Speaker: Jack Dorsey Movie: Jack Dorsey at Startup School 2013
Wow! This is a huge, huge crowd. Well, thank you all for having me. Thank you for your time.
I am going to do something a little bit different; something I have never really done before,
which is, simply read to you from some books that have helped along the way, helped me along the transition, helped me get started but also helped me through so many things.
I mean there so many lessons in these books and please if you get a chance, buy them yourselves and read through the entire things. But I am going to give you some highlights and some of my experiences with the passages.
The first book is a book called “Art Spirit” by Robert Henri.
He was a painter and I know there is a lot of affinity for painters on this parts.
This is about creativity through the lens of an art student and I am going to read it through my phone because I cannot find a bookstore that would sell me a paperback version of this today. So, we are going to bring it by iBooks.
It starts off,“Art, when really understood, is the province of every human being. It is simply a question of doing things, anything, well. It is not an outside extra thing. When the artist is alive in any person, whatever his kind of work may be, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressing creature. He becomes interesting to other people. He disturbs, upsets, enlightens, and he opens ways for a better understanding. Where those who are not artists are trying to close the book, he opens it, he shows there are still more pages possible.”
And I think that is so telling for everything that you all are about to do all the challenges that you are about to face.
You are going to be the ones that open the book.
“The world would stagnate without them and the world would be beautiful with them, for he is interesting to himself and he is interesting to others. He does not have to be a painter or a sculptor to be an artist. He can work in any medium. He simply has to find the game in the work itself. Not outside of it.”
One of the biggest lessons that I have learnt throughout my career is how important the work is.
how important not just the end product is but the actual craft during the work inventing within the work.
“The work of the art student is no light matter. Few have the courage and the stamina to see it through. You have to make up your mind to be alone in many ways. We like sympathy as humans and we like to be in company. It is easier than going it alone. But when alone he gets acquainted with himself, grows up an arm, not stopping with the crowd. It costs to do this. If you succeed, someone, you may have to pay for it as well as enjoy it for the rest of your life. “
And that’s something if you do something meaningful you are going have to pay for it in all the work. But at the same time you will also be able to enjoy it for the rest of your life.
“We are not here to do what has already been done.”
Everyone in this room feels that. We are not here to do what has already been done.
“Know, what the old masters did, know how they composed the pictures but do not fall into their conventions they established. These conventions were right for them and they are wonderful. They made their language. You make yours. They can help you. All the past can help you.”
I think I can still value, especially in technology. It is so easy to fall into footsteps of others; to do what they do, because you think it is right, because the right way because you think they have had the success and you can copy that success.
You have to find your own path; you have to find your own footsteps.
“An art student must be a master from the beginning. That is, he must be the master of such as he has. By being now a master of such he has there is promise that he will be a master in the future. ”
What he means by this; is purely, you have to be a master of your own tools.
That mastership is not a destination. It is a process. It is a constant practice that gets you there.
“It is not enough to have sought great things before doing the work. “
We have so many ideas but what really matters is the work to implement those ideas.
“Don’t worry about the rejections. Everybody that’s good has gone through it. Don’t let it matter if your works are not accepted at once. The better more person you are, the less likely they are of acceptance. Just remember, that the object of painting pictures is not simply to get them in exhibition. It is all very fine to have your pictures hung but you are painting for yourself not for the jury. “
You know what’s meaningful about this passage to me is that we work so hard to get some sort of acceptance in the world; to get some sort of positive feedback and we look at others and it seems so fast is their success.
It seems like they did in just a moment but it takes years and years and years and patience. in not easy on this.
“There is a time and place for all things. The difficulty is to use them only in their proper time and place. With motive you will become clairvoyant of means; you will cease and command them. Without motive you will wobble about. “
This in building a team, in building an organization, in building a company is one of the greatest lessons. You cannot do anything without a shared and common sense of purpose.
If you don’t have motive, if you don’t have purpose to share with everyone, you will wander about. You will wobble. You will not do anything that’s timeless.
“The art student of these days is a pioneer.”
just like all of you.
I love this passage.
“The art student of today must pioneer beyond the mere matters of fact. I believe the great artist of the future will use fewer words, copy fewer things, essays will be shorter in words and longer in meaning.”
