That gave me chills.
The entire startup experience, the essence of being an entrpepreneur for me is in that moment when your brain subconsciously processes all the data around a problem and throws out something obvious and audacious in the same breath. And before you can conciously object BAM you have said it outloud and the adventure begins.
My intuition often betrays my experience.
An example of how to actually live "your" own life in this world...not paying a great deal of attention to uninteresting things that others bring up; rather molding those same things so that they become interesting, and illuminate parts of your life and the lives of others...
In my estimation, my life is what it is--one I'm very happy with--because of my having just that attitude...
And, yes, I totally agree:
>>Paul : When I was a kid at Christmas, the Sears Catalog was your reference work.<<
PG is a boss and has done more for startups than anyone I know, but he isn't beyond critique. Boring questions are ripe with depth outside the capacity of CS and tech entrepreneurs, and deal with the realities of everyday people.
> Most people won't admit how they got their current jobs unless you push them up against a built-in wall unit and punch them in the stomach until they spill their drink and start yelling, "I'LL NEVER INVITE YOU TO ONE OF MY PARTIES AGAIN, YOU DRUNKEN FOOL!"
> I think the reason these annoying people won't tell me how they got their jobs is because they are embarrassed to admit luck was involved.
> I can't blame them. Typically the pre-luck part of their careers involved doing something enormously pathetic. Take me, for example. I'm a successful cartoonist and author because I'm a complete failure at being an employee of the local phone company.
In reality, what looks like luck is very normal. Humans are prone to think coincidence is much less likely than it actually is. This is where most religious belief and conspiracy theory come from.
Or, often, what seems like a coincidence is actually a predictable systematic phenomenon that we cannot yet explain. E.g. The regularity of comets was once thought merely a coincidence. Edmund Halley was the first to posit a system behind their regularity.
People don't like to tell of the coincidences that led them to their jobs because other people are liable to over-estimate the effect those coincidences had to said person's career.
You can consider this concretely a bit by imagining a lottery in which every human being in the world is given one ticket. The probability of any given winner is negligible, but somebody is going to win, in what for them is an against-all-odds outcome.
The a priori probability of this particular string of words ever being combined together into a post on Hacker News was negligible. Yet, here we are.
- Richard Feynman
I like to imagine the two people are sitting, and rolling dice over and over again, squealing with wide eyes every time their dice rolls match.
For the other an opportunity disguised as hard work and taking risks.
TLDV: Innovation is not driven by narrowly focused heroic effort. We'd be wiser and the outcomes would be better if instead we whole-heartedly embraced serendipitous discovery and playful creativity. We can potentially achieve more by following a non-objective yet still principled path, after throwing off the shackles of objectives, metrics, and mandated outcomes.
This also matches my experience 100%. All my best discoveries are accidental.
Thanks for asking! I have several different but interconnected processes:
1. I have a regular writing practice where I just open up something (Evernote, Byword, notepad, whatever) and start writing about whatever comes to mind. This is primarily just to develop the habit of writing. I mainly do this with my 1,000,000 word writing project .
2. I do content marketing for work, which is much more systematic and planned out– I work backwards from common queries and search terms. The most successful post I've ever written, though, was something that I had written out of curiosity .
3. Sometimes 'inspiration' hits: somebody asks the right question, or something happens and I feel a need to respond– and everything just comes right out of my subconscious, almost as if it were already written. But when I examine this, it's clear that I was already ruminating about it for a long time before.
> It seems like there is a paradox, you can't force great things to happen with objectives and planning.
Not exactly a paradox. The objectives and planning aren't about making great things happen; they're about creating a stable context in which great things happen. It's about putting in the hours of practice so that you can improvise freely when the moment calls for it.
> So are you personally concerned about whether a specific piece of writing is objectively great, or are you more interested in your ability to write well in general?
I think I cycle between the two, back and forth, depending on what I'm doing. If I'm working on something with a sense of purpose, I want it to be great. Otherwise I'm happy just working on my craft on a day to day basis.
I agree...the best ideas "come in on little cat feet"...
I bet the people who are constantly pumping out works that, on their own, would be considered achievements—the Picassos and Frank Zappas and Stephen Kings of the world—have a pretty different view on how much of creating something good is inspiration vs. a schlepp.
12 months from now you won't be able to tell what you wrote while inspired and what while schlepping.
I've been writing almost every day for probably about a decade now. The reality of it is a little more nuanced that that.
