Tonight I was supposed to run a 2-hour brainstorm on recruiting new contributors for Sugar. We weren't ready for it when the time came; we were all just dropping in our chairs, cranky, tired, impatient, distracted. Also something like an hour behind schedule. How can we ask more people to work with us before we learn how to work with each other?
Ah, sod it. Everybody take a 15 minute break; go get some water, check email, whatever. Come back. Close laptops. Get some dead trees and a pen. Come scoot around the whiteboard. We're going to debrief on how the week went, because I'm not letting us end on an "I'm tired and frustrated" note. (And hey, I can always bring up the "we want newbies!" thing later - I'm sure I will; I want to be one of them, so I'd better.)
And we went down and across the whiteboard, and at the end, no big surprise, we had a list of things that bugged us and that we need to fix for the next Sugarcamp when we all get together again. But it was a wonderful surprise to see the list of things we thought were awesome scroll down, past the list of frustrations, down to hit the bottom of the board, up to the top, around, down another column... our list of happy things far outpaced the list of things we've got to fix.
And we were focused and productive, and I think we walked out of the Media Lab a little happier, a little bit more energetic, less drained, less frustrated, with a little more capacity together as a team. It felt great. I think it was the right thing to do.
Now I am completely. Stuffed. With fried cod and other quite excellent Portuguese food. It's wonderful to be content, glass of red wine in your hand, listening to Walter recommending exhibits at the MFA to David (who leaves early on Monday; Greg is already gone). I miss people already. I learned a lot this week.
Mostly from watching people. They're very different, and we need them all. Around the table late this afternoon, as an example: in the space of a 5-minute convo, you could see Scott's lightning cleverness, Marco's eagerness, David's calm knack for restoring order; Ben's eloquence, Walter's grand vision, Tomeu's insightful conciseness. Bernie's way of flitting in between a million things to make them simultaneously work out, Greg's "everyone together now!" rallying fire, Chris and his miraculous ability to defuse any argument and make anyone feel welcome...
Yes, 5 minutes, I swear. We talk fast. There are more people than the ones I just named, and much more to the ones I did describe, but whatever; I'm trying to grab a sample slice. It's a community, a real one. We know each other, and we need each other, and we know it.
These are some things I love about my colleagues: they are a hell of a lot smarter than they usually show. They're people. They're not perfect and they know it and they're open to whatever's going to make them better. They don't need to flaunt accomplishments or titles, prove themselves to anyone; they work hard and they have fun at the same time, and they teach me how. They build magical things spontaneously, and they surprise me and they make me smile. They challenge me to keep up with them, but in a certain way - I want to do things better for them, not because they ask or they expect it, but because I also want to surprise them, make them smile.
Right now there are three ways I do this: contagious enthusiasm, the fact that I like everybody, and my lack of shame (okay, the growing ability to hide my shyness) at asking stupid questions. As time goes on, I get less useless. (This is easy when you have good teachers.)
I swear again for the ten-thousandth time that I will try to be to people what these folks are being to me now; I can't possibly pay them back, but I can pay it forward.