“We must paint only what is important to us, must not respond to outside demands. They do not know what they want or what we have to give.”
I think one of the most important things about what all of you will do is that you are building what you want to see in the world. You are making the bet that other people want to see the same thing in the world. Sometimes, you lose a bet, sometimes you win the bet.
But the most important thing is you have the passion to build for yourself because that’s what’s infectious and that’s what brings other people to your cause and to your team.
The second book is by a local favorite. His name is Bill Walsh. He was the coach of the 49ers; the San Francisco 49ers. He took a team that was at the very very bottom. He brought them to the top.
He focused entirely on the details. He didn’t come in and just say, “You all need to win the games.”
He said “You need to tuck in your shirts. You need to clean your lockers. This is how we answer the phones here.” He set a new standard of performance.
One of the hardest transitions anyone has to make and especially anyone in this room has to make is going from individual creation to actually leading a team.
It is something that I certainly fumbled with along the way.
I was not really excited about reading any leadership books or management books. This was actually the first one that I ever read.
It was given to me by Keith Rabois when I had him as our GM at Square and our 23rd employee. I am going to read a few passages from this book to you.
So, he starts off the book by saying,
“Running a football franchise is not unlike running any other business. You start first with structure format and basic philosophy, and find people who can implement it.”
You start first with an idea and a philosophy of purpose, a mission and then you go and you find people to help you implement it. The book if you read it and I definitely encourage you to read this book. If you are thinking about leading teams or building a company or leading a team within an organization, is a series of list.
There is a list of what to do and series of list of what not to do and it starts off by establishing a standard of performance, and builds a standard of performance with us.
“First when you establish a standard of performance with your team, you start with a comprehensive recognition of reverence for and identification of a specific actions and attitudes relevant to your team’s performance and production. Number two, you’ll be clearer and clearer in communicating your expectation of high effort and execution of your standard of performance. Number three, let all know that you expect them to possess the highest level of expertise in their area and responsibility. Number four, beyond standards and methodology, your teacher believes your values and your philosophy. Number five, teach connection and extension.”
You don’t want a group of independent contractors. You want people who feel connected that you are going to expand the organization.
“And the number six; make the expectation and metrics of competence. They demand an action and attitude from personnel, the new reality of your organization. “
And now, what’s important about that is as you start building a team, you need to set expectations around how people need to perform in a company. How people need to act in a company. And these can very very simple things. But without that, you are rudderless. You will react to the outside and if you react to the outside, you are building someone else’s road map and are building someone else’s dream instead of your own. And as you grow, you are collective one
Bill goes on to write about being a leader; 12 habits of what to be in a leader. And Bill has a lot of again “What to do and what not to do” and this is the best example of that.
“Number one, be yourself. Number two, be committed to excellence. Number three, be positive.”
This is probably one of the hardest things to do as you start building a technology or as you start building a company.
“Number four, be prepared.”
Good luck is a product of good planning. It’s not so much that people get lucky. It is that they are prepared to recognize fortunate situations and act on them immediately when they occur.
“Number five, be detail-oriented.”
In Bill’s way, he came into an organization that lost every single season that had no chance of getting into the Super Bowl, and he taught about the small details that no one pays attention to. Push in our chairs, tucking our shirts, act professional because if you build an organization that does that, you build an organization that cares about itself. It cares about doing great and setting itself in the scene of performance and constantly raising bars on that.
“Number six, be organized.”
“Number seven, be accountable.”
“Number eight, be near-sighted and far-sighted.”
Near-sighted is very very easy for us to do and far-sighted is not so much.
Number nine, be fair.
“Number ten, be firm.
Number eleven, be flexible.
Number twelve, believe in yourself.”
“The next number thirteen; be a leader.” What that means is actually getting up there and showing and not telling. ”
Let me talk about what not to do.
“Exhibit patience paralyzing patience, number one.”
“Number two, engage in delegating. Massive delegating are conversely engaging in too little delegating.”
“Number three, act in a tedious, overly-cautiously manner.”
