Making mistakes: Assuming your excitement is infectious

Making mistakesA few weeks ago, I mentioned that I would try to take some time to highlight some of the mistakes we’ve made (and maybe are continuing to make) with Kumquat.

Now, there are plenty of mistakes through which to sift, so I was trying to decide where to begin. That took some time. Plus, I wanted to make sure that the discussion of the particular mistake could serve a larger purpose. Meaning, I didn’t want the mistake to be so Kumquat-specific that it had no bearing on the world at large.

I think I found an appropriate mistake with which to start:

Assuming your excitement is infectious.

Too often, people assume that their excitement is palpable, infectious–and intelligible. When, in actuality, leadership, co-workers, vendors, and others often have a very difficult time getting to the same level of excitement as you have. Because they don’t understand it–or love it–as much as you do.

Recognizing this is one thing. Assuming that it is occurring, automatically, when it isn’t occurring, at all, can be disastrous.

When Toby and I began working on Kumquat, we were downright giddy. We had hit upon something that we thought we would enjoy building, we were the target market, we were excited to have the tool for us, and we thought that others would find a great deal of value in it.

And the more we talked about it, the more excited we got. And we talked so much with one another that we tended to internalize the excitement. We began to assume it was completely obvious and immediately understood.

But the problem was that we were only talking to ourselves.

This mistake led us to under-communicate about the excitement, the concept, and the tool we were trying to build. We left out a big chunk of the story.

We were so excited. It was obvious, wasn’t it?

No, it wasn’t.

And because of this, we sat there scratching our heads.

Why aren’t our vendors jumping all over this? They’re getting paid to do this. They should be taking this and running with it. This is the most exciting thing ever.

Not to them.

To them, it was just another project. Because while we took the time to translate our requirements and our ideas, we did a piss-poor job of translating our excitement and energy.

The result? The first coder on the Kumquat project didn’t deliver. It took forever to get anything out of him.

And we found it very demoralizing. We just couldn’t understand why he wasn’t putting this at the top of his list. (We were paying his full rate.)

The reason? It wasn’t exciting. Worse yet, it was probably boring.

So, we cut our losses (which were substantial), and started from scratch. New coder. New code. New team. New process.

This time, we’re trying to be clear about our excitement. We’re working hard to translate our passion. We’re conscious of making our coder more of a partner, less of a vendor.

And it’s been night and day.

He’s involved. He’s contributing. He’s “bought in” to the whole thing.

And it’s made it very rewarding for all of us.

So, don’t assume that people have your passion. Don’t assume that they grok the concept. Spend your time describing, sharing, yelling, screaming, and weeping. Show your passion. Try to make it infectious.

No matter what you’re doing.

You’ll be better for it.

About Rick Turoczy

More than mildly obsessed with the Portland startup community. Founder and editor at Silicon Florist. Cofounder and general manager at PIE. Follow me on Twitter: @turoczy
This entry was posted in Kumquat, Mistakes. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Making mistakes: Assuming your excitement is infectious

  1. Cheyne Rood says:

    I’m with you on this — it is critical for any other parties to “buy in” to the idea before getting involved. It’s even better when, besides just joining in the excitement & passion, that party has some great feedback/criticism to offer.

  2. Rick Turoczy says:

    And this is–luckily–what we’ve found in our new arrangement. Now, we have a developer who is offering both his skills and his criticism of what we are trying to accomplish.

    It’s improved the product a great deal and helped us reason through some gray areas that weren’t immediately obvious.

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