I finished listening to Hatching Twitter yesterday on the drive back from Cambridge, this will be the last time I take Steph, so it’s the end of an era. It’s fitting then that my entertainment on this journey was all about major personal change and how different people cope with it.
The story is basically the story of the founders of Twitter and their relationships:
- Noah Glass – perhaps the premier founder, the guy who came up with the name and wove the early ideas together into a coherent product concept, but who was let go before Twitter became a success, was written out of history and struggled mightily with the injustice of it for years, maybe forever
- Ev Willians – the nice guy who funded and built the company using cash from selling Blogger to Google, took over from Jack when it became clear he was incompetent and then was finally sacked as CEO, only to end up surrounded by friends and family, happy, rich and running a new business he loves
- Biz Stone – who was around at the right time and probably helped keep everyone from going crazy, whilst also being the public face to Twitter in the early days
- Jack Dorsey – who presided, badly – as CEO during the years of early exponential growth and was kicked out by the board, but blamed Ev. Amazingly he clung on as Chairman and manipulated his way back to power in the worst possible way to find himself rich, but maybe not so happy. Jack is definitely the villain of the story.
The overarching message of the story though is one of how people deal with major change in their lives, especially negative change that they consider they don’t deserve. Reading the book none of these key players seemed that talented. Ev was in the right time and place when be created Blogger, he was lucky. Without Ev’s millions Twitter would never have existed, it was a moderately good idea, poorly executed. It was the innovative uses to which people put Twitter that drove it’s success. The founders didn’t anticipate these uses, or even embrace them for years. None of the founders really knew how to run a company, architect complex software, market a product. Although it sounded like Ev did know how to lead a small team of passionate people.
It’s a sad tale really, although the good guy’s Ev and Biz seemed to come out of it ok. Jack and Noah seem to be a bit unstable. Jack made it his mission after being fired to manipulate his way back into power by destroying Ev. A negative mission in life is rarely a good idea and it left Jack in poor shape by the sound of it, even though he succeeded in the end.
In my own life I’ve experienced three life changing negative events. They all shattered my confidence at the time, the first I recovered from within a week or so, because it was one of those unavoidable organisation changes that happen in global companies, no ones fault. The second was due to a falling out with the senior management, I lost a job and team I deeply cared about. I felt that I had been treated unfairly and amazingly that resentment still bubbles inside me a little, in part because I had to watch as those senior managers then proceeded to make a mess of things, although I’m biased. The third was when I lost my robust health and as a result my career. Like Ev though I came out of it well, with a more balanced life overall. I got to spend much more time with my family, worked my way back to a rewarding well paid job and gradually learned how to manage my health and live well within my limitations.
The lesson for us all is that bad things happen, sometimes they are unjust, regardless move forward positively, don’t dwell in the past, embrace the opportunity that change presents. Initially that means living mindfully and enjoying the present, whilst working systematically to built a new and better future. Better doesn’t have to mean better in all dimensions that you enjoyed in the past. You can build a better future without making more money, having more power, having better health. You just need to find some dimensions to improve and work on those. For me it meant more time with my family, more reading, more cycling, more time spent in nature, ore freedom but less power, less money, and less time working face to face with a great team. On balance I won.
One fascinating aspect of the book is that it was impeccably researched, in part using the public Twitter archives of the founders and those around them. This twitter archive provided insights into how people were feeling at the time and anchored the timing of events allowing other material to be placed in context.
It’s worth noting that I was an early user of Twitter and I continue to use it, I lived through and experienced many of the events described in the book. I use it in the way that Jack and Noah initially envisaged, I’m very fond of it and the diary of my life that I’ve captured in the 11,000 tweets is very precious to me – Thanks Guys!
One of the benefits of my last big ‘negative’ life change is that I get to spend a week a month on a ‘Think Week’ a time for relaxed research, a time to catch up with my reading backlog, a time to spend some time exploring listening to audio books. Next week I’m going to Nottingham for my Think Week. I will be working in the many Caffe Nero’s and exploring the River Trent, adjoining Marinas, Country Parks, Canals and cycle paths. Today’s photo is of the lovely Nottingham Arboretum, a couple of minutes walk from the Premier Inn that will be my home for the week.