Weird. Based on something said in a conversation I had this morning with Alistair Cockburn, author of the landmark book, Agile Software Development: The Cooperative Game, I was going to write a post about the old cliche, glass half-empty or half-full? And then later today this quote by Mark Cuban appeared in my LinkedIn feed:
“Doesn’t matter if the glass is half-empty or half-full. All that matters is that you are the one pouring the water.”
Cuban’s quote sounds like he has a crush on Ayn Rand. It reeks of ego. It puts the self at the center of the universe. I think his intention was to say we shouldn’t be thrown by setbacks, and that we control our own destinies. But do we? Is our destiny self-contained and self-defined? A thing to be controlled? Or is it a thing to be dreamed of and revealed? Do we pour our future from a pitcher like water?
People who lead with “All that matters” often mean “All that matters to ME..” The shape our futures take is never decided only by one matter, and never by ourselves alone. It is easy and obvious to say “all that matters is that you are the one pouring the water” when, like Cuban, you made your first millions distributing radio over the internet, and when you have as much liquidity as Cuban does today.
It’s much less easy and obvious when you’re dying of thirst.
I propose a more useful, and realistic re-framing of the old cliche. A re-framing in which more than one thing matters. Because that’s reality. More than one thing matters.
The size of your glass matters. The volume of your pitcher matters. Who you’re serving matters. How many glasses need filling matters. It matters what you’ll do when you fill the glass, or empty it. It matters if you’re pouring clean water or dirty water. Or beer. It matters if the water is hot or cold. It matters how thirsty you are. Lots of things matter, and to discover our destinies, we must be attentive to as many of them as possible.
When Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks won the NBA championship, a reporter asked their guard, Jason Terry, how they did it, and he said, “We found a home for all our stories.” Companies and teams that succeed are those that find a home for all their employees’ stories. And not all stories are pouring stories.