Archive for the ‘communication’ Category

Listening to Mark Twain

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

I recently had a series of e-mails from a person whom I was considering going into a new business venture with and it reminded me of Mark Twain’s famous dictum that it is better to keep your mouth shut and have people think you are stupid than open it up and prove them right.   The problem was that I asked for a written agreement and to put together a business plan before doing a lot of work on this project.  What I discovered was that this person was a control freak to umpteenth degree and really wanted to simply be a ‘big shot’ and have me do all of the work and then eventually shoulder all of the blame.  Although he had this idea for over two years, he had done nothing with it.  He did not even want to invest $10 to register a domain name.  There is nothing like being lazy as well stupidly cheap.

After asking him for a reasonable request (which would have also helped him), he wrote me a series of  long e-mail that was particularly scathing.  I guess he had time to write these e-mails but not register a domain name and was upset that I did register the domain.  The gist of his e-mail was ‘I will tell you what to write and you will write it!’.  The funny part was that I had to prove my ability to write to him, even though I have written countless articles and books and am all over the internet, while he does not have to prove himself (even though you will not even find a LinkedIn profile of him).

There are two points to this.  One, with technology and instaneous communication, it is a great idea to think about things before commiting them to paper.  You definitely cannot take back words and even more so with e-mail.  Sometimes it is better to simply let things go or give it a few days before you write things down.  Also, silence can be powerful.  Better to be silent sometimes and let people ‘think’ they know what you are up to, than to tip your hand and show them.

The second lesson is on leadership.  It is obvious that this person will never do anything.  He is all talk and if after 2 years of an idea he does not even both to register a domain name (cost $10), then he will never do anything.  Instead of trying to inspire and collaborate with people to get things done, he simply wants to bully them to do it is his way.  Obviously after two years of going nowhere, you would think he might figure out that his way isn’t workinng.  For that, however, he should take Ben Franklin’s quote to heart.  Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

The idea of innovation is not simply having an idea, but having the dedication and openess to execute it and adapt your strategy accordingly.