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If you want to get rich, stop being a fucking joker (sebastianmarshall.com)
333 points by sthatipamala on Nov 17, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 281 comments



"Dear Sebastian, we quit, piss off. Best, Sam, Lee, and Jon."

Seriously, this is just ridiculous.

Is there anyone here that would actually put up with this ridiculous public shaming at all, let alone from a CEO that's off in Asia staying up "20 hours" to print flyers for one of his other companies, while he bitches that you're not reneging on your teaching commitments (which I would presume he knew about when he took you on...) so that you can meet his arbitrary (and from the sounds of it, utterly unrealistic) timeline?

Fuck guys like this. I know them, and I'm even friends with a couple, and sometimes they're decent people to hang out with and (on occasion, in the right contexts) even learn from. But I'd never dream of working for them, or even usually with them, because they tend to be neither very good businessmen nor good employers.

Bitching about your people being "jokers" is not the way to speed up a product's release: cutting features is, and that sometimes requires a CEO's involvement. Learn that lesson fast, or you'll be sorely disappointed in all your future projects, especially when you're just the guy-in-charge-of-negotiating-rates-for-business-cards...uh, I mean CEO.


The "public" part is what really surprised me the most. I get that it's his "thing" to post a lot of stuff about his make-believe success story, but you simply don't post what three people are supposed to be motivated by on the Internet. Not even when you edit it to obscure their names. They /can/ read your blog, you know?!

The text in itself is very close to self-parody and severely lacks editing (as most of his writing that I have read or sampled) but that can be forgiven in a person-to-person context. There is a whole different world of rules that apply when you address an entire audience that does not happen to be on your payroll. As it stands, this is a kneejerk "and you know what? I'm so taken by how motivating my own writing to you guys is, I'll also blog it ON THE INTERNET" reaction that reeks of delusion.

Telling your employees "hey guys, stop joking around" and telling the entire world that your employees are "jokers" are two very different things - even if we don't know them in person. Having the person I work for confuse the two would be quite the wakeup call for me.

In fact, this reminds me of an anecdote - I once did an internship at a design studio. One day, one of the guys asked me for a favor - send out faxes with his software and make sure to resend all the faxes that failed to be sent. (He had to leave early, for whatever reason.) Turns out, he kept a LOT of failed records and I ended up sending a lot of faxes from previous batches.

He was obviously angry at me and I could certainly agree with that. But then he proceeded to call every single recipient and tell them that the idiot intern messed it up. There were a million excuses (the software failed etc.) he could have used that were perfectly harmless and he won nothing by shaming a particular person in front of them. But still, he did. So yeah, that WAS quite a wakeup call.


It reads like the person has a drug habbit. I feel sorry for the employees.


> It reads like the person has a drug habbit. I feel sorry for the employees.

It sounds more like a con-artist to me. I also feel very sorry for the employees, even though I have my doubts that they take away home any salary at this point.


Yeah, there is some hypomania there, stimulant induced or otherwise.


Read his latest blog entry (or don't - it's quite a waste of time). Money quote is this:

> "I’m cyclothymic too. Like Nieztsche and Byron and those guys. Albeit, much less talented; I’m just saying I got the same affliction. [...] What’s a cyclothymic? It appears that we feel emotions more strongly than other people, and cycle through them. I’m fucking awesome when I’m manic [...] Cyclothymic mania is when the SPIRIT OF GOD is within you. [...] It’s pretty fucking awesome when it’s going on. SPIRIT OF GOD WITHIN YOU. Imagine that, eh? [...] Jut one rub – it’s a Faustian Bargain – crashing is… well, “hell” [...] when a convergence of bullshit strikes, then I crash hard and I’m fucking useless for a while. It’s a real bummer, I’ll tell ya."

So yes - manic depressive. And a little too taken by it, if I may say so.


The piracetam may not help; it's normally a very well-behaved nootropic (I and many others use it without issue), but that's in normal people - with bi-polar or whatever he's got going on, who knows?


A couple points -

They're partners, not employees.

Yes, I'll suffer at the printshop when I promised it. My colleague offered to do it, but he just had a baby and it would be ridiculous to keep him all night. No one else was available on Sunday night.

> they tend to be neither very good businessmen nor good employers.

My staff like me, I pay top of market (sometimes 10x market pay, if the person is worth it but short-changed due to supply and demand), everyone is treated great, we have a culture of radical transparency and honesty, have a book club, there's no task management, and everyone is free to basically do whatever they want whenever they want as long as they get their job done.

