellow tenants?

The good news is that concentrated urbanization is trending and housing legislation is adapting. Sadly tech hubs like San Francisco have been slow to adjust and will see an exodus of young people and families looking for more affordable living arrangements and better public services.

Individually owned cars will be a legacy mode of transporting and will be surpassed by communal ownership and various forms of public transport. Public transportation like trains is a leading indicator of growth in new companies. More trains in cities equate to more successful startups. Sci-fi novels are pretty good at telling the future, and most of them envisage dense cityscapes, and that is full of skyscrapers.

We see the same trend in farming. We will do more with less space as people urbanized. The Netherlands is the world’s second-largest exporter of food as measured by value, second only to the US, which has 270 times its landmass.

Healthy communities depend on each other, are compassionate and look out for their neighbors. More and more people will migrate to these megacities and sadly away from family. The community will become their family over time…any immigrant knows this from personal experience. Compartmentalized America is in for a nasty surprise as these trends start to accelerate. Adapt now and start exercising your community muscle.

Good Citizens and Mercenaries

Teddy Roosevelt said, “The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his weight.” A Good Citizen properly fulfills his or her role as a citizen. 

A mercenary takes part in a battle, but is not a national or a party to the conflict and is motivated to take part in the hostilities by the desire for private gain.

People, not product, will determine the success or failure of a company. You can have an excellent product and fail because you’ve assembled the wrong team. Building a business at scale is hard. It’s fraught with uncertainty, highs, lows, wins and losses. It’s an emotional roller coaster. Good citizens roll up their sleeves when there’s work to be done. They pitch up every day and are in service to each other. Mercenaries leave if it’s about anything but themselves.

The list of GC attributes I look for when building a team:

Compassionate

Collaborative

Curious

Comfortable with uncertainty and mystery. They feed off it and enjoy it

Cocky in a kind way

Gritty

Impatient

Kind

Loyal

Persistent

Pragmatic

Polite

Persuasive

Zen

Pointers for spotting a GC:

They use ‘we’ and “our” a lot when talking about solving problems

They laugh at themselves

Pedigree & degrees don’t matter. It’s about what you can offer now and in the future

They have a history of execution and getting things done

They listen more than they speak

They are self-aware

They are black belts in verbal judo. The best answer always wins the tussle

They ask for feedback, welcome it, and act on it

They have detractors. Probably a couple of bullies they’ve stood up to in the past

They respect the people they work with and are friends with them

They are rewarded and recognized by their peers

They offer up reference checks from peers and previous investors/partners

They treat interviews like a two-way street and ask questions about the team, motivations and product

They seek you out, vs. running away from their current role or company

They have hobbies outside of work

Ad hominem is not an option

They are comfortable making decisions with incomplete data

The understand the importance of luck, timing and preparedness

They are always learning, experimenting, tinkering & tweaking

Titles don’t matter

So what’s the opposite of a GC?

In my experience it’s the Mercenary. The are seductive, because they get things done, but don’t be fooled – when the going gets tough and it’s time to contribute to the greater good and sacrifice something…they leave.

Attributes that pop up time and time again:

Bully

Blamer

Bitter

Charming

“Lone wolf”

Poison dwarf

Rude

Short tenures and long stories

How to spot them:

They use “I” and “they” when describing their current role and company

They describe past and present colleagues as ninkanpoops/clueless/tone deaf/opaque/idiots/blind/wrong/lazy

They hold grudges

They “get things done” through coercion and intimidation

They stereotype people and roles

They don’t believe in luck and good timing. It’s all about talent & A players

They are “Remember whens” – “remember when” is the lowest form of conversation. They dwell on the past, live in the world of what was instead of understanding that things change and you need to move forward. (The Sopranos Season 6, Ep 15)

Listen for phrases like:

They don’t listen to me

It’s them not me

I don’t have the resources

It’s not my responsibility

You need me

I inherited that problem

My team wasn’t big enough

They wouldn’t promote me

I told them, but nobody listened

Give me people a chance to change

Everyone can change, and I’ve seen it happen many times. Sometimes Mercenaries become GCs and even inspiring presidents, but if it looks like a goat and sounds like a goat it normally is a goat.

Happy hiring!