Lead by Example

One Fall day during my senior year at Yale, a friend called me on the phone. An acquaintance of his was having a calendar release party; would I like to come? The calendar was some sort of trashy imports calendar with riced out cars surrounded by girls in bikinis, who would naturally be in attendance at said party. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it; the party was in Seattle, and I was trapped at school in New Haven. So, I did what any entrepreneurial hard-headed kid would do, and resolved to create my own printed calendar, so I could have my own calendar release party.

Thus was born the first ever Men of Branford calendar. Branford was the residential college I was in at Yale. I figured I would honor her by creating a calendar of her finest residents, all nearly naked. I immediately started rounding up volunteers, and pretty quickly recruited a head photographer, someone to do make up, and secured a couple hundred dollars of funding from our college activity fund.

Only one problem remained: the models. For added hilarity, I'd decided to make the calendar feature primarily men. I'd recruited the best looking guys from the college (and some of my uglier friends) to star, but was having trouble getting them to agree to pose for provocative enough photos. I firmly believed that ridiculous, over the top photos would be the key to the calendar's success, so to me it was imperative that we convince those participating that taking photos that could potentially affect their careers for the rest of their lives would be well worth the risk.

I did the only thing I could think of. I went around and told every model that if they did the scene with rose petals on the pool table (or rubbed soap on themselves in the shower, etc) that I personally would do something far more embarrassing and scandalous. Everyone agreed to take the photos I had in mind for them, and after a few months of hard work the calendar was released. The release party was a smashing success.

The point of this inane story is that ultimately you can't ask people to do something unless you're willing to do it yourself. Early on in our company's life, the founders often worked longer to get to deadlines, were willing to do shittier work (testing, fixing problems on weekends, racking servers), and generally did whatever it took regardless of pride to make sure things were completed -- and this attitude spread to the rest of the team. When we were developing the first version of Socialcam, I tried to be in the office any time any of the team was, even though I wasn't the one programming the apps. Sometimes having others present working towards common cause is important for morale, and I couldn't ask the team to grind as hard as possible if I wasn't doing the same.

Would-be leaders: prove your worth and lead from the trenches.

Here's the photo I ended up taking for the calendar:

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