Last night it snowed a lot. I came home early because I knew the kids would be digging around in the white depths and that was just plain better than sitting in the office building websites.
When I got home, I put on my snow pants (I have those), a thick coat, gloves and boots and headed into the backyard. After a few minutes I ventured up front with Luca, my 1 1/2 year old. He nudged and moaned to walk up the street. I obliged. We got to the end of the block and he turned to walk farther. At that point I knew where he was headed: the playground. Now. One and a half year olds walk neither fast nor steady. It was a 2.5 block walk thru a mild blizzard and he did not want to be carried. He tripped, slipped, flipped and had multiple cases of snot dripping off of his chin. But he kept going, against my suggestion that we turn back. He was on a mission.
We made it to the playground. The snow was piled high and deep. He battled through it to get up on the jungle gym, slide a couple of times, and do some more slipping, tripping, flipping and snot-slurping (gross, I know). The whole time, he wanted to do things his way. Only when he fell did he gratefully request my assistance.
He didn’t really want to play with me. He just wanted me around to help when it was needed. Honestly, I was a bit bored. And cold. And wet. But, well, he’s my son and that’s what dads do.
He was enjoying the battle in the snow. He was determined to make the long walk in his snow boots there. But, after about 15 minutes of trouncing, swinging and sliding, he said “ah-dah” which loosely translates to “all done”. I picked him up and carried him home after wiping his nose.
We’re building a new business at Mammoth called Kin. The team we have on design and development is a young, skilled, determined group of people who believe in the product’s vision and they’re determined to see the service through its release, on time and with little compromise. We’ve had our high points, and we’ve had our trials. I go through my quasi-old-man seasons of impatience and ennui with each ebb and flow.
But last night I realized, while getting frozen snow blown directly in my eyeballs, that a lot of the time the team is learning instead of building. They’re exploring instead of completing. As someone who’s been through 14 years of this churn, I tend to get impatient, wishing that this leg of the journey wasn’t part of the grander trip. I imagine, however improbable, that an older, more seasoned team would somehow go about things differently.
That’s all wrong though. The exploration, the mistakes, and the learning are a right of passage for a programmer, a designer, or an entire team. As individuals we should yearn to venture out into the snow despite the frozen snot and wind burn. As a team we must go too far and not have it in us to walk back.
Without those experiences, we’re nothing. Our lives and experiences are out-of-the-box and unearned. I’m privileged to have a team of young, capable people working at this company who truly want to build Kin. I’m lucky to see them learn, excel, and unseat my stodgy old-ass once in a while to help unstuck them. Maybe a more seasoned team could get the job done quicker. Maybe. But an older, more experienced team might not be willing to walk so far. They might not venture out into the cold at any cost. So, it’s a trade off. A bit more time for a better product. A bit more patience in exchange for an experience that’s honest, earned, and something to be proud of.