I want people to be their best and keep their word. And again, that email was to business partners, not to employees, on what was supposed to be a very short project that dragged on.

I don't know if you'd like working with me. Maybe not, it's not for everyone. But I look for top performers, pay them extremely well, treat them well, give them huge respect and autonomy, and push them to give their best and really deliver. We tend to have fun, too.


sometimes 10x market pay

Somehow I doubt you're paying $1 million a year, which would be 10x market pay for a good engineer...

That said, if you're paying even high-ish market rates and your people are really partners with significant percentage interests in the company, then I do retract a lot of what I said, and apologize if it was too harsh - I have had some bad experiences in startup-land with CEOs that demanded miracles from underpaid near-zero-equity employees, and I'm definitely biased by that. It's very likely that I've misinterpreted what's going on in your case based on my experiences, it's definitely more reasonable to expect serious commitment from equity partners that are well compensated for their time.

That said, I'd still think hard before posting stuff like this publicly - it's got a dirty laundry smell, and I think that's what a lot of people are reacting most negatively to. Did this really need to be a public blog post, or could it have had the same effect as an e-mail cced to the involved parties, without inviting the rest of the Internet to comment on it?

I know if I was one of the "lazies" called out, I'd be a bit pissed off about how public this got, and I'd probably be retaliating with any other side to the story, if there was one...


Jon here.

First: I'm fine with this email. Didn't love it, responded to it in a way that raised my own issues, worked them out with Seb on the phone, moved on.

Second: I'm fine with him posting this email. He posts a lot of very candid material about his somewhat unique approach to life and business, which I respect and have benefited from, so am happy to contribute back in the form of a character in one of his stories.

Third: Y'all need to spend a lot less time speculating on other people's approach to situations that you have very little context on. He posted this, I can only imagine, because it was a very unique thing that he tried and (I can attest to) ultimately found success in. As some in here have commented, "Why are people positively responding to this, is that some kind of cult?" Just shut it. No, seriously. Stop contributing that garbage. People on his blog benefit from his advice, that's why they come back. The question is, why are you over here talking about it? More specifically, why are you talking about it and Sebastian as if you know what's going on, as opposed to using it as a starting point for when something like this might or might not (or is always or never) appropriate?

Forth: To the many civil comments in here, no offense!

Fifth: Ok back to work, HN is for jokers. ;)


I think a lot of readers are missing that names are changed (as is mentioned at the top of the blog post... you aren't actually named "Jon", right?); this is not a "public shaming" but a peek into this particular and one-time-only motivational strategy.

My personal thought is that with some relatively minor modifications, this could work as a pretty powerful motivator.

The points of "I'm trusting you completely; you don't have to run your decisions by me; I recognize that I do and will owe you enormously if we all manage to pull off what we said we would" is not bad at all, and would motivate me.

It's not the kind of thing you can pull out every two months -- that would be horrible -- but it sounds like he's asking for a complete commitment for a short burst of time, and also recognizing that this is costly in many ways.


I have you "tagged" here on HN because usually I enjoy reading what you write.

But this blog post was, well, astronomically short sighted...

> on what was supposed to be a very short project that dragged on.

Which ties into my almost instant reaction; "so this is an email he wrote when pissed off things weren't going so well".

You talk about employing the best people, who can get things to work. One of the thoughts I had, especially reading the stuff you mention about purchasing resources and AWS, is that what the project seems to lack is good administration.

One thing I have learned about projects is having a really really good admin person can make them fly. But you seem to have been managing the money and the decisions.

So to be harsh (but only as harsh as you've been :)) it appears you are a fucking Joker too.

The solution to people clearing stuff with you isn't to tell them not to clear stuff with you - long term that has no practical benefit, and isn't in keeping with human nature. Solving the money issue is not entirely solved by giving them a credit card.

The solution is to find a really solid admin person to fix these issues; employ someone who's job it is to address all the nitpicks and the money.

One other thing you probably need to learn; there is a distinct difference between the honest truth and simply being abusive. You're calling them fucking Jokers, and telling them you're not. Ok so there is "nice" stuff wrapped up in there too - but regardless of whether they are employees or partners this is just de-motivating behaviour.

Possibly even deflection.

If you're going to tear them a new one; do it right. Or if you're trying to motivate them; do it right. This was a wierd mix of the two :)

I don't know much about you. I don't know much about the context.So I don't want to jump up and down and make too much criticism (or accusation). But from what I have observed let me offer some advice; when you have a multi-million dollar company with hundreds or thousands of employees then this is the sort of email you can send, where it indicts no one specifically as a Joker, and be lauded for it. I feel like that is what you modelled on :) Till that point - small teams need intense supportive leadership. It requires you to constantly be bothered by the nitpicking.

