loving and leaving linden lab

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Crack-Up” (1936)

I love Linden Lab.  Over the past four years, I’ve poured everything I had into the company.  Leaving was a tough decision.  But at the same time, it was easy to see that it was time for me to go.

Departure missives are a tricky thing.  This is actually my third for this same departure:  I said goodbye to the company internally, I posted to the company blog, and now here’s one for my own blog.  Why so many?

I’ve studied the art of the departure memo, it’s really quite interesting.  The business world sees many comings and goings, and in certain companies, internal communications are destined to get leaked – and you can see that the authors know this.  Compare two examples from the same company, Yahoo:

  • Stewart Butterfield’s resignation was bizarre, funny, and ultimately a scathing indictment of a place that overdiversified and lost the love of innovation.
  • Sue Decker was more restrained, with a classic and classy goodbye that nevertheless could be read as a defensive listing of all the progress made under her watch.

In their own way, each goodbye note took pains to remind people of the author’s special qualities and accomplishments.  I avoided doing that in my earlier announcements.  It’s not that I’m especially modest –  I just didn’t want to muck up messages to colleagues, customers and company commentators with shameless self-promotion.  There’s a time and place for self-promotion.  Like right here, on my own damn blog.

Ah, but I’ve never been great at claiming credit.  I’m struck by the wisdom that one mentor told me earlier in my career, which I’ll paraphrase as:

Success has many fathers, and even more virgins trying to claim paternity.  No one who wasn’t there can really understand the full story, and even the ones who were there didn’t see everything.  But you’ll know what you did, and so will the people that matter.  Let the others play their guessing games.

So then here’s a game to play.  When success really does have many fathers, how do people claim any successes for their own?  I thought about what successes I’d want to highlight from my time at Linden, and I realized that any of them could have at least two opposing interpretations.

my would-be claim one idea opposing idea
key exec in managing company growth from early revenue to profitable phenomenon can spot and guide a winner just along for the ride
lead exec in many areas through company history: international markets, legal, finance, HR, developer relations, enterprise segment, business and corporate development multifunctional business executive short attention span to the point of personality disorder
led finance through early revenue, raising $15+ million equity and debt financing, accurately projecting 2+ years of revenue growth within 10% talented early-stage financier and prognosticator wild-ass guesser
early leader of international growth from 30% to 70+% of audience makes worldwide progress with limited resources strained the organization beyond its ability to grow
established basic legal and regulatory policy and strategies, with humor insightful thinker on social and governmental issues paper-pushing policy dork, with wicked streak
architected Linden Dollar as unique virtual currency and multimillion real dollar business fearless and creative new product innovator reckless and dispiriting goon
wrote, tweaked, and rewrote the Tao of Linden sensitive guardian of company culture feckless appeaser of management fads
executive sponsor of startup-within-a-startup initiative for enterprise segment constant pioneer in new markets and strategy focus-diluting disruptor
negotiated and managed acquisition and integration of several businesses accomplished M&A dealmaker heartless crusher of helpless entrepreneurs
helped recruit and integrate new management team before departure selfless assembler of talent ruthless operative in reorg-and-run

Can I claim any of these successes as wholly my own? Where does the truth lie? Would the modesty of my saying that all opposed ideas could be true be undercut by the implication that I would then be claiming a first-rate intelligence?

Ah well, that’s about the best I can do for self-promotion.

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8 thoughts on “loving and leaving linden lab

  1. Hey, I saw you speak at the virtual world conference in New York. I don’t know what your situation was, but I’ve found that In high pressure situations underminers make you think you’re column number three when by objective measures you’re column number one.

    Who knows, as you said, maybe it’s a blend of both – either way, SL is historic and remarkable – Do you have any thoughts as to what’s next?

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  2. Dimitri, thanks for the kind thought. I should just clarify: no one puts more pressure on me than I do; I don’t mind what people say. I didn’t mean to sound defensive in this post, I just legitimately enjoy the indeterminacy of observable life. It’s all in good fun.

    When I’m ready to talk about what I’ll do next, I’ll certainly talk about it on this blog! Thanks.

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  3. Ah yes, F. Scott. But he cracked up relatively young. You have a long career ahead of you. Forget the naysayers and keep moving. Congrats on your accomplishments.

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  4. Um, that’s pretty irresponsible and stupid to link your claim about “architecting” (wince) the Linden dollar to a unique currency to my blog describing you as a “goon” because…in fact I didn’t oppose anything about the Linden dollar or it becoming a unique currency, and that’s not what the blog is about, as anyone can see.

    1. You aren’t the architect of the Linden dollar, really. That is, perhaps superficially in some internal company memo you can claim something we can’t check, but in fact it was Gaming Open Market (put out of business by Linden Lab) that “architected” the value of that dollar to real money. LL played catch-up.

    2. Whoever is responsible for making this dollar valuable — and again, I’d argue that it’s the residents, not the Lindens — what my critical blog is about is your notion of SL as a “product”. If anything, you undermined the currency by scathingly and cynically referring to it as a “metaphor” and implying that residents in SL are chumps who bought the company line that this is a “world” and couldn’t grasp that this was merely a “product”.

    3. I don’t for a minute think you left voluntarily. I think you felt the squeeze because the new management brought in new people and gave them titles so close to yours that you took the hint.

    4. Your worth will be told by your next job where you are hired, not what you tell us on your resume.

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  5. Pingback: the way we were « ginsudo

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