SW Classics: Carry The Water
Dave: Today on Seeking Wisdom we're going to talk about carrying the water.
Speaker 2: Boom, I'm scared today. I've never seen Dave this fired up. Get ready, people.
Dave: I am fired up. I am fired up.
Speaker 2: All right, so we're going to talk about carrying the water. Basically, that's an old saying that most of us know, which is for people when they're getting started early in their career to actually spend time carrying the water of those above them, whether that's mentors, whether they're people in their workplace, whoever it is, and basically learning through the age old apprentice method. The reason that this came up recently is that we always talk about the grind here. I noticed something, when talking other founders and other people of a certain vintage, aka old, that it seemed like a lot of people that they were dealing with at work, or their colleagues who were just out of school/ fresh out of school had a different set of expectations for how quickly their career would progress.
Dave: Yeah, so when you mentioned this idea, when you mentioned this to me I didn't know what you meant by carrying the water at first. Then, you explained it to me. I'm a big sports fan, and so the analogy for me was a lot of times the rookies at training camp on a hot 100 degree day, they've got to carry the pads of the veterans after practice. They got to carry their shit, bring it into the locker room. That's what you... You said, yeah it's that.
Speaker 2: That's true in sports and military, and in way long ago, and in the workplace as well.
Dave: I don't know, doing things for your parents-
Speaker 2: Exactly.
Dave: Like there's just so many things, and we're going to talk about all of them because is a topic that gets me fired up. You basically were just saying early in your career, we talked about this back and forth, you kind of have two jobs. You have a job of you have to do your work, you have to be good at your job, whatever. You're a designer, right? You have to be an amazing designer. You've got to create value for the company and value for your customers, but you also have a second job-
Speaker 2: What's that?
Dave: Which I don't think a lot of people understand.
Speaker 2: Mm- hmm(affirmative).
Dave: The second job is to make the rest of your team and your manager, your boss, look good and be successful. It's not just about looking good, but it's putting them in a position where their life is now easier because they've hired you. I think the biggest thing that people just forget is, they completely forget that step. It's a hard thing to talk about because, we were just at lunch and we were talking about this, we also don't want to come on here and say, " You are at the mercy of your boss."
Speaker 2: No, you're not.
Dave: "Your job is to clean up their shit."
Speaker 2: Yeah, because I think it's true of both ends. So, getting started, I think you should be focused on making the company and your boss, whoever that is, your manager, whoever it is, your team, look better and give them the credit. But I also think on the other end, as you progress in your career and as you become a leader, that your job is to help those younger than you, those around you, look good and not yourself. So I think it's not just younger people, but I think it's even as you become more experienced your job should always be to make those around you shine.
Dave: Yeah, and I think the mindset is if I'm employee, it's how can I do my job and also take as many things off the plate of the person who manages me?
Speaker 2: Yeah, and I think it's going back to your team idea there. It's just like when you see a well functioning team that everyone is blown away by, it's their all individually doing great things, but they're also making sacrifices, or assists in basketball terms. They're assisting other players. Those are the great teams. There are great teams with exceptions where there's one dominating player, but usually that's not the case. Usually, that's the exception. Usually, the rule is a great team is everyone is contributing to bring the team forward.
Dave: All right, for people listening, I'm 29. I graduated-
Speaker 2: He's a millennial.
Dave: I'm a millennial. I graduated in 2009 and started working.
Speaker 2: The reason I mentioned he's a millennial is that it's unusual for millennials to be as in touch with this subject as Dave is.
Dave: Yeah, well anyway. I totally get... I understand this. I think since then, like right around that time 2009- ish... Why do you think this started to happen? You mentioned to me it's the Zuckerberg thing. Is it because everybody that graduates college now thinks that they can start a company and be their own boss at 22?
