Step Up

I wrote this note to a young company that had recently raised some money and moved into a shiny new office after busting at the seams in a makeshift setup.  The company was full of super young, vibrant, and incredibly talented people with a huge opportunity ahead of them--and a lot of difficult challenges.


Congrats on moving into your new office.

While I'm there are still a few bugs, bells, whistles, and bandwidth to work out, let me be the first to officially point out...

Shit just got real.

You have a real office. You're all together. You're organized into teams that are basically complete as a unit. Now, through the end of the year, will be a full on sprint like you've never run before. Crush it and this whole thing will take off like a rocket ship--with your work touching the lives of millions and millions of people around the world for years to come.

Make the most of this opportunity to build one of the most creative and inspiring places to work in the whole damn universe.


This is enormously important work. The world really needs this. I don't know if you noticed, but there are a lot of people out there who think of the world as a zero sum game--where anything gotten must be taken away from someone else and where those in power are resistant to sharing.

Creativity inspires people to reexamine the world around you--to challenge, to poke, to ask why.

And that's what you have to ask yourself now.


Fulfilling the potential of this endeavor will be the hardest thing you've ever done in your whole life up to this point. It won't just be about late nights and heated disagreements but also pushing yourself to be better than you thought you could ever be.

Why bother?

Why put in so much effort?

Why strive?

People come up with all sorts of motivations--fear, money, fame...

Let me present what I think is a more fitting motivation for creative professionals on the verge of creating a very different kind of company...

Strive to be the best teammates you can be to each other.

Lift up the mission by lifting each other up. Do your small part so amazingly well so that the person who depends on your piece has a head start on what they need to do.

It could mean delivering an important illustration earlier, playing devil's advocate to your own codebase one extra time--making it cleaner, faster... ...or simply making sure the pens on people's desks are out of their package and in a cup when they start work.

Never leave someone behind in the office that you can help--even if it means just helping to motivate them with some solidarity and running out for slice of pizza when they didn't have a chance to get dinner.

Get hooked on gratitude--on the welcome and somewhat amazed expression of appreciation when you go out of your way for someone else.

Amaze each other everyday on what you do for each other...

...and moreover, what you do for [the founder].

Because no one will ever be more proud of what you've all accomplished together or more disappointed if you miss...

He works harder than any other founder I've ever met. The kind of person you should want to be to someone like that is someone who stepped up.

Everything he has done thus far--from being so careful and discerning about who he surrounds you with to giving you the creative freedom to thrive--it's the greatest gift you can imagine. You are unfettered to inspire, unlike so many of your peers who are weight down by stifling work environments, strict hours and pointless administrative overhead.

Just don't take it for granted that you know the team is good enough to somehow pull things together.

Don't take flexible policies as excuses to make things easier on yourselves.

Work/life balance is meant for you to develop in a more complete, inspired, and holistic way--optimized for creative output.

Not to work less.

Accept them as a challenge--to be a part of something really special.

That extra hour pushing ahead just a few lines more.

That middle of the night idea written down.

That thing you decided to learn and practice so that you could contribute more.

You owe it to everyone else around you to fulfill this company's potential and your own, and leave nothing to regret or missed opportunity.

To be proud of the collective accomplishment, driven by the individual effort, will pay emotional dividends for years to come, because greatness doesn't materialize at scale very often.

Best of luck.