Saying "just build it, till then I can't sell it" is not leadership :)


> My colleague offered to do it, but he just had a baby and it would be ridiculous to keep him all night. No one else was available on Sunday night.

But then why make it a point in your argument?

> My staff like me [...] everyone is treated great [...] there's no task management

Nope, sorry, that doesn't make sense.

> I want people to be their best and keep their word. And again, that email was to business partners, not to employees, on what was supposed to be a very short project that dragged on.

Yes, precisely - it was to business partners, not the entire Internet.

> We tend to have fun, too.

Splendid - If you don't mind me asking: How many of your partners (or employees) do you retain for a long time?


"there's no task management"

Maybe that's why things are now weeks behind?


this doesn't sound like 10x to me

"I got a top creative designer in there working for a fraction of his normal cost by being very fucking cool with him, and also working out a deal where we refer him business, and he can use our office space to hold client meetings during our off hours.

...

The designer came with me, working for peanuts compared to his normal rates (he’s a top guy)"


I'm also not sure why a "top designer" wouldn't have his own office space.


[deleted]


From a quick glance to his profile - no, apparently he is not. Taking a personal jab like this really isn't good form either.

Edit: This was a reply to a post by the author of the blog post before he deleted it.


These guys are partners rather than employees? Wow. This is a bad way to talk to your employees, but a far worse way to talk to your partners.

Your partners would be well advised to cut you out of the project... or perhaps to dump the project entirely since (a) it doesn't seem to be going too well, and (b) you're obviously not that committed to it yourself because you're working on something else right now.

The real problem here is not that you've destroyed your project (or at least your role in it) and alienated your friends by sending one douchey email; it's that you apparently don't realize that this is what you've done.


If you have to pay people 10X just to put up with you, maybe it would be more cost effective to hire a different CEO. You could pay the CEO 2X, the engineer 1X, and that would save you 7X!


You don't like compensating people well? It's my goal. It's not always possible, but I'd like everyone working with me to be paid extremely well, have great resources, and produce rates of work that only happen in a culture of inspired well-equipped well-trained autonomy. I want top paid people, comprehensive benefits, complete healthcare, and serious investments in quality training.

Howard Schultz's autobiography "Pour Your Heart Into It" is a good read if you want to learn more.


If you're overpaying people for their level of talent, that actually is a problem.

Firstly you're wasting money for no extra value return. And it will leave you with the reputation of "that guy who pays stupid amounts of money" rather than "that guy who hires the best".

Secondly it gives you the expectation of "I am paying them loads more, so they should have more devotion to the project". In reality this doesn't always work out - better to get them enthused in the project and offer rewards in the context of the success of the project (this is why big companies don't pay higher and higher rates to get the best talent - but instead use bonuses and other incentives).

Thirdly it gets the business into the culture of overpaying; I've seen several companies do this, and at some point in the future you will run into the point where it is not possible to keep paying that rate. Reducing a super-high salary to baseline is de-motivating - you'll get employees just losing engagement and thinking "hey, I could just get a 'normal' job". Empirically; I've seen a number of companies fail purely through this factor.

I want top paid people, comprehensive benefits, complete healthcare, and serious investments in quality training.

This, however, is a good way to approach it. Pay the standard levels of salary and shift the rest of the money into value for the employee. If they are getting a couple of weeks training and conference attendance, new equipment, top notch business support etc. from you then they will be much more inclined to stick around.

It is a much more effective way to buy loyalty/support.


What's the rush?


I'm sure you will be big enough to publish their candid responses on the blog.


You pay 10x market rate (as someone has said, this means $1 million for a good engineer)?

This doesn't get with either "if we make $10k in 6 months" or "if you work really hard AND we perform unexpectedly well, you'll be rewarded with a free trip in Asia".

This 'paying 10x' thing is utter bullshit, made up on the spot to make it sound like you're the good guy. If you had that money available, you'd be hiring more staff.


to late to edit: "This doesn't gel with..."


> My staff like me, I pay top of market (sometimes 10x market pay, if the person is worth it but short-changed due to supply and demand),

"working for a fraction of his normal cost by being very fucking cool with him"

This is just one of the many contradictions that become very obvious when reading a few of your posts.

> They're partners, not employees.

