Aug 9, 2006

Finding your voice, hitting the sweet spot, achieving the gloriously perfect rowing stroke

What is the difference between working at your job and having passion for what you do? And what in the world does this have to do with Welcome's role in the payments industry?

Tom Peters uses a rowing analogy. He wrote a two page chronology of his rowing career, which he then threw away, replacing it with a much more passionate attempt to “capture the Meaning of the Perfect Row.” Here’s an excerpt:

“When the water is still there is little that is as ... GLORIOUS ... as the Perfect Stroke. Not the hint of an extraneous splash. Clean entry into the water, clean stroke, clean exit out of the water. Repeat. Repeat. When I hold the perfect rhythm for a few moments, well, it’s, well it’s ... SUBLIME.”

Keeping with the analogy, I certainly have been “rowing” for many years, but still have not experienced the work equivalent of the perfect rowing stroke. “Clean entry into the water, clean stroke, clean exit out of the water. Repeat. Repeat.” I know that I have come close several times, but I have never gotten it right.

I can’t call this work. The effort to find Welcome’s voice, to hit the sweet spot in what Welcome is trying to accomplish, to finally achieve a gloriously perfect rowing stroke - that’s not work, that’s not a job. And this is not the type of company for people that want to “work at a job”. Welcome is for people that want the intense pleasure of achieving the GLORIOUSLY PERFECT ROWING STROKE.

OK. Enough of this. I’ll now get back to interchange, contactless and all the other issues I have been writing about.

No wait, one more thing. That reminds me of a little anecdote that turned out to be a major wakeup call for me, and ended up wrenching all of Welcome into a major new direction.

When I was on the witness stand in a courtroom in Melbourne, Australia a few years ago, suing a competitor for patent infringement, and being grilled for the second day in a row by the opposing counsel, I remember the judge looking at me, smiling, and greeting me in a very trusting manner, and I remember the opposing counsel looking very perturbed at that little exchange. Then, when the judgement was issued (I won) it included several paragraphs describing how much trust the judge had in my testimony. I remember immediately thinking, "Wow, and I’m wasting all this on something so small, silly and meaningless as smart card loyalty?" I realized that what we were doing had to be much bigger. We couldn't possibly be wasting our talents and energy on something so tiny. But what then was it we were trying to do? We were very far from the perfect rowing stroke, it was all SPLASH SPLASH with not even the slightest hint of style and elegance. That wakeup call set us on the path to figuring out how Welcome can solve major problems in the payments industry, major pains that keep top banking executives awake at night.

I want Welcome to become known as THE company that solved the BIGGEST problems the payments industry has faced in the past twenty years. Bold? Yes. Ambitious? That doesn’t even come close to describing it. Attempting to achieve a big, hairy ambitious goal that the vast majority of people would fail at? Yes, that sounds more like it. Anything less than that would simply not be worth all the passion and effort every one of us puts into this.

(A note to my French colleagues: when I said “I have been rowing for many years”, I of course didn't mean “Je rame depuis de nombreuses annĂ©es.” Although I guess one would not be totally wrong saying that as well!)


Ling said...

It’s like the perfect swing in golf …

“… and then there's the moment of complete silence that seems to last an eternity …"

Aneace Haddad said...

Yes! Absolutely! That's what it's all about! Otherwise everything is so boring and just not worth all the passion and effort.

"you know who" said...

that's why i need to play golf on the find that perfect swing... :)

on a serious note, in order to achieve that big hairy ambitious goal you stated, we need many like-minded people to effect this wave of change.....a wave that washes away the 'work at a job' attitude and replace with a real passion....