The Baseline Traits of Dream Collaborators
I wanna talk now about kind of the baseline traits of dream collaborators, the kind of person. Like if I'm working on a project of some sort, I'm tryin' to reinvent something, I want Lani Jonhson on my team, I want someone who can think that way. Whether the experience that he has is relevant or not, someone who can think sideways like that becomes really important as a team member when working on something creative. Or, at least I wanna call him up and ask him his thoughts on whatever I'm working on. There's people that you can probably think of in your lives that are like that, that we probably should include more in our processes. But, there's some baseline traits, I think, that make for someone to be just a good collaborator in general. I think about this when I think about my early work as a journalist. And, part of the impetus for starting my company, Contently, was this, it was that I was not very good at the craft of journalism. I was new to this thing, I was okay at writing, I...
was okay at reporting, but I was really good at hustling. And, editors loved working with me because of two things, because I was really nice, and because I was always on time. Even though my work was crappy, they would keep coming back to me because it turns out a lot of journalists file their work not on time, a lot of creative people in general do this. And so, I started drawing this little triangle, and friends of mine would come to me and say how do you get so many gigs as a freelancer, and by the way you suck. I would say, well, here's my little triangle. If you have two of these, people will work with you. If you do amazing work and then you can pick one of these. You do amazing work and you're always reliable but you are an asshole, people will work with you. I imagine that the guy who wrote Fire and Fury is like this, amazing work, files his stories on time, doesn't seem like a whole lot of fun to hang out with. Maybe he is, I don't know. But that's sort of a trope in journalism, but I think a lot of creative people, right. If you do amazing work and you're a pleasure to work with but you never file your stories on time, this is like Hunter S. Thompson. He was a blast, I met an editor of his, he was a blast to hang out with. Dude never got his stuff done on time, but he also wrote amazing stuff. I'm talking about just writing now. And then, there's Shane Snow, super reliable, really nice to work with, I'll bend over backwards for you editor, and you'll forgive me that my work is not that amazing. But, you need at least two of these. Now the ideal is to have all of these. But, so Creative Live is not going to teach you to be punctual or reliable, but keep that in mind. I do wanna talk about how to do the other two. Being a pleasure to work with, there's a couple things here that I think are really important when it comes to collaboration. Being someone who everyone wants to go to, they wanna work with, and that you're nice when you work with, that is one half of being a pleasure to work with. The other half of being a pleasure to work with is actually not agreeing with everything. It's being the kind of person that when you call them up to work with them, they will push things further than you would do on your own. The kind of person that's on the other side of that mountain range. I wanna talk for a little bit about how creativity and getting along are not connected. You can still get along, in sort of the sense that you can be like not a jerk, but you can also bring conflict to the creative process. And it turns out that this is the kind of person that can be an enormous pleasure to work with, an enormously effective creative collaborator, you can get this combination right. This is my little diagram where I explain this in sort of pictures, or charts I guess. The best possible combination I think for two people working together or a group of people working together, so when you have enormous personal and emotional support, you know that no matter what everyone supports each other. Or, if it's two people, you support each other no matter what happens. It's like family almost, no matter what I do my dad loves me. But then, you also have enormous intellectual conflict, so you're bringing not only the niceness and the support, but you're willing to push everyone in your collaboration. This is the highest potential partnership. The kind that we usually think of when we're thinking of being amazing to work with, or a pleasure to work with, is this, personal support and support for their ideas. When we talk about being nice, this is sort of what we mean. I think this is only kinda nice. It's not nice if you're actually supporting people's ideas that you don't believe in, or that you think could be better. You're happy that way but your lower potential, and actually the nicer thing to do is push back when you need to. Kind of the worst is this one, I think, when you agree on everything and you're just never gonna disagree on things but you hate each other for no reason. I think this is the source of a lot of problems we have in the world. And then, if you don't agree, you have a lot of intellectual conflict and you hate them, then that's when wars start. This is the zone that you kinda wanna get into when I say a pleasure to work with. You wanna be that kind of collaborator.