You actually think this is a justification? Even WORSE! While as the boss, you might get away with lashing out and being arrogant to your employees because, hey, you are the boss and pay their salaries and employees sometimes let their boss get away with being an idiot. But you got yourself into a business arrangement with people you consider friends (IMHO a major mistake) and they are your partners you might have to work with through some actually really tough times and as soon as the going gets just a little rough, you show your true nature and start being a lecturing a*hole? If you continue like this, this endeavor will not last through the first actual crisis - and if you think what you are facing NOW is a crisis (oh dear a project is off by a few weeks! never happened in IT!!) then oh boy are you in for some surprises.

I am sorry, you strike me as the person and type of leader that is a GREAT leader (in his own mind) as long as things are going great, easy, worry-free and without any trouble but at the first sign of complications, exactly when your leader skills should actually come into play, you snap and start flinging poo and blame.

You do EXACTLY what you call "being a joker". You write and blog and whine but you did NOT do what it takes to get the job done. And by your standards and set goals, you did NOT get it done. Do you honestly think Hannibal only had DEVGRU-quality SEALs in his army and it was no struggle for him? Think about it. You frakked up just as much as they have, likely much more because you knew something wasn't going right and you did nothing until now where you ridicule them.


Is there anyone here that would actually put up with this ridiculous public shaming

One one is being publicly shamed. From the article:

Names and details changed, for obvious reasons.


The people in the story will still know who they are, and anyone who knows that they work with Sebastian will know too. Yes, if they get upset, it's "their problem", but "their problems" become "your problems" if it affects the relationship.

I posted a blog entry about some code I'd inherited from a friend. I posted a problem I'd found (really wasn't even his fault specifically) and my fix. Very matter of fact - I wasn't a joker about it. He still read it, saw himself in it, and saw it as a public shaming, even though the client wasn't mentioned, nor was his name mentioned.

Yeah, I can say it was 'his problem' in how he chose to deal with it, but it strained a friendship if nothing else.


I hadn't considered that. Thanks for explaining.


Just playing Devil's Advocate here, but I wonder how many of the folks bashing this guy thought it was brilliant how Steve Jobs pressured his engineers by saying “If it would save a person’s life, could you shave 10 seconds off the start up time?”


Steve Jobs was one of a kind and admiring his work gives you no reason to behave like a douche bag, as that wasn't one of Steve's secret ingredients.

Therefore, most people that are trying to mimic Steve Jobs are just douche bags without taste, without the electrifying personality and without the track record.


How is that relevant in a discussion about publicly shaming people working for you.


Well, Steve Jobs was pretty famous for that too. Don't get me wrong, I'm just as much of a Steve Jobs admirer as the next guy, but from what I've read he did shame a lot of people at Apple.


This guy is no Steve Jobs


That is an understatement. This guy reminds me of one of Jesse Pinkman's meth-head friends from Breaking Bad.


I agree with you and there is a lot to learn from this public schmear campaign and from his very obvious failures. I am surprised how many positive replies he got on the blog, though... is this some cult?

First and foremost he seems to be suffering from severe reality distortion with the "we are amongst the 1% and should be multi-millionaires".

Second, this is an outrageous whining and bitching very alike to what little kids do: "but _I_ did all my work on the project, it is allll YOUR fault and none of it is mine!". This is business, if you really put your money where your mouth is on the "make a way" part then you need to STFU and reflect on what YOU did wrong. Obviously a lot, otherwise things wouldn't be so frakked up.

Don't compare yourself to Hannibal ever again or aspire to him unless you put your money where your mouth is. He did not lead his people from half across the world away, he was right there. He knew it is frakking impossible to lead his men unless he was RIGHT THERE.

> All of this shit was supposed to be done weeks ago.

It sounds like he is in some leading position for this project, so it should have never gotten to this point where he is NOW complaining things weren't done weeks ago. It is his fault for letting things slip and not managing it properly so it could finish on time. It is not enough to tell people now "here is my credit card, shut up and use it. but hey I am there for you, come ask me anytime" if you want to manage them - and then blow them out for asking you stuff or talking to you about stuff.

On top of that, I understand he is not with his partners/employees but frakking around in Asia somewhere and sending them emails like that? Well guess which critical human side of a project absolutely severely suffers from not-being-with-your-team? It is communication. Email and skype are great but extremely narrow communication channels; nothing can replace being there and seeing each other every day, having a chat over coffee or sharing lunch and working together. I have made this experience first-handedly when our startup boss frakked off to some other country and barely popped in. Do not under-estimate just how much information and communication is completely lost just because you are not physically there working with those guys every day.

