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It feels weird sending this on the 1st of January, 2021 — it feels like a “long-time coming” but at the same time it has a real sense of hope in our collective future — I can’t wait to kick serious ass with all of you this year!!
2020… changed… us… forever.
The question, naturally, is “how”? In what ways did we really change and what are the behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs that are going to only sit in “temporary memory” until something else takes its place?
This feels familiar… wait… there it is. There’s the memory! This moment reminds me of my first, professional “code commit” as an intern at a big Fortune 500, an unforgettable reminder about how the past informs our future. When my first submission completely “shit the bed” — his words, not mine — he sat me down and, with his head between his hands, said:
We don’t build the future; we rebuild the past.First Engineering Manager, Ever.
You see, I had failed the first real test of building anything for anyone, not just software: I hadn’t spent the necessary time understanding where the code had been; the history of the work already invested and then, consequently, my place in the larger, on-going story.
I hadn’t learned how to identify, build, and then ship code (and a product) in a way that respected the process; my additions, although technically performant and “correct” (which was a bit of a surprise for him), had contradicted a decade of work with just a few keystrokes.
A few weeks later I was actively “checking out” versions of the codebase via
ColdFusion and its native IDE to connect data on the public
.html to things like our
Active Directory (anything “intranet” related) or our many Microsoft Exchange Servers.
But it wasn’t enough. Although I had grokked the process and workflow I was scared shitless about making mistakes — which I inevitably did 2 or 3 times and was subsequently asked “politely” to stop making commits. I was neither coached or given any instruction as to what I did wrong or how I could have improved.
I was, clearly, in the way.
Enter lesson number two: Building / launching great software was not about world-class tooling or flawless, history-respecting workflows — it was about creating an environment where team members — especially younger and new members — felt safe to ask questions and secure in their membership, even and especially after critical (and inevitable) early mistakes.
I just never got there in that first internship and I vowed that I would never create an unhealthy environment like “that” if I ever a chance.
Sadly, it would take me many more years (and many more failures) until I would finally learn and codify my own process of how to only identify, build, and then deploy a (software) project to my customers and community but also create an inviting, healthy, encouraging, and productive culture that would maximize learning, empathy, and business outcomes.
Essentially a decade of teaching myself through trial and error, finding communities and amazing humans that welcomed my insatiable curiosities and incurable desire to build products and share them with others.
I wonder if you feel the same.
Here’s my conclusion after all these years: The objectively best communities on the internet share 3 common, cultural operating virtues:
- They are purpose-built for experimentation and learning. This creates an intentionally safe place for people to try new things and test-drive new ideas, even and especially ones that are counter-culture or unpopular.
- They are purpose-built for collaborative production. Great communities build stuff together, period.
- They are purpose-built for member success. This is often tightly coupled with a real sense of urgency, driven by the members who want to succeed and who aren’t happy with the status-quo. Membership is highly-curated (and kept) by getting stuff done. No growth, no membership.
I mean, let’s be honest for a moment, shall we? There’s nothing is more depressing than a community that exists for its own sake (e.g. “meta community” communities) whereas exciting, attractive, and super-fun communities always culturally demand the best from their members.
These communities have cultural rules, typically spearheaded by full stack founders who know the trials and tribulations of building products and communities on the internet and who want to create their own useful “universe” for folks like them.
2021 is all about “rolling your own” community and doing it the way that you’ve always wanted. As you may already know, there are plenty of great resources and tools, playbooks, and even comprehensive how-tos to get you started on the right path.
Besides, it’s my personal mission to help 1,000+ founders and creators build the project, business, and community of their dreams! In fact, a few of the current (and future)
#yenED courses are built specifically to help you make sure that 2021 is not like 2020 in any way, shape, and form!
Let’s kick it in the ass, together. Let that be our commitment to one another, my friend and fellow
yenizen! 2021 is going to be the best year ever.
I’m ready. You in? Our community — The YENIVERSE — is here to help.
To infinity & community,
Just a small note to the few folks who helped me completely sell-out our first-ever live event of 2021!! I’m so grateful for all of you who are showing up THIS SUNDAY for our interactive workshop!! I literally can’t sleep thinking about it!
Thank you thank you thank you thank you!