Speaker 2: Yeah, I think that a number of things have happened in my opinion, and who knows if they're true or not. Some things which may be correlated are all of a sudden you're being brought up in an era where very young founders and celebrities, basically celebrities of all times, some of those celebrities being founders, are being celebrated by our culture. That could be a singer, an actor. That could be Zuckerberg himself in technology. But all of a sudden you're seeing the example of public examples, which we didn't see in the past of 20 years olds. Justin Bieber, 16 year olds, being phenomenally successful and the media loves to focus in on those people because they are so exceptional, because that is actually so not normal that we begin to grow up in an environment where we may think those things are normal.
Dave: Yeah, and part of things that make millennials often great teammates is because they can figure anything out. That's the mindset, " I can figure anything out. I can figure this out. Let me do it. I don't have experience, but let me do it." That is an amazing quality, but at the same time it's also exactly what we're talking about here, and it's that mindset that I don't have to carry the water here because I'm a person just like you and I can contribute.
Speaker 2: What year did you start working?
Dave: I started working right after I graduated.
Speaker 2: What year was that?
Speaker 2: Okay, that's important.
Speaker 2: I asked that because I think Dave, and most people that we're probably talking about, have graduated 2009 or more recently. The reason that I think that's important is the second reason I think that this may be occurring more often than not is that these people have come into a workplace where there has been no downturn. The last significant downturn that we had economically was 2009. So, if you came into the workforce after that, you've never seen an environment where things have been rough, where you haven't been through those rough times. I think for the people who are self aware, like Dave is on this subject, they've probably seen some rough times. They've probably been through the trenches to some degree, and so they have some context.
Dave: Yeah, I think for me it was because I graduated in 2009. 2008 was a shitty year.
Speaker 2: Yes.
Dave: That was my senior year in college. That was the weirdest I felt in my career actually, even though I hadn't done anything. That was because everybody says" You got to go to college so you can get a job." I know you have opinions on that.
Speaker 2: Lots.
Dave: But separate thought. Then when I graduated they were like, " Oh yeah, we're looking for somebody with two to three years experience." I was like, " How the fuck do you get experience if you can't get a job?" So I took an internship.
Speaker 2: Okay, talk about that.
Dave: Which was very humbling.
Speaker 2: Talk about that. Important.
Dave: I didn't know what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be... I graduated with a marketing degree, which has absolutely nothing to do with anything I've done in my career.
Speaker 2: In marketing.
Dave: Yeah, I do marketing now, but it has nothing to do with anything I learned in college. So, I took this internship at a PR agency because it was the only place that would hire me, and I thought I wanted to do business. So, I figured this would be a good way, work with all these tech companies. I think that actually had a lot to do with the way that I think now, is because of the agency model.
Speaker 2: Yes.
Dave: When you're 20, I was 22, I don't get to talk to clients.
Speaker 2: Nope.
Dave: Everything that I do has to go through somebody else-
Speaker 2: crosstalk.
Dave: When I was an intern, emails that I write, if they were client- facing, somebody would have to review them first.
Speaker 2: Check them, mm- hmm( affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dave: I think that forced me to be like, " Okay, Dan, there is a clear ladder here."
Speaker 2: A hierarchy.
Dave: Yeah. But once you can show that you can do it... It was kind of on me like, okay if I don't get to do any of this client- facing stuff, it was kind of like how can I make other people that get to do this, how can I make their jobs easier so that I get to do it? It just became scheduling meetings for people, doing all the other shit like scheduling travel, and putting stuff in Excel that nobody wanted to deal with.
Speaker 2: Yeah, and were you paid well at this internship?
Dave: Oh, it was fucking terrible. I got$10. 00 an hour, and I was living with my parents' house, which is in Wooster, which is 45 minutes away from Wooburn where this internship was.
Speaker 2: Okay, so you were commuting 45 minutes each time.
Dave: 120 miles round trip every day.
Speaker 2: There you go. Now, I think I understand why Dave has some context to this. I don't think many people have gone through that.
Dave: But I don't want to forget this thought. The point of that story was to say that now all the companies that people want to work at, there weren't as many Drifts or other startups. The challenge is that now, if a startup is your first job, or all these tech companies, you think that work is 10 people sitting around listening to rap on the Sonos, and there's a tap in the office. You'd think that that's what work is.