> Look. I love you guys. All 3 of you are dear friends of mine, close friends of mine.

That's why you called them jokers and shifted all the blame on them and made sure to emphasis how awesome work YOU have done and how clearly everything is THEIR fault. Again, no conception or understanding of how to be a LEADER.

> You and I both live in a world where most people we interact with are fucking jokers.

Oh you precious little snowflake... don't fool yourself, you are no better than the majority and so far you haven't done anything remotely close to what your role model(s) have done so back to trenches with you, precious little snowflake and earn your stripes.


I also posted this as a comment to his blog - needless to say it was NOT published. Obviously he doesn't like any negative PR or critical voices on there that might make him look bad and not-1%-y.


This should be a very good read for those of you that think that formal education is not necessary for start-up success. I am not sure who the author of this is and whether he went to college or not, but he clearly needs to take a good writing class. He may actually have a good point about keeping commitments but the whole thing is written so badly, in such a meandering and repetitive way that it is a joke. And I doubt any of the recipients of that email will take him seriously and will stop going to their classes to work on his project as he requests.

The saddest part is that he most likely thinks he is working very hard and being very productive. He is writing all these pages upon pages of stuff repeating the same mantra, relating to his favorite history channel shows, etc. But of course he is wasting his time and the time of the people that will have to read the thing. Although I am sure the readers get some entertainment as a side benefit. If he knew how to write he could have written a tight passage of several paragraphs or so that properly conveys the need for dependability and the urgency of the situation without making a fool of himself or insulting his readers.

Writing is a skill and it matters. This is especially true for people in leadership positions.


5275 words in the past two blog posts in the last two days. Want more time in the day? My advice: quit ranting!


The repetition is obviously intentional (I'm surprised this wasn't evident to you). It's written more as a speech rather then a pamphlet. Have you listened to for instance Obama, or any other politician? Usually they have very little to say(you could probably summarize in 5 sentences), but to get the point across they use repetition. It's an effective communication tool.


> It's an effective communication tool.

...used really badly in this example.


> It's an effective communication tool.

He is using email, of all means of communication... far from effective and one of the narrowest communication channels. We are far from "effective" here - he was just venting his anger.


This has little to do with formal education. I learned my writing from reading, subsequently internalizing it, and practicing outside the institution.

This is clearly written during a bout of mania. Compare the writing patterns of someone sober to the superfluous writing of that same person on a stimulant binge.


I think this was written between 05:41 and 05:47 on Monday morning...


like Steve Yegge turned bad.


Does this mean I'm not alone in thinking Yegge could cut half his prose and create a better post?


I am of the opposite opinion. Yegge's problem is that he writes better than he is smart; he buys too much of his own bull.

(That said, he is certainly very smart.)

Edit: You're right, on consideration. If Yegge used writing discipline, it would not be as fun to read but have a higher signal to noise.


as an engineer I've worked for this type of douche idea/business guy. When doing exactly what he says, he says "somethings just not right", then I ask "ok what is it then".. he responds "I don't know its just not right". DOUCHE.

Then he tells me to take more initiative, and I do. Then I get an email like this that says why isn't things getting done, and I say.. because I'm doing things like setting up stupid accounts that he could be doing rather than writing stupid blog rants like this. Or why are we using x service instead of y service, "well you told me to do what I thought was best". He responds "Well its not what I had in mind". DOUCHE.

He promised me trips to asia, bonuses, and days off when the product is a success. He hasn't told me how much equity I have or vested, because he said that another thing we will deal will when we are successful, but its been over two years, and I'm still having to listen to his stupid rants and fake motivational emails. DOUCHE.

People like this are poison, and working for people like this will kill you inside because slowly as an engineer you'll dream, why can't I work with a real engineering team that can just write code, solve tough problems, work with cool tech and why do I have to deal with this bullshit.. when this douche needs me more than I need him. But because people like this have money, and there are always people willing to sell their services.. he may get a product out and may bullshit enough people that he has is something useful, but thats the way the world works.


Get out now. There's better people to work with.


Cut your losses NOW and take a serious look at your current situation from the view of a business owner - you are investing your time, your life and energy and skills so naturally you want something in return. Do the compensations add up? Do YOU get enough out of this RIGHT NOW?

