November 20, 2020

The vision was the hard part, let the idiots work on the details


There’s a clever saying from the construction world that should be plastered on the walls of every startup.

We got a dollar waiting on a dime.

Meaning, let’s not allow the trivial to overwhelm the vital. Let’s not let some chickenshit issue with minimal operational impact divert attention away from what really matters.

Have you ever worked with someone like this? The person who personifies the dime holding up the dollar?

It’s frustrating, demotivating and frankly, a waste of time.

Reminds me of a woman from my first office. Her only apparent expertise was the ability to take the smallest things way too seriously, read between the lines when there was nothing written on the page, and divert the group energy into another trivial rabbit hole that retarded our momentum.

She was the dime, we were the dollar, none of it made cents.

Particularly in a highly creative environment, this type of behavior can be detrimental to an organization. And clearly, creativity is inherently unpredictable and risky, and most managers are under pressure to minimize risks and deliver predictable results.

But if we’re obsessing over the font when we really should be deciding where to hang the poster, then we did something wrong.

It’s not our job to figure out every detail of our work, it’s our job to differentiate major issues from small ones and execute accordingly.

If you’ve spent the last twenty minutes of your staff meeting debating the most optimized sentence structure of a tweet, something is wrong.

We got a dollar waiting on a dime, and the cost to the group is growing more expensive with every passing moment.

Are you the dime holding up a dollar, or are you prioritizing tasks that make sense?