Photo of conductor Joana Carneiro by Dr. Dave Welland

Photo of conductor Joana Carneiro by Dr. Dave Welland

We have finished evaluating the muslin Riding Jackets with professional tailor, Nighisti Selby. While I’m sure you are dying to hear how it went, we have to make sure we’ve had a chance to talk with our partners before sharing the results in the Weekly Letter. We hope to do this by next week.
Thank you for your patience with these letters lately. There are a lot of moving parts right now and I’ve not been able to be as “weekly” as I try to be.
I have been doing some thinking on trust and leadership after another inspiring Ted Radio Hour episode on “Trust and Consequences”. A particular quote from the classical music conductor, Charles Hazlewood, stood out:

In those early years I wasn’t demonstrating a clarity because I was so fearful that my ideas weren’t valuable, that my ideas didn’t really hold water. And the fact is, that it’s all well and good having this trust equation with other people, but it didn’t work at all until you learned first to trust yourself. And I learned very early on that there wasn’t any way that they were going to trust me until I learned to walk onto that podium with a real sense of value, that I was going to add value in that room, within which every single member of that orchestra could bring their particular talents to the table.
— Charles Hazlewood, Ted Radio Hour

And I guess this “trusting your value” piece is really some of the most difficult work when you are starting a new venture. For the past 3+ years, and particularly when going down the made-to-measure technology path, I have wondered about what value I bring to this work beyond design and my ability to identify and articulate the problem. When the insecure part of me is on the attack I hear: you are not a pattern maker, you are not a skilled sewer, you are not a software developer, you do not have decades of experience in apparel or manufacturing or technology? What is it that you bring?!

It has only been through trying something out and learning where I fit, that I am able to develop the trust in what I bring to the table: crazy love for challenges and problem-solving with lots of different people who have completely different talents and work languages, excellent communication (we diminish this as a soft skill, but it is VITAL for coordinating anything), can tolerate complexity and uncertainty, love the problem so much that I am willing to keep at it after the first, second and third try. It is only toward the end of our beta-testing of custom-made womenswear that my value has become clear. I am the conductor.
And sometimes I think – well am I good enough, talented enough, smart enough to do this very challenging work? And here’s the plane truth: on my own – absolutely not. Nope you are not smart enough, talented enough, etc. etc. to do this on your own. Nobody is. Duh, Reid. And yet all those insecurities are there until we call them out. And examine how silly they are. Nobody is smart enough to pull off something big alone. The role of the leader is not to accomplish something big alone. It is to lead all the smart, talented, hardworking people towards a common vision to make something spectacular. Trust forms the relationship that allows people to put a ton of work and faith into helping me build it. Even your weekly reading of my post helps me build it – there are too many other things you could do – and the more of you reading – saying “this is important” – the closer we will be to having a solution ready.
We like to celebrate CEOs of major tech companies like they were some sort of superhero that pulled off impossible tasks single-handedly. And maybe that false telling of stories celebrating them, makes us despair that there is no way we could pull something like that off. But wait. They didn’t do it alone. They had lots of help. Their skill was not building it from start to finish. It was leading a group of talented, passionate folks who did actually build it. Elon Musk did not build Tesla. He led the building of Tesla. A lot of great people are to thank for that company.
Thank you for putting your faith in me to build this. My gift to you here, as much as I can give this one: trust your leadership to build your dream.

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