“Number four, become best buddies with certain employees, playing favoritism. “
“Number five; spend excessive amounts of time socializing with superiors or subordinates. ”
“Number six; fail to continue hardness performance of evaluations of long time or tenured staff members, the ones most likely to go on cruise control or to relax. ”
And this I see in so many start-ups is that folks who start early have the least pressure in the company when they should actually have the most pressure in the company.
“Number seven, fail to actively participate in efforts to praise and acquire new hires.”
“Number eight, trust others to carry out your fundamental duties; fundamental duties.”
“Number nine; find ways to get out from under the responsibilities of your position; to move accountability from you, yourself, to others in the blame game.”
“And number ten; promote an organization on environment that is comfortable and laid back in the misbelief that the workplace should be fun, lighthearted and free from appropriate levels of tension and urgency. “
And you want both. You want a contrast between fun and also having good amount of tension.
One of the things that he references is General Patton and General Patton’s lists during World War I. He has five, six points which was; how General Patton ran his army.
“Number one; remember that praise is more valuable than blame.”
“Number two; use every means before and after combats to tell troops what they are going to do and what they have done.”
This goes back to setting expectations and making sure that everything; everyone knows what is expected of them and what to prepare for.
“Number three; discipline is based on pride in the profession, of arms, of meticulous attention to details, and our mutual respect and confidence. “
Number four; officers must assert themselves by example and by voice.
“Number five; general officers must be seen in the frontline during action.”
Again show, don’t tell.
Number six; there is a tendency for the chain of command to overload junior officers by excessive requirements in the way of training and reports.
And finally, as you continue to build, as you succeed, there develops what Bill Walsh calls it a disease; which is the success disease.
What happens when you really start winning? What happens to an organization when you start winning?
What happens when you start having minor wins that turn into major ones?
You want to protect against it as well.
So, he created yet another list.
Number one; formally celebrate and observe the momentous achievement; the victory and make sure that everyone feels the ownership of it.
Number two; allow pats on the back for a limited time.
Number three; be apprehensive about applause.
Number four; develop a plan for your staff so that it can be back into the motivate operation that can produce success in the first place.
Number five; address specific situations that need showing up. Focus on the mistakes that were made and things that were not up to snuff in the success.
Number six; be demanding. Do not relax.
Number seven; don’t fall prey to overconfidence so that you can feel; you can or should make change for the sake of change.
Number eight; use the time immediately fall in success as an opportunity to make hard decisions.
This one stuck with me the most.
There is never a better time to do the hard things when things are going extremely well. And that can be as an individual; that can be as a team as well.
Number nine; never fall prey to the belief that getting to the top makes everything easy.
It doesn’t. It makes it harder.
And number ten; recognize that mastery is a process not a destination.
So, that’s what Bill Walsh had to say. The book is, “The Score Takes Care of Itself”; a fantastic fantastic term of lists and everything that is learned in managing some very very hard and ego driven people, football players, through a most losing team in the world to winning four Super Bowls in a row.
Amazing, amazing turnaround that he did by building a team and focusing on those details.
Bill inspired me to create a number of lists of my own and I wanted it share to all that I use on a daily basis.
It has been most fundamental in my own growth and my own establishment of practices.
So, this is participatory. I want you bring out your phone right now or your computer and bring something out that you are going to view on a daily basis.
On my dock; on my iPhone, I have notes and notes are something that I check every single day.
I have a note for every single person that I encounter in the company, I have a note for every single thing I am doing, every person that I talk with in the company such as Sarah Friar, COO at Square has one specific note in my notepad and anytime I need to talk to her about something I write it down.
And then whenever I see her I go through my entire list.
Very very simple memory device. But what I want to talk to you about today is a note which I call “Daily”.
So, if you created a new note in your notepad for something you check on a daily basis; this is the most important thing, name it “Daily”, and then write the word “Do” colon and then go down a few lines and then write the word ”Don’t” colon.
And then the one thing I’d ask you to do walking out of this is to; every single day, just for a week, wake up to the snow, check it throughout the day and then also before you fall asleep check to make sure you did everything.
So, why you put in each of one of these is that you have a list of everything you want to do every single day and you have a list of things you don’t want to do.
