Letting go

/ / Finished while sitting in a hotel in CA in a town called Tiburon. Mostly written while stuck in an AZ airport listening to a slew of retirees cell phones buzzing. My mind needed an escape. I visited home yesterday for about 12 hours before getting back on a plane. A cab driver picked me up yesterday morning around 6AM… He was pretty stoned and rambling about “dust in the wind”. I saw a woman running and vomiting in the Chicago airport the day before. I’m looking forward to getting home for more than 12 hours very soon. //

I just got back from London Web Summit and I even got to hang out on Bloomberg TV yesterday. I spent the week being able to hang around people like Niklas, Matthew, Peter, Cindy, and a slew of others. Today, I get to spend time with one of the fastest growing financial companies on the planet, MFoundry (who most people know as the company that built the Starbucks app). 

These are the men and women shaping the Internet and the world. The fact that I get to spend my time being in the same room is something I’m still adjusting to… And quite frankly trying not to take for granted.

It’s been an interesting week as usual. Checking in at home, a few new rockstars from Des Moines even joined the Dwolla team this week. I couldn’t be more humbled to work with with everyone in that office and every day I’m thankful for what I get to watch unfold. I feel like that’s a group of people who are shaping the internet and the world just the same.

With any round about trip like this, there’s always some golden nugget that comes out of it for me. 1-2 things I always feel like I take away from the experiences  that will change the way I look at some things. 

One of the biggest revelations for me this week came during the speakers dinner at LWS.

I had the pleasure of dining next to Dharmash. After an hour or so of yelling across the table and a few rounds of red wine we started talking about building companies and some of the challenges.

As usual, I was looking for a golden nugget and what I ended up finding was that many of us just seem to learn the same things the hard way. There are no shortcuts, just a never ending revolving door of discoveries.

I had some odd revelation during the conversation and it’s something I’ve always known but probably never really internalized for whatever reason.

The act of letting go can be the one of the more important things you do when founding a company or growing a team. Trusting someone enough to let them run with an idea either kills you or takes you to the next step. That’s a bet you always have to be willing to make.

I’m not talking about letting go completely or just giving away the company. I am talking about the moment we all know which is:

” I have this idea. This could be huge. Who do I trust enough to share it with? “

Which is immediately followed by this emotional attachment to this totally intangible thing which without action is totally meaningless.

The idea.

For the idea to ever be worthwhile it has to leave your mind. The minute it does it’s up for grabs for anyone. Once you share it with people you can never have it back. That idea might be a company, a product, a feature, or a phrase. It could be anything and once you give it away to the world what happens to it next is impossible to predict.

Sometimes you end up with partners, a lack thereof, new friends, or none at all. Sometimes your coworkers leave because of your idea and sometimes you not sharing it causes them to leave anyway.

What I am trying to get to is this…

You have to let go of the ownership of the idea so that other people can help you build it. In order for that to happen, they will take ownership over it just like you and you must let that happen.

If you’re going to lead the only way to do it is by sharing your ideas and when other people improve upon them and fine tune them you need to be happy about that and even celebrate it. The fact that something can be adopted by others and believed in… Is a million times more powerful than the idea or any iteration of it could ever be sitting in your head.

At first it feels strange seeing people around you start to love an idea or a product. Then it becomes empowering and there’s a strange transition phase where people start to take ownership over it who aren’t you. That feels really uncomfortable at first.

Founders in this stage can be a little like toddlers who just aren’t sure they want to share their favorite toy. 

Let go and let it happen. When people start embracing your idea and are excited to be a part of it that’s a huge transition most of us never get to see happen. Start helping other people by supporting their iterations and growing it. Once the vision and the execution is behind the idea it’s significantly more powerful. 

Let go of your need to feel like you were there at the beginning and just concentrate on how you help the people around you make magic happen.

If you learn to let go at the right time it might just spawn something pretty damn magnificent.

Take a risk. Let it go.