One of the by-products of this startup culture we live in is that people don’t know when to buzz the %*^& off.
I know this because I’ve been living that lifestyle for a couple of years now. The only thing that matters is that the job isn’t finished yet. Whatever you have to do to finish it and however long it takes, that’s what you need (and to a masochistic degree, WANT) to do.
No. I do not want to go out for a drink with you. I want to implement a new feature on my site. Going out with you is a waste of my time, *AND* it’s just pushing me further back in finishing the project that’s bringing me an actual ROI in the future.
The other day, I was awake @ 3 am and I thought about something I needed to talk to some company about. I looked their number up on the web and called them. I was actually ANNOYED at the fact that I was going to have to wait until maybe 7 am to speak to them! hahaha THE NERVE!!!
That’s the life we live. “There are four hours until I can do what I want to do”, as opposed to “You know what? Just because I’m awake and functional doesn’t mean anybody else IS or NEEDS TO BE”.
All this connectivity makes it even worse. There are too many ways for people to monitor your online presence and think they have an opportunity to grab at your time. You ignore their phone calls and they text you. You ignore their texts and they email you. You ignore their emails and they call your other phone. You ignore their voicemail and the look for you on Facebook… or MySpace or AIM/iChat or Twitter or Pownce or Jaiku or on your website or in Ning communities or in forums or bulletin boards…….
It would be laughable if it weren’t so utterly pathetic. 🙂 It’s like they’re going “How dare he post on Twitter when he didn’t return any of my calls? :O” “How dare he go out partying and post 35 pictures on the net when my project deadline is coming up? :O” Well… That’s just the thing. It’s *YOUR* deadline until you pay me to make it MY business at all. MY job is to have a good time. Period. If I elect to stop having a good time and help you accomplish YOUR goals in return for some of your money, then that’s business. Other than that, anything I tell you that helps you out is. a. FAVOR.
Another thing about this is that just because you see me on Twitter @ 4 am, that doesn’t mean I’m interested in or willing to discuss ANYTHING about your business with you. This isn’t the help desk. This isn’t live customer support from India. If I can help out and choose to, good for you. If I choose not to, that’s how it went.
It’s funny to see people build up ill will towards you over things that aren’t your problem to begin with. It’s not the REAL ill will, but the type I felt when that company was so lazy as to not be paying someone to do 24-hour tech support, just in case I wanted to call them ONE TIME IN LIFE at 3 am. I was upset at the company, because they hindered my ability to push forward RIGHT NOW. The fact of the matter is that the problem was entirely MINE, and the company was doing everything they said they were going to do in their ToS. The representatives were available between X time and Y time. That’s it. Other than that, they’re off the clock.
Off The Clock
One of my favorite stories about this culture that I tell all the time is from back in April ’07. A bunch of us had gone out for drinks and we were calling it an evening around 3 am. Mike gets a call/text/whatever when we get outside and finds out that a client has a problem with their service and needs something done. He IMMEDIATELY starts contacting his employees/co-workers and coordinating the fix for the issue.
Now… I’m standing there thinking “Dude. It’s 3 am. Y’all already figured out who’s on overnight shift yadda yadda”, but I’m just amazed at how FOCUSED he is upon suddenly realizing there’s an issue that needs to be addressed. Right there was when I realized “These People Are For REAL”, and I knew blip.tv was an entirely different company, if only due to sheer determination and “tireless” application of skillz. I guess I should say they GET tired, but they keep on striving for excellence.
So I understand the culture… I really do! 😀 It’s just that with everyone running around trying to do startups, everybody’s got their hand out at the same time. Everybody thinks that their project has priority, or perhaps that they’re the ONLY ONES pulling at you for your time. The way the entire culture works is “work now, convince someone you have a good product, get paid later…… MAYBE.” That’s all well and good, and I empathize, but just because YOU stay on the clock, that doesn’t mean that *I* do, and unless I’m on the payroll, it’s not my problem. Good Luck.
I texted an acquaintance / business associate the other night, around 9:30 pm. I sent her a simple text, saying “How are you?”. She called me and I decided to pick up the phone. She immediately starts blabbing about some business concepts she had, and I’m there like “How the hell did this happen to me?” 😀 I hadn’t texted “Please call me and tell me about your business”. I actually didn’t suggest that she call me AT ALL, but because of the acquaintance side of our “relationship”, I picked up the phone and what I heard was the business side, haha.
It’s “funny” how just because you don’t have a physical business, like where you sit at a desk for 8 hours every single weekday that people just assume you’re always on the clock. It’s “funny” how because you have a cell phone and not a landline that’s PHYSICALLY only available to you when you’re in that particular building that people feel free to contact you with business stuff all hours of the day and night. It’s “funny” how when you ignore their attempts, they keep trying again and again.
Why in the hell should I pick up the phone when you try to call me on Sunday morning @ 8 am? I don’t even want to REMEMBER THAT YOU EXIST at that time. Why in the world would I be available for some kind of business discussion or even CHECK the voicemail you left me? Am I on retainer?