And the easiest way to add to the don’ts is to notice something you never want to do it again, and you just add that to it. Very very simple.
I am just going to share some of mine; this might be a little personal and embarrassing but here we are: number one on my “Do” list is to stay present. It is so easy to get trapped in the past; it is so easy to think about the future.
Most important thing is I stay present.
Just reading this brings me back to present; brings me back to this moment.
Number two for me is: be vulnerable.
Show people my mistakes, show people my fears because they can relate, because they are going through similar things.
Number three; drink only lemon water and red wine. Great red wine is a great modifier for it.
This goes with one of my don’ts which is don’t drink hard liquor or beer on weekdays.
Number three is: six sets of 20 squats and push-ups throughout the day.
I just have to do them every day.
Six sets of 30 seconds planks, run for 3 miles, meditate on this list.
Stand up straight which is whenever I see a posture moving in the audience.
Say hello to everyone.
I just bought a heavy bag. Some training with the heavy bag. So, I want to spend some 10 minutes with a heavy bag every day.
I want to do a video journal every single day and I want to get 7 hours of sleep.
On my “Don’t” list; and again, this is one of the hardest things and a lot of these are personal. So I am not going to read all of them.
Well my “Don’t” list is: Don’t avoid eye contact. Don’t be late. Don’t set expectations for someone and not meet them. Don’t eat sugar. I am on a paleo diet so don’t eat wheat, lentils or dairy and then of course don’t drink hard liquor and beer again on weekdays.
So, this list, well sounds very simple has been fundamental in establishing patterns for myself.
And it is something I do check every single morning, I check throughout the day and I check right before I go to bed. And I make sure that I check everything off and go through it.
I have given it to our companies; I have given it to a number of students that I have talked to as we have gone to schools and recruiting.
The people have come back to me and said that this is something that works for me; something that is easier to do and something easier to remember.
One of the most fundamental things about it that I have learned; that I have taken from it is how it gives you focus;
how it gives you something that allows you to really ignore, everything else that is going on, all the other noise to really focus on what’s important.
So, this “Do” and “Don’t” list for people and individuals in the company has translated it to “Do” and “Don’t” list for our company.
For Square we have a “Do” and “Don’t” list.
Well, these are the things that we are going to do. These are the core things, these are bold bets and these are the things that we are saying no to right now, has been fundamental in allowing us to move fast,
to continue to innovate and to really push the boundaries and continue to invent and question, and reset everything we think about during the session.
So, normally I talk about entrepreneurship and I talk about founding a team, and I talk about design and product. I don’t want to do any of that today.
I just wanted to share some of the books that have kept me going; the books that I have learned so much from, write so much from. And I don’t want to leave on a sorrow note. I am just giving you a list of ten or twelve things from a football coach.
I want to share and listen with you what we end up doing when everything goes right, when we move from creation; individual creation, and we find something that resonates with other people and we organize a team to build something together.
What’s the end product? It is something that delights people; something that they want to listen to again and again, something that they can’t help but engage in, they can’t help but tap their feet to.
So, I want to leave you with one of my favorite songs.
How many of you have heard the song or recognize it all? No one! OK. This will be excellent then. This is a very very simple but lively song and I find myself listening to it nonstop.
But what it reminds of is just how a simple creation can be, how complex it can be, how strong you have to be to get to something this deep, to get to something this essential, to get to something that actually strikes a chord with so many people and potentially strikes a chord with everyone on the planet.
That is why we all are here in this room. We want to build something; we want to create something that resonates with every single person on the planet.
Music does that in a very easy way but it is very very hard to get to it. So, I’d like to play for you this; play this for you and just listen to it for a minute.
This song goes really well with red wine. If you take away anything from this day, it is that, YOU are the future, YOU are the ones that have the ideas in your head, and you are the only ones who can actually build if for yourself, and THAT is your task. You are building what YOU want to see in the world. You are making a bet with the world that resonates other people. Sometimes you are going to win the bet. Sometimes you are going to lose the bet, you put that loss in the shelf and bring it back another day. But it is up to you to make that interpretation, to make that creation, and to PAINT what you want to see in the world. Thank you very much for your time, and great luck in all of your work. Thank you.