Do not wait for that mythical moment in the future when all will be great and you are flying first class around Asia for him. Forget that distant future, it is not there, not now. You need to make this situation work for you RIGHT NOW. Promising future prospects can be a (smaller) part of that but what else is in it for YOU right NOW? Not all compensation is monetary, some of the most valuable ones aren't monetary. So, understand your situation and what are you getting out of it right now until you have first class seats in Asia?


Spend whatever you need to get it done, but I'm not willing to pay a top designer his normal rates even though I'm having him do a rush job at 2am. But that's okay, I'm being very cool with him and I promised him I'd recommend him to other big shots.

Well, the "top designer" is an adult, we assume, and can make his/her own decisions, but I stopped falling for that kind of bull shit 25 years ago. A good designer is worth paying good rates. Despite lavish praise as they walked out the door with "my miracle", I never once had any of those "big shots" ever show up again, much less provide me with any kind of value in return.

(Now on a side note, I've done spec work and/or above the call of duty rush jobs for customers who've done well by me _in the past_. Or on very rare occasions, I've pulled rabbits out of hat for new customers who were _refered_ to me by very good customers. Maybe that's what's inexpertly being alluded to here. But I doubt it.)


Can someone provide me some concise explanation as to what Sebastian Marshall has actually done - outside of lots of blog posts, Hacker news posts, and travel?


I've wondered that myself, for quite some time, and refrained from asking it publicly because I knew it would be interpreted as a personal attack. It's not. I'm genuinely curious what this guy's credentials are. To name two other people on HN who write stuff on the web that gets read here: We know what Paul Graham has accomplished, business-wise, and Jacques Mattheij. (And if you don't know up front, it is easy enough to find that out about either of them.) That's why people are interested in what they have to say on their personal sites. That is their credential (in terms of "why should you give a flying fuck about my personal opinions on X topic?").

I've gone to the HN profile and the About page of his blog and anything else I could find for Sebastian and can find no enlightenment as to what he actually does for a living. I can't find that information in spite of spending some time trying, which is one reason I typically do not read his blog posts. Again, it is not intended as a personal attack. If he's for real, this is an opportunity to enlighten us all and self-promote in a positive way. It's only an ugly thing to ask if he is essentially full of hot air.


LinkedIn has a stub page saying "I don't really use linkedin".

His 'About' page has this: "I worked as an entrepreneur from 2004 to 2008". That's it.

From 2009 onwards, there appears to be a lot of stuff about travel, and sleeping less, and "purifying my diet".

I have some friends with bios/resumes like this; these also happen to be my "rich kid" friends.


I really dislike seeing comments like this on HN.

I've clawed my way from poverty to lower middle class, helped out as many people along the way as I could, done some amazing things, written a lot of brilliant code that's running the guts of a couple businesses and maybe even an East Bay school district still.

But, I've never written about any of it, I don't talk about it much, and honestly, I'd rather do just about anything other than write or talk much about it.

I have some really fantastic clients that are the same way, too.

There are a lot of incredible people in the world whose name you don't know. Just because they don't do PR for themselves the way that, presumably, you do, doesn't mean they should be dismissed out-of-hand.


I suspect you have taken my remarks entirely out of context.

I suspect this because of the fact that you are using a sentence containing the phrase "Just because they don't do PR for themselves ..." in a discussion of Sebastian Marshall, of all people.

I'm a huge fan of the quiet achiever, but you are barking up the wrong tree, here.


Just because they don't do PR for themselves the way that, presumably, you do, doesn't mean they should be dismissed out-of-hand.

The problem is that this guy does a lot of PR for himself. His site is basically about how awesome he is. Yet there is no outside evidence of anything he's done.


written a lot of brilliant code that's running the guts of a couple businesses and maybe even an East Bay school district still.

Even without revealing your identity or violating your privacy, this is more substantive information about your career accomplishments than I can find about Sebastian. Maybe it's there and I'm just too stupid to figure it out. In which case there is a simple solution: You (or anyone else) can simply point out the obvious and make me look like a fool. I'm pretty comfortable playing the fool. He's your chance to get your licks in on me and fight the good fight and all that.


Er, I'm not looking to fight any kind of fight or make anyone look like a fool.

I just wanted to point out that dismissing someone because you don't know about their accomplishments (or lack of) is probably going to mean that you're going to miss out on some pretty great people.

(For clarity: generic "you" in this case, not specifically you; and I'm not lumping myself in with "great" people.)


