Through Darkness, Light.
The Scribe Meltdown
For years I worked along side a company, Scribe Media, for my book. They inspired, coached and guided me through what has become the most profound and important creative act of my life. Everyone I interacted with at Scribe were rare mixes of competent, kind and enthusiastic. Some have become good friends and mentors.
I loved Scribe as much as somebody could love a company they weren’t affiliated with. I watched them grow from a plucky startup to an industry powerhouse. I watched them win awards for their culture. I listened to their award winning CEO, Jevon McKormick, tell his rags-to-riches American dream story while preaching his “Do Right by People” corporate mantra. I watched their clients become overnight success stories and publish world changing books.
So you can imagine my surprise when a few months ago I hear about their CEO Jevon’s resignation (communicated in a since-deleted LinkedIn post). You could imagine my surprise when I heard about them laying off over a hundred employees - 80% of their staff - without warning or severance. You could imagine my surprise seeing eviction letters posted on their office windows and when former employees began using words like cultish, gaslighting, vindictive, toxic, and authoritarian to describe the now-former CEO and his executive team. You could imagine my surprise when I heard about former freelancers being left with unpaid work and authors being screwed out of tons of money for services they had already paid for.
I was watching a company I loved implode in front of my eyes. The weird thing is that my book is largely about this exact thing - risk and the many reasons why businesses die. In retrospect there were signs. I kept seeing smart competent people leave. I saw an oversized office space filled with everything but people. I saw a company try to hyper-scale a notoriously hard-to-scale white-glove professional service. The irony that none of my own risk senses tingled, something I write about in the book, wasn’t lost on me.
I was blinded by what I wanted to be true. I wanted Scribe and it’s team to live up to the mythology I cooked up in my mind, so I let my mind block out anything that might have shattered that illusion.
I had questions. What happened? What went wrong? Whose to blame? I'll never know the full story, nor will I make it my job to find out. Time will judge and sentences will be carried out in the hearts, minds and bank accounts of those responsible. But the nature of the questions still linger. Where did things go dark? How did an award winning culture become a toxic cesspool? When did the award winning “Do Right by People” CEO become the same guy laying a hundred people off without warning or severance?
I’m not cynical enough to believe they were maliciously manipulative psychopaths burning the world down for their own gain. Rather, I see good people “breaking bad”.
I suspect a CEO and his executives overdosing on the same growing cult-of-personality Kool-Aid. I see people wanting to protect their status and prestige. I see people gaslighting and “exiting” anybody who would challenge their increasingly disconnected realities. I suspect a CEO whose ego surpassed his competency and turned his ambitions into delusions of grandeur which led to operational meltdowns and financial turmoil.
If I’m anywhere close to the truth that then would mean there’s something to be learned by all of us. That we, people who aspire to be good, can all be led astray into darkness.
In a weird way it's the first time I've fully connected to the idea of sin. Not in the self flagellating I'm-a-bad-llama destined for eternal hellfire kind of way. The sin I’m describing about is the cosmically-neutral element of destruction. It brings out the worst in us and destroys relationships, business, and eventually ourselves. It’s the darkness born from broken assumptions, fragile delusions, financial anxieties, emotional scarcities and under-satiated egos. This was the darkness lurking in the hearts and minds of Scribe’s leaders that lead to their destruction.
Darkness, sin, however you want to think about it is a natural and re-occurring element of the human story. It a part of reality and exists in all of us. Only when we pretend it doesn’t exist that we expose ourselves to being consumed by it.
As for my book - that will be fine. Light can be born from darkness. I get direct access to the highly competent ex-Scribe team and work with them directly à la carte and likely get a better result than I ever could have gotten otherwise.
As for me, I get to reflect on an important lesson. If darkness could consume Scribe, then it can consume me too. It’s my duty to the people I love, the work I do, the people I support, and most importantly, myself, to confront my own darkness. If I don’t then darkness will confront me and consume the world around me. Only by confronting darkness can I let my light shine through.
Through Darkness, Light.
I’m launching my book Survival First - The Rebel Entrepreneur’s Guide to Risk, Riches and Immortality in Early 2024. Subscribe to get on the mailing list.