It's more like... 20% of the time you were inspired, you'll realize that what you produced was still crap.
Similarly, about 20% of the time you were schlepping, you'll realize it was actually pretty good.
And about maybe 20-30% of the time, you'll find yourself getting 'inspired' midway through a schlep. And as you do it more and more often, you start subconsciously preparing things in anticipation of the work.
I'll take those chances. Especially if it increases my chance of getting started at all.
Remember, the only option with 0% chance of great is not doing anything.
Also, how will you ever improve in something if you only do it while inspired? And how will your inspired work be any good if you have no practice and experience to build upon?
Yes and no. Once you succeeded in creating a masterpiece it can become incredibly hard to ever create something worthwhile again because success (especially when rewarded by the markets) can screw up your mind for good. You loose your sense of wonder, you feel the pressure to have success again and so on. It could very well be that you just create more of the same or get worse due to this. I think bands that are considered one hit wonders might provide a good example.
It's a bit like an optimization algorithm that found a local optimum but can't escape its current neighborhood.
You're just playing around with stuff, create a lot of drafts and play with them if you feel that they're fun. And then, suddenly, one of the drafts doesn't get dull; surprisingly, it gets more and more interesting the more things you add to it.
And then you realize that this one is actually done.
A software's features could always be improved, a book can always be revised further, a song could always be tweaked or rearranged, you can always knock the sand castle down and try to make the parapets straighter this time.
Most of my projects have a wishlist of features, 80-90% of them eventually get cut when I decided I was finally, finally going to release the damn thing.
Kinda reminds me a lot about Edward DeBono: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFFZ0XSfCRw
He was, in turn, recommended by Alan Kay for learning and creativity: http://www.squeakland.org/resources/books/readingList.jsp )
Now going to order "Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned".
Interesting quote. There must be some organisation to early startups, otherwise they wouldn't work. Is the chaos just a description of what cannot be observed and described?
Fantastic read. Liked the bit about straw-drawing to talk to customers.
Your right, small team organisation is what startups must succeed in. So obvious, I missed this.
I also wonder now, that what I think (and say to friends) of as my life style business tech startup, is actually a Zombie? Did we really manage to hit the magic break even (revenue = comfortable salary + expenses). Hmm...But something in me tells me that, there's more to it, as my effort has been ongoing, although its little less than thrice of the time PG spent on Viaweb.
One motivation, which also contributes to make me keep working in it, is my earlier partners, who still have a stake, and they contributed a lot, to this in the early years. Somehow, there's a feeling in me that they should get a good return on that effort. Which also means that my returns will be more, so its not a pure selfless line of thought there.
Just some musings, after reading the very good interview transcript. And just want to assure that there is no irony/sarcasm in my post (I think, it may come across like that in the early part). And also no "sympathy" replies please. As I actually feel quite upbeat about things.
Apologies for being tangential (if I have been), just felt like writing this.
You have the big exist or you shut it down and try something else. There's no middle ground, which is part of why "startup" has a very specific definition, and why YC doesn't invest in SMBs.
Aaron : Yeah. This is such an interesting thing because it’s so opposite from what you tell people a lot of the time, what YC tells people, certainly, of “Don’t do things just because there’s a business there,” right?
This is it, right here. If you want to know what most successful businesspeople have in common - not the unicorns - it's that they were prepared to sell their first venture and/or give away a lot of equity to the right people to make it work. Once they have the money, comnections and track record, they can have much more control in their next company.
We went a completely different route. We've tried to change the world... :)
-Alan Watts, The Way of Zen
And here I got so much work with full time studying that I can barely finish reading a single book alongside. How can people say university is enjoyable, fun, lots of spare time? For me it's just endless hard work and barely any breaks inbetween.
If that were the case, and you could complete enough work to keep your advisor happy within one week, that gives you two weeks of time to use...
Only if your advisor is fairly senior (ie. Not pre-tenure)!
When someone cares so much about figuring things out and so little about superficial nicety, they can seem full of themselves, but that can also be a red herring. The real tests of fullness-of-oneself are in how they personally interact with others.
Poverty is poverty only when you have no means to make your life better. Suffering form special snowflake syndrome is not poverty.
Most of that is movement conservatives complaining that their days of hijacking American culture seem to be in jeopardy (they think - I am not so optimistic).
That makes the provocateur comment of yours a bit ironic doesn't it.