I'm not dismissing him. I'm curious what his credentials are. It's not the same thing. I've politely asked the credentials of other members of HN when I was curious. In the case that comes immediately to mind, it was clearly beneficial to the person I asked, who was not full of bull and could back himself up. This is only an "ugly" thing to ask if Sebastian is a blow-hard. And if he is only a blow-hard, I would think members of HN would benefit from knowing that. Respect has to run both ways and his audience is not obligated to respect him or stick around to listen to him if he can't do them the honor of explaining what his "expertise" is based on.


"I just wanted to point out that dismissing someone because you don't know about their accomplishments (or lack of) is probably going to mean that you're going to miss out on some pretty great people."

The problem with keeping everything quiet about your accomplishments is that HR departments and company owners won't know anything about you and you may get passed up on jobs as a result.

As a result, the people that lie or don't actually have good accomplishments get better jobs because they have better self PR.

You can fight it all you want, but if someone doesn't know anything about you, they most likely won't want to hire you either. Being connected on linkedin and through old co-workers and people that know all about my accomplishments has helped me find many great jobs.


You've just written about it.

And so has this Sebastian, in fact, if anything, volume is certainly not the problem when it comes to his writing.

I'm similar to you. As in I don't write blogs or do much formal "PR" or online networking with my real name. I don't have a linkedin account, I don't use google+ and I don't have a website with my real name. I however write comments on reddit, hn and a ton of other lists and forums.

By the way, whenever somebody describes their own work as "brilliant", my alarm bells go off.


I agree - he writes quite a lot, but somehow it's mainly about his aspirations. If somebody can link to a post where he talks about actual and concrete success, that would be great. So far, all the aspirational rants make it seem like he is mainly contract-hopping and astroturfing.


I'll take your advice seriously if I know you. I don't know Sebastian, he should present himself otherwise I might be wasting my time with a joker.

I've clawed my way from poverty to lower middle class, helped out as many people along the way as I could

I'm doing the same, not online. The people I'm helping know my achievements and listen. Doing it online won't help much, since there are lot of more credible and talented people than me.


I respect your work and achievements and I agree, a lot of people who have accomplished something do NOT brag about it.

Coincidentally, a LOT of people who have accomplished pretty much nothing do brag and write and blog a LOT about it... often to great success. So, it is just fair to ask what references, credits and medals this big-mouthed blogger has to show for all his very big words of "making a way" and being better than 99% of the population.


OK, but, why? Of all the reasons to disagree with someone -- or, in the case of most of this particular thread, hate them -- "they haven't done something I've heard of" seems like a pretty weak one.

If you found out that he had been behind some kind of huge success, would you agree with him more? Or, if you found out that he was born into money, would that make him more wrong? If he could fill a paper with things that he's done for people you've never heard of, would that make him more credible?

I could understand calling for someone's credentials if they were trying to argue from experience: "I'm a manager and I can tell you that scheduling isn't a difficult problem." "Oh? What do you manage?" "...uhm, a yard cleanup business with my friend." That would be a fair and useful criticism then.

But I didn't get that kind of a vibe from this rant. I just went back and re-read it. (Thanks for that...) Nowhere in this rant can I find anything that even smells like, "Follow me because I have been successful." The closest I can get to that is, "Follow me because I want to be successful", as in things like, "I'm trying. I seem to be getting there. I want you guys to get there." etc. etc.

Maybe it's somewhere else on his site? "Command Flows to the Worthy" sounds like a good candidate, but no, that one's just a short opinion piece and, again, doesn't make the claim that, "I'm right because I'm successful."

You specifically mention being "better than" 99% of the population. OK. Maybe you're referring to, "99% of people you interact with in life are fucking jokers." Well, I don't agree with that -- because I don't want to -- but is it objectively wrong? Given all the posts on HN about how hard it is to find good candidates and how many developers can't pass FizzBuzz and on and on and on, that air of superiority is certainly ubiquitous here. And, if HN represents the cream of the crop of developers and startups and stuff, like it collectively seems to think it does, then is that 99% statement actually wrong? And, even if it is, does it really make any sense to take it literally? Does taking it literally and then brow-beating the literal interpretation of it really change his overall point? I don't think so.

Or, maybe you're talking about the part where he says, "You're all highly skilled, top 1% at your craft." All the same questions apply there, too. Or, "You're all highly intelligent, top 1% of the population." That, actually, I wouldn't be surprised by. Top 1% in terms of intelligence -- assuming IQ as a reasonable measure -- isn't really all that difficult.

So, I just don't get why, in this particular case, it really makes a difference whether or not he's done anything yet. Even if this is worth anyone's time arguing about, which it isn't.

