Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ode to Arco

We took the boys to see the Globetrotters Thursday night at Arco Arena. The kids (and we) loved it, but something was missing. Not in the on-the-court performance, but the arena. Acro is an aging, charter-less, stale venue. It oozes – from the banged-up plastic seats to the 80s-era concessions to the stale beer aroma to the ambivalent employees – an apathetic malaise. It’s a tired place.

Why and how do things and stuff tire? Think of a book that’s remorsefully halfway read on your nightstand. Or a relationship that drags. Or an environment that lacks spark, intrigue or energy.

When people sincerely care about something, someone, or some place, you can tell. There’s a there there, a genuine dose of helium. It’s the book to read, the person to interact with, or the restaurant to visit. It’s the job that doesn’t feel like work. When it’s missing, it’s obvious.

Companies – collaborations of people focused on accomplishing a mission and making a buck – are cardinal candidates too. When you encounter or help propel a company that has “it,” hop aboard. People are intrigued … they want to be involved, as a team member, investor, customer, supplier, distributor, partner, or advocate.

Flip the coin. Though it’s not binary, you can spot (sense?) a company that is tired. Work is, well, work. Stakeholders float through the motions, artificially pedaling the company’s day-to-day actions. The atmosphere is stale, the people emotionless. To quote Don Nelson, there comes a point where potential becomes notential.

When people care about anything – a book they’ve read and thereby share, a person they meet and want to introduce to others, or an establishment that is cool – shit happens. There’s a certain energy that’s contagious. When the energy erodes, move on. Life is too short to invest your time in tired stuff.

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Post-script (23 Nov. 07): The Great Andreessen shares an interview with one of his entrepreneurial heroes, Stephen Wolfram ... scroll down for a relevant thoughtbite:

People have different motivations, of course. A lot of people think the big thing with companies is money.

Yes, if you luck out, you can make a lot of money. But it's really rare that money carries people as a motivation.

You have to actually care about what you're doing.

For some people, like me, it's the actual creative content that they care most about. For other people, it's the act of building the company. For others, it's making deals. Or winning against competition.

But there has to be something you really care about.

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