When No One’s Watching


I work on 20Skaters, ThreeFortyNine, Ontario Startup Train and a few others. My vanity site is brydon.me.

The other night my son was about to do something he knew was wrong. He looked around, noticed I was the only person around so he asked me “Should I do this? No one will see if I do it now.”

First I told him it was his choice. Then I did my best to convey that how you act when no one’s watching is important. It’s character. Do you really want to only be who you are when someone’s watching? Do or don’t but it shouldn’t be based on the audience (nose picking, bathroom breaks excluded of course).

That night I was lucky enough to catch my buddy AJ’s band The Odd Years playing downtown. Watching them play, it struck me how some bands are able to make massive leaps forward in the time since I last saw them play live. When you see a band and wonder “what the hell have they been up to?”, because of how much better they are, you’re watching a band that’s working their asses off.

Great musicians surprise and inspire you every time you see them perform. It means they’re busy when you’re not watching. Athletes are the same. If you only work hard and get better when the coach and fans are watching then you will eventually get beat.

“Write a song.¬†All your old ones don’t mean a thing if you don’t sing any new ones”, Hayden

Corporate life is all about what’s observable. There’s little point in doing anything unless it’s observed, documented and lands in a performance review somewhere. The only currency in the workplace is observed acts.

For small business owners and entrepreneurs, it’s almost the exact opposite. If you’ve never truly created something from nothing then this is part of the reason you think starting a business is easy. I’ve seen what that guy does, I can do that.

The bits you observe are the easy bits. All the real work, all the fighting, clawing and making it happen goes on in the dark when on one’s watching. No one’s there at 3 am when I’m pacing the room for the second hour in a row. That’s why it’s such an overwhelming feeling for an entrepreneur when a business starts to click and move forward. Yes it looks like an overnight success but there’s likely decades of work put in which no one witnessed.

The parts you see really are the simple ones. This is especially important for anyone considering moving from a corporate environment to their own thing. Everything will be flipped upside down. If you’re not prepared to work your ass off when no one’s watching then you’d best just work on that promotion.