There's a truly awesome amount of meanness in this thread. I don't know why I clicked on the comments here in the first place; might've just been because there were a lot of them. But I've been really surprised at the viciousness here. There's often a mean comment or two in a thread, and half of the time, I'm the one making it. But, in this case, the sheer density and froth of the criticisms and psychoanalysis and everything else is just really breathtaking. And out of all of that, the "Well, what's he done that makes him Mr. Big Shot?" criticism just seems ... silliest, for lack of a better word.


If you found out that he had been behind some kind of huge success, would you agree with him more? ... If he could fill a paper with things that he's done for people you've never heard of, would that make him more credible?

Honestly, yes. Because we have a thirtyish guy talking about "success" in the abstract, and promising that he knows how to achieve it, and yet he doesn't seem to have much in the way of concrete achievements to back it up.

"If you're so smart, how come you ain't rich" is usually a dickish sort of question, but when you're posing it to someone who is sitting there actively claiming "I'm gonna make us all rich by my awesome smarts" then it's a fair one. At one point he claims that the project will become profitable just because he wills it to, and therefore it will; if his force of will is truly that powerful then one wonders why he didn't will himself out of being not-rich way back in 2004.

It's only because he insists on talking about how awesome he is that we ask him to back that up with actual achievements.

Of course even if he were rich and successful, his attitude would still be dickish (you'll note that the truly rich and successful people who post here generally don't go on egotistical rants about their own awesomeness) but I'd have a little more tolerance of it under those circumstances.


You are right, it is not in that post alone but reading through the comments, some of his replies and (especially) some of his others posts linked in here just all added up to this personal impression. I don't know the guy and from what I read I do not want to know him but that's just my personal gut feeling. I don't like those hyperactive, over-psyched, narcissistic, ADHD over-over-achiever types, I find them repulsive. I cannot help it.

In my own experience the people you can actually learn something valuable from are the more quiet ones, especially the ones who have actually achieved something. They can share something much more valuable than mere thoughts and ideas on strategy - they can share experience because they have done it. There is a saying that all strategies and battle plans hold up well until first enemy contact. I can relate to this - so in this understanding, if he had done and achieved something worthy of that "1%" mantra with his ideas and theories then it would be extremely interesting and valuable to read about it.

All I see now on his blog are personal thoughts, meandering, theoretical ideas and a TON of self-applauding and getting psyched on success which is all fine for a personal blog and probably has great therapeutic value for him but in a lot of those posts he does take the position of teaching, educating or even preaching. And he does not just present it as "hey I have an idea" and then follows up with "and that's how it worked in the end". He just presents ideas and how awesome they are and how right he is. And then it takes but 2 minutes to find an incredible amount of contradictions - he is contradicting himself and his own ideas, guidelines and mantras from one post to the next.

These two facts plus the personal impression and gut feeling together are more than enough for me to seriously question his legitimacy. He doesn't feel very authentic, honest and driven by "positive energy"... he feels very driven, fragmented and unfocused, however.

And the question for references or actual success is not only for me, as you pointed out it doesn't make that much sense. It is actually a question directed at him and I honestly think he should apply some critical thought, take a step back and look at what he is doing and saying. Asking him to compare his words, writings and theories to actual outcome and hard facts should provide one way of taking a shot at that. And regarding this specific post, it is very clear to me he deserve all the flak because he seriously needs to reflect on his attitude and how he deals with projects and sharing responsibilities.

But I doubt he will take that step back and honestly reflect and instead go all nuts about how the 99% of lazy people are just trying to hold him back.

Maybe it is just me, I generally don't feel too crazy about the whole "blogosphere" so drenched and drowning in exactly this sensationalist lower-than-mediocrity and low-value noise-floor postings, so maybe I am biased.

To give you the other extreme: I cannot help but shake my head at (a lot of) things that PG has written and while I might disagree with the ideas, I can see and understand that they have obviously provided him with at least the right state of mind (paired with lots of luck) to accomplish something. And he can and does share experiences and lessons learned, not just personal theories and road maps like 1. Collect underpants. 2. ... 3. success!


I always thought he was HN's version of that "Coach"[1] guy who is on Survivor?

Play Guess Who said it (answers at [2]):

Unshakable. Unbreakable. Unvincible like a sword. I know who I am.

Strategy, Philosophy, Self-Discipline, Science. Victory.

Time and place, that sort of thing. But why not just say it, man?

If you flat out lie to me, you’d better be prepared to go to war.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Wade_(Survivor_contest...

[2] Quote 1 & 4 are