Nine years ago today I was driving into the city of Boston to pick up my wife. Normally she’d take the ferry from Boston back to Hingham, but today was different. I quickly noticed while driving northbound on Hwy 93 that all of the cars were headed South. There wasn’t a single car driving North into Boston. Not a one.
At 10am on a weekday, one can expect heavy traffic going North and South bound in Boston. But today was different. I was scared. Was I crazy? Who was I to tempt fate? The drivers headed south on Hwy 93 were waving at me to turn around. I remember one gave me a look with the equivalent of the words “are you crazy”.
But after the shock of the surreal scene wore off, I remembered the goal. My wife needed me to pick her up. Despite my brain telling me that something was wrong and to turn back, I drove on not knowing what to expect next.
A lot of corporate champions I talk to have the same experience when implementing a new initiative. They wonder why all of their peers and some of their team are headed South while they head North. Most people that always head South with the herd suffer from a mental chastity that recoils from change. That’s a shame.
The brave ones are willing to go against the tide and tempt fate. For better or worse these pioneers are often ridiculed or vilified but ultimately many of them are substantially rewarded. Rewarded either by achieving success or by being wrong and learning from their mistakes.
When hiring, I often look for people with major failures. Did they learn from the experience? How would they have done it different? If the answers ring true, I often hire those individuals. Better to have a few people on board that take risks then those that sit back and play politics.
P.S. So of course the scene above was from September 11, 2001. While Boston was involved in the 9/11 attacks, the city itself wasn’t attacked. But it was a day long ordeal that I’ll never forget. My life as well as many others changed that day.