A great testimonial from a client

A few years ago, I did some work for an amazing startup and stayed very close to the founders. After that company failed, we started a company together. That company failed quickly, but when I asked Sanjay for a testimonial, he wrote:

Greg’s the kind of guy who could figure out perpetual motion. It would be unorthodox and when you look at it you would think “how does that work?” But it would and then he would tell you everything that was wrong with it and how he would do it better next time. And then you would shake your head and think “holy fuck.”

Whenever I talk with former clients and/or co-founders, I like to focus on the strengths and weaknesses that their words reveal. Co-founders provide especially wonderful feedback. Since starting a company is so emotional and involves such deep personal buy in, my co-founders have always had the chance to see me at my best and at my worst.

Sanjay’s words reveal my biggest strength and my biggest weakness. I’m not particularly sure that I’m talented - rather, I just work harder than anyone I know. And besides, I tend to fall more in line with the theory that ‘talent’ is just the result of thousands of hours of deliberate practice. But, if I had to point out my biggest talent, I would say that I am an excellent problem solver.

The weird thing is that my biggest strength is also my biggest weakness. I am good at problem solving because I am good at spotting problems and thinking about creative ways to solve them. As Sanjay showed, this habit doesn’t stop when I have actually solved a problem. Rather, I will pick apart my solution and keep solving the problems.

I think that this tendency has killed a few of my startups. Looking back, I can point to many problems that I kept working on even after they were solved. Sometimes, these problems were the most critical task that I could work on. Other times, I had already solved a critical problem and while it was not perfect the solution was good enough. But, I still kept hacking away, trying to approach a limit of perfection, and letting more critical fires burn all around me.

Written on December 25, 2015