“A retainer agreement is a work for hire contract. It falls between a one-time contract and full-time employment. Its distinguishing feature is that the employer pays in advance for work to be specified later. Additional contracts regarding the performance of this work may also apply.”
If that’s the case, call me ANY TIME we agreed to. Other than that, don’t expect anything you didn’t pay for.
Maybe I’m out to brunch on Sunday morning. Maybe I’m #&%$ing. Did you think about that?……
Maybe I’m working on something for myself or someone else and I don’t feel like being interrupted from my flow. Maybe I’m recovering from drinking all the night before. Maybe I’m not going to talk to YOU or anyone else for the next 15 hours. Maybe I’m just plain enjoying myself and completely disinterested in your business ideas. “Free Time” means Free to ME, not Free to *YOU*.
Another concept that Rox “put me up on” has to do with small amounts of time. I never had to think about that, because I always either worked for salary or on some form of hourly rate, and when I was working, I wasn’t dealing with other people’s business in the meantime.
Entering the startup culture, there’s this “get in where you fit in” mentality. Regardless of whether we were playing frisbee, having dinner, out for drinks, at a “social” networking event or hailing a cab in the middle of the night, we were now liable to be talking about business. It’s what we all do. It’s a social topic as well as a business topic. Oh, you made a new video? Oh, you worked for a new company? Oh, your company got bought? Oh, you got another round of funding? It’s not reeeeeally business-talk when we spend so much of our time doing it that it becomes impossible to extricate from our social lives.
So what happens is there are all these little “pings”. All these brief interruptions in your day, in your time, in your thought processes. My response to this was to shut it all down and only interact with people via email, which is completely controllable by just turning the mail app off and checking it whenever I felt like it.
I didn’t think anything of this style until Rox brought up the time it takes to read, think about and reply to an email. It doesn’t FEEL like anything, because it might be one minute, or two minutes, or five minutes. Ultimately, the problem is that for every twelve emails that you get and spend five minutes on each, that’s an hour down the drain.
It’s 11:32 am right now, and I have 29 emails marked “today” already. Let’s say that I didn’t even RESPOND TO or THINK ABOUT the emails. Let’s say I just opened each of them and read them, to the tune of one minute each. That’s half an hour down the drain. On top of that, each one of these micro-interruptions makes me less efficient in what I’m doing in the foreground, because I have to get out of and back into the flow/mentality of what I’m doing. It’s like stopping and starting a car instead of leaving it running. So, not only am I giving away time that I could be using to clear my desk of REAL work or just plain enjoying myself, but I’m increasing the time and effort it takes me to accomplish my goals for the day.
Multiply this by getting text messages and typing with two fingers to reply to those, getting actual phone calls, where you can see your time ticking away before your eyes, video chats, IRL meetups, reading blogs, making comments, replying to comments on your own blog as well as other Social Media / Internet Presence maintenance work and your entire day has disappeared and you have to start all over again the next time you wake up.
The solution to these time-grabbing issues is to have a goal and a desire to reach that goal ASAP. One of my issues from 2008, and really from 2007 as well is that I didn’t have a goal of my own and was mainly focusing on enabling other people to reach THEIR potential. That leads to a mentality of trying to see how I can make it work for the other person. They’re “going somewhere” and I’m not, so how do we “make it happen” for them?
By “I’m not going anywhere”, I mean that I have an actual marketable technical skill that’s in high demand and I don’t have to mess with this startup-style stuff at all. I do it because it’s interesting to me and there’s something to learn instead of cutting television and broadcast stuff over and over and over and over……. So, I’m not looking to “make a come-up”. I’ve already established myself.
The problem with that mentality is that it’s not progressive enough to remain “hungry” in a startup environment. Feeling like I’m just playing around and this isn’t REAL work because the budgets aren’t there doesn’t put me in the right mindset to keep people off of my personal time. So now, I’ve created goals for myself:
1) I’m in the process of aggregating my dating blog posts into eBooks and eventually actual books.
2) I’m brainstorming near-future projects with Kfir Pravda and looking into studio alliances with local talent, like Florence Holdeman and Athina Krikeli.
3) I’m moving back into the MSM realm, as internet video has become the same thing for me, except without the revenue stream to sustain a viable budget.
4) I’m going to get into doing way more creative video projects.
5) I’m going to stream live a lot more.
So now that I have ideas about what I want to accomplish this season, it’s easy for me to tell whether something’s a waste of my time or not. It’s easy and immediate. I can FEEL it now. Last year, I wasn’t sure… I couldn’t tell. Now, I can tell off the bat if someone’s got a viable project or not, and I know how much thought I’m willing to put into what they’re saying before I decide whether I’m going to be involved.
As far as the micro-interruptions, I’ll have to decide whether I’m going to put those on the clock or stop responding to them altogether….