Speaker 2: Nope. No one's work is that way.
Dave: How do we change that though, because at the same time-
Speaker 2: crosstalk I love everyone's opinion on how you change that. I don't know, because maybe the change has to come from someone like Dave. I feel like if I'm to say that, then I'm the old man on the hill like, " Back in my day you had to work. Back in my day-"
Dave: Whoever says it, it's shitty. Even if I say it, it comes off as I want people to like... There're rules and you're not allowed to talk because you're in this role. crosstalk. It's not that at all.
Speaker 2: Definitely not. But yeah, we have to some context to understand that the Kegerator and the sitting around together and having a good time, and doing outings, and doing all the fun stuff that we do as a team, as all of us do as teams especially in startups and early technology companies, is not normal. It's not normal at all. That's only been the only experience that you've had. It's hard to have context. I don't know how people crosstalk-
Dave: I think the most underrated career advice is-
Speaker 2: What's that?
Dave: To join a big company when you get out of college.
Speaker 2: I think it's a really good idea. It gives you context. You may like it, so it might be perfect for you. If you don't like it, then you have a reason or kind of a mission behind your decision to either start a company or to join a smaller company, and it gives you appreciation.
Dave: It depends on what you do. I can understand if you're an engineer, it might be easier to go join a small company and you have a more focused role. If you're in sales or you're in marketing... I didn't appreciate this while I was doing it, but I worked at two big companies... Yeah, two big companies before Drift, and two startups. So, I've done two early stage companies and two big companies. I think when you're at a big company, at the time while you're there, you hate it. You're like, " I want to be at a startup. This place-" but then when you get that first early stage job, you have subconsciously built in all this process, and not the bad type of process, but the way you communicate, the way you share your work, the way you work with others, I think that's stuff that you can't learn if you just go directly to an early stage company. So, being in the constraints of a big company where you're like one of 150 marketers is actually a really good learning experience. It's just hard in that moment to think of it that way.
Speaker 2: Yeah, and I think in our world that we're kind of in B2B software world, it's important to have context for what is broken today in order to fix it. It's great to have that kind of beginner's mindset, and to come in and not be weighed down by the way that things work today. It's also super useful to have some context for what is actually broken. Do actually people care about whatever it is that I'm building or proposing?
Dave: Yeah. From where you are, tell me about the good things that can happen to somebody in their career if they carry the water.
Speaker 2: Mm- hmm( affirmative), so much. Let's see. What are the good things? One, you start to... It humbles you. You need that humbling, because the humbling is going to come no matter what.
Dave: But even from your perspective, you're more likely to invest in that person.
Speaker 2: Oh, definitely. Oh, okay so that perspective. Yes, I think-
Dave: crosstalk you as a CEO.
Speaker 2: Yeah, people are always asking to get time with whatever, with me or different people, whatever. I don't want to be about me. But they're like, " Oh, I want a mentor. I want to talk to this person. I want to talk to that person." It's like the first thing you got to do is, do stuff for them. People want to get, but they never want to give. So, you've got to start with giving because you need to give what you want to get back. So you go work, apprentice, mentor, whatever the word is, go do... Basically, go create value for that person or set of people, and then they will give back to you. To expect that they will give back to you without first creating value, it's unlikely to happen.
Dave: This is what happens at companies. I saw this a company I used to work at. Day one, new employee emails the CMO and says, " Hey, can we get a coffee? I want to pick your brain."
Speaker 2: Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dave: 75 people on this team. $ 100 million in revenue. He doesn't want to sit down with you and have a coffee. You've been through the interview process. You're here now. You don't get to pull that card. It's hard enough for other people to get meetings with this person.
