What Kind of Company Do You Keep?
I began to reminisce (forgetting the horrible parts of course) about a job I used to have where I’d carpool several hours across the state twice a month with two coworkers. We three worked remotely in flip-flops in an otherwise button-up traditional office. We were the rebels and rule-breakers, but we got our stuff done so we got away with it. These bi-monthly rides were tremendous for my ambition and intellectual development.
These guys were not interested in laterally navigating their jobs or whining about petty workplace bureaucracy (though we did find cathartic occasion for the latter). They were interested in full-scale world take-over. They were interested in high-level plots to overthrow every stagnant institution, internal and external, and realistically navigate the people and incentives necessary to do so. These were skeptical, optimistic discussions. There was no self-pity or complaining about obstacles, there was opportunistic scheming about creative work-arounds.
These guys helped unleash a rule-breaking, risk-taking mentality. Not as an end in itself, but as a way to achieve a goal. They also understood that failure to achieve a goal, especially after breaking rules, should be fully owned. These guys loved their jobs and were constantly restless and discontent at the same time.
One of them said, “Don’t tell anyone, but I’d do this work for free.” He meant it, and it was a brilliant statement for two reasons. One, because it revealed a relentless, “Don’t do stuff you hate” mentality which led him to work he got fired up about (even though it was far from glorious). Two, because even though he’d work free, he’d rather be paid for it, so he was fine keeping this a semi-secret.
It was partly luck of the draw, partly my own dogged insistence on working remotely that led to this fortunate selection of carpoolers. I think my experience in this job would have been far less fulfilling had I carpooled with good, clock-punching employees or bad gossips. Instead, I got a combo of fierce devotion to the vision with relentless drive to break old tactics and create new ones.
You know the difference between being around dangerous, rebellious, creative builders and safe, loyal, low-level complainers. Nobody’s will is strong enough to not become at least a little like the company they keep. Choose wisely.
Isaac Morehouse is founder and CEO of Praxis.