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> Do you spend your time marketing your self to others and letting people know your accomplishments, or do you spend the time doing work that will benefit others?

I like the luck surface area analogy for this.

Take a rectangle. Side A is "Quality of work". Side B is "How many people know about it". The surface area – A*B – is your luck and opportunity.

If you do amazing work and nobody knows about it, your luck is zero.

If you do terrible work and everyone knows about it, your luck is zero.

A square would be equal balance of A and B, which is okay but not to everyone's liking. You can get the same surface area with 2A and 0.5B. You can get a huge surface area with 2A and 1B.

For HN types, optimizing for big A and just enough B is easiest. We tend to err on the side of not enough B.




I'd add that it really matters who know about your work. If a lot of people know you do good work, but they all have very similar skills sets, you get a lot less value than if only a few people with very different skill sets know about you. In that case, you get to become "their guy for X", and that generates a lot of opportunities.

In this case, you also get the benefit that both of you can get credit for the same work. Everyone will know them as "the guy who knows people who get things done" (i.e., good manager/leader) and you'll get credit as a great individual contributer. There's no competition for credit here.

It gets even better if the few people who know you as "their guy for X" are social supernodes--while we're all only 6 degrees of separation from each other, it's actually because a small percentage of us know tons of people, while the average is much less. If you become the "guy for X" for one of these supernodes, you're basically the "guy for X" for anyone who would ask them "hey, do you know a guy for X?"

In my career, I've had two of those types of people know me and my work--and between the two of them, they have generated almost every opportunity I've had in the past 10 years.

I could spend 50% of my time networking, and I doubt it would generate as much value as adding just one more social supernode that knows my work.


Interesting, any tips on what to look out for identifying these people in the wild when you might not be able to work with them personally in the beginning?


Of the two I know, one is a general manager / executive type that surfs and used to be in a frat.

The other is a sales guy / stoner type, who always seems to have been to every new bar and restaurant and already know the owners by the time I've heard of the place.

These descriptions are just the two I know--but you get the idea. They genuinely value people, so it's not a chore for them to know people, and they never really "network". They just like people.

There's actually quite a lot of people with these kinds of traits. The trick, which is harder, is finding ones you respect and get along with, so you (the relative introvert) will keep up your end of the relationship.

A lot times, I see skilled specialists look down on the more generalists/people-oriented people as being some form of incompetent. Compared to the specialist in their field, they always are. The thing that makes these 2 special to me is that they're humble about their limitations in a way that makes really respect them. They're definitely not blowhards.


Thanks I think I know what you mean.



I really like this model - thanks for sharing! A professor of mine drilled into us the idea that much of life is luck, but as he said (and I believe he was quoting someone else here) "the harder I work, the luckier I get."


Well, this is true for any iterated game with upside and minor (only opportunity cost) downside: the more you play, the more you win.


The conjoined rectangle of success.


That just made my day!


Damn you for beating me to this joke format. And I’m not deleting it.


Do we expand the rectangle to have a dimension for speed?


I like this model, but I'd replace side B with "how much you self promote your work". Someone who's side A is 1 and side B is 20 has similar opportunity as someone whose side A is 20 and side B is 1. A talented developer who isn't great at self promotion gets the same luck as someone who doesn't know what they are doing at all but can talk a great talk and enchant the execs. Surely 10x10 is better but you can linearly make up for a lack of A with a surplus of B and vice versa.


>I'd replace side B with "how much you self promote your work".

I don't agree. The problem with "how much you self promote your work" is that if you're not good at promoting your work then you'll still be at, or near, 0. Whereas "How many people know your work" focuses on the outcome. Nearly everyone is promoting their work, not all of which gets noticed. How will you do it in a way that gets noticed?


A friend told me a new hire spent weeks drawing diagrams on the board and explaining to coworkers how X feature should work, after two months of zero commits he was let go.

A perfect example of a -2 X 5, zero work done but great presentation, now the guy is infamous in our circle and no one would recommend him to be hired anywhere.


> zero work done

Knowing what should and should not be implemented (where to go) may be more important than being able to move in random directions.

Once requirements are clear, the implementation becomes easier.

Perhaps, the guy should be in the product team, not in devs.


This is a fuzzy implementation of the boolean AND operator.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuzzy_logic


This square needs to be a cube because there is a third important dimension - time.

Amazing work requires focused effort over time, first to complete, and then for lots of people to discover it.

And the time dimension is not linear, but has an acceleration. The more amazing the work, the longer it will take to complete, and during this time acceleration of people knowing about it will be near zero.

But once completed and made public, the more amazing it is the faster the acceleration of discovery.


> If you do terrible work and everyone knows about it, your luck is zero.

Well, really, it’s less than zero, since now you also have a bad reputation you’ll need to dig out of. :)


A square is nothing more than the conjoined triangles of success.


Completely true. It's a serious risk to be creating great things, impressing yourself but never making time to share with anyone else. In the modern world, you can't assume that your potential audience will see what you put out either - you need to repeat the news with a bit of variance, catch different timezones or people who don't see everything in their feed. Share a behind-the-scenes, share the finished product, a recap or case study, etc.


> If you do amazing work and nobody knows about it, your luck is zero.

But I don't think that implies the type of marketing social media apps gets you is valuable. For instance, I'd think that giving talks at conferences would be much more valuable than trying to become a LinkedIn influencer. I think you can work on networking and marketing in a way that limits distractions.


Ok, how do we take this analogy and qualify the types of opportunity you get as a result? If you do mediocre work and everyone knows about it, do you get a lot of mediocre opportunities? Compared to someone who does better work, and gets a smaller number of, but GREAT, opportunities? How to value that piece?


Honestly yes!

in summary:

know. Your. Audience. Let them know , but speak to them in their terms. Communication is not a display of hubris, it’s a two way street




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