There is nothing worse than getting older and dumber.
Last week, I tried to make what I thought was—and had intended to be—an innocent comparison between the motivated followers of Rep. Ron Paul and passionate, excited employees. In 250 words, my goal was to point out some of what was working for Paul and show how you could do something similar. That was dumb, consensus showed.
But it is never too late to learn from your mistakes, and I learned a few lessons from this experience and from the 100-plus commenters. Here are my top four:
1. Words do matter. Part of the fun of writing in this stream-of-consciousness style is to let the reader "in." Although I believe all of us should assume goodwill in others, I came off as arrogant and smug because of some poor word choices. Even though my mind and heart were right, my words weren't. There was no overhang or lasting goodwill for me from first-time readers. Or, what have you done for me lately?
2. Know when to ignore and when to respond. I used to think this was an interactive media. I now think it is an even more powerful venting media. With employees, one can almost always recognize the two. Venting requires active listening, but that's about it—answering "vents" directly and defensively is counterproductive.
3. Summarizing and generalizing never shows the complete picture. I simplified the reasons for the motivations of Paul followers and did not dig past the initial layers. I need to continue to look deeper when I can.
4. Niceness matters. Or does it? Even though I am used to being a lightning rod in my own company, I'm human and I did find that the most pleasant comments somehow sounded smarter. It is easy to ignore the most negative comments but you probably won't learn as much.
G.L. Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur and venture investor/operator/incubator/mentor. Two of his companies have traveled the entire success path from the garage to IPO. Currently, he is chairman of JobDig, and his blog can be found at WhatWouldDadSay.com or at JobDig.com.