Speaker 2: Totally, and before Drift, I was at HubSpot. Actually, that would happen. I knew when we were bringing in new classes of MBAs because it would happen every single time. I knew when the new class was starting because I would get all these emails. On sort of every MBA that would start their first day, the first thing that they would do is to send emails to everyone on the executive team and say, " Hey, can we go to lunch?" So, first day you're getting all these emails and they're like, " Hey, do you have time? Can we set up a meeting for Tuesday to chat?" And I'd be like, " One, who is this?" Two, I would always reply the same thing. I would be, they asked and say no. Some of them, a smaller percentage of them, I would reply back and be like, " Why can't we meet?" I would say, " You need to do something first. Do something here first so that not only that you create value, but so that we all have context or I have context to even understand what are we talking about because you haven't been here for more than 30 seconds. You haven't contributed to the team or the company, but yet you want to have a meeting. I don't know what we're going to talk about." Most of the time they would always want to talk about, when I did do it in the beginning, just nonsense. They just want to meet for the sake of meeting.
Dave: They want to talk about your career.
Speaker 2: Yeah, they all... Yeah.
Speaker 2: Yeah.
Dave: That's why we do this podcast now, so you don't have to... People don't have to meet with you. They can just listen.
Speaker 2: Exactly, and I can point them back and be like, " Go do that," because every time I would meet them I'd be like, " Oh, we already talked about doing this. Have you done it yet?" " No, I haven't done it yet." Well, that's your fucking problem. What are we talking about?
Dave: This is just a self awareness thing.
Speaker 2: Yeah.
Dave: Whereas the right way to approach that would have been" I want to meet this guy, but I don't have my card to play yet. I'm on his team. I'm going to bust my ass. I'm going to do a good job." I'm going to make sure he knows who I am, maybe make a couple things in his life easier-
Speaker 2: And those people, guess what, you go out and you pull those people closer to you because they're exceptional. The people who would come in and crush it, man I'd be running to meet with them. Not only meet, but anyone else would be like, " Wow, that person is creating so much value that I want to be a part of them. I want to help them."
Dave: You take the opposite mindset and you're like, " Man, I want to try to get my hands on this person earlier in their career."
Speaker 2: Yeah.
Dave: Versus them just coming to you saying, "Help."
Speaker 2: Exactly.
Speaker 2: So it's
Speaker 2: totally underrated. Carry the water first. Push and then people will, because it's so not normal, you will stand out and people will pull themselves to you. You will create a pull versus trying to push yourself onto them.
Dave: Yeah, so that's some career advice today.
Speaker 2: Yeah.
Dave: From us.
Speaker 2: What would you tell people, or the millennials like yourself, who haven't carried the water yet? Why would it be beneficial?
Dave: I just-
Speaker 2: Like, how do they do it?
Dave: The beneficial part is, you just notice that people take good care of you. That's the number one thing. That's why you should do it, because if you can take little things off of that person's plate, then their life is easier and it's more likely to trickle down to you. It also just shows this self awareness, and I think that can be applied to a lot of other things other than the day to day job, like" Oh this guy obviously gets how things work. I trust him working on X because he's going to think about it the right way." As far as how to apply that in your job, I think just remember that you have two jobs. You have the job that was in the job description on the website that you applied for and got, or whatever didn't apply for but you know the role. You have to do that well. That's check number one. You don't get to earn the right to do all this other fun stuff and hang out with execs if you're not crushing your job. Once you've done that, it's just like think about opportunities where you can take things off of people's plate. Whether it's just like you're in Slack for example, and somebody mentions your CMO and they say, " Hey, Bob should go do this," if you have self awareness, you know that that's not something that that person needs to spend their time on. Just grab that. Just say, " I got it. I'll do it." It's a lot of just doing stuff and then telling somebody that you did it, like" Hey FYI, I booked this thing for you. Don't worry about it. Here's all the information. Got it covered."
Speaker 2: Huge.
Dave: That person doesn't have to think. Unless you're in a huge company that's usually the story that we're telling today applies to execs, it's not usually the director of sales at a big company. It's more about people whose schedules are already nuts and already have enough stuff going on, that any sliver that you can make their life a little bit easier as it relates to work, whether you see some bullshit, stopping it before it gets to them. You know, it's almost like you see a fight with your sibling. You could either let your parents find out so that everybody gets in trouble-
Speaker 2: Yeah, or you can deal with it.
Dave: Or you can deal with it yourself.
Speaker 2: Yeah, so I think the one thing that I would tell people if they're early in their career, and they have kind of a goal of" Hey, I want to be the CMO some day. I want to be the CEO. I want to be-" whoever you want to be, or want to start a company someday, whatever your goal is, to go and find out. Find the person closest to you who has already done that, and has been successful at doing that. Then go and figure out how you can go and carry the water for her/ for him, and then learn from that person by doing so.
Dave: And realize how long it took that person to get there.
Speaker 2: A long time.
Dave: You shared a story. You said one time you started a bunch of companies, managed 100s of people. You said one time somebody basically jumped five different steps to become an exec before they were 30.
Speaker 2: Oh, totally. Yeah, I think this is something that people don't see, is-
Dave: It takes time.
Speaker 2: It takes a long time. So, some people might come out of school and be like" I'm 22, I'm 23, I'm 24," or whatever. It's like, " All right, how can I be VP-" of whatever, " Or the CMO in a year?" It's like when someone is that far out or that far from being self aware, it's really hard to kind of coach them. You can use examples and say... The best case scenario, the phenom, the person whose blown you... That you've seen or either work with you or has worked around you whose been the Kobe of their era, it took them, whatever, eight years, 10 years, to be able to crosstalk-
Dave: And that was the best person you ever seen.
Speaker 2: Yeah, and I've only seen one. Maybe you can be fast to that person. Probably not. Probably most of us cannot be the Kobe of our position of our generation.
Dave: The thing is, it doesn't come down to if you're 24 or 25, that next step isn't about the work that you've done in the 365 days of that year.
Speaker 2: Exactly.
Dave: It's like the experience that just compounds over time. A lot of times, it's like you can do an amazing job but you just need time because you need to see more things happen. There's going to be ups and downs. You need to go through all that. It's not like you just crush it in one year, and because nobody has seen results like that, that you just get to be this role.
Speaker 2: Yeah, you need time to make mistakes and to learn from them. You're going to make lots of them. I'm reading this fantastic book by the founder of Sam Adams, Jim Coach, I don't know if I'm saying his last name right. Fantastic bar. I think we're going to do a podcast episode in the future about this. Great book. He started the microbrewery industry. He started Sam Adams, which most of us know as a great beer company. One thing that he said that he always remembered that his dad told him, and he came from the longest line of American brewers in history. His dad was a brewer, his grandfather, his great- grandfather. His dad told him one thing that he always remembered. He said, " You need time to be able to make mistakes. You're going to start out and you're going to make$ 100.00 mistakes in business, and you're going to make$1,000. 00 mistakes. Maybe you might even make it one day to make$ 100,000.00 mistakes." He said, " If you're really, really, really lucky and part of the very, very few percentage of people who get this far, you will someday make$1 million mistakes." He always thought about that because he did make all of those mistakes, including making one multimillion dollar mistake that could have sunk his company. But, you will need time in order to make all those levels of mistakes. It's one thing to learn from a$100. 00 mistake, but guess what, a $10,000. 00 mistake is coming up, and a$ 100,000.00 mistake is coming up." That just is a matter of time. You cannot rush that.
Dave: Yeah, that was a good place to end. I was hoping you'd mention that new book.
Speaker 2: Oh, yeah. Everyone's got to go out and read that. We're going to do an episode on that soon.
Dave: Cool. All right, that's a good place for us to stop today.
Speaker 2: Go carry water.
Dave: Go carry the water. Then once you're done carrying the water, help us and go to SeekingWisdom. io. Catch up on all the previous episodes. We talked about a bunch of things that we've mentioned in the past before. They're all on the website.
Speaker 2: Come on, stop hiding. Show us some love. Five star reviews, come on.
Dave: Yeah, and we'll-
Speaker 2: Hook up an uncle.
Dave: We'll take a five star review if you're in the spirit and you've been liking what we're doing.
Speaker 2: Hook up Uncle DC. Five stars.
Dave: We'll talk to you next week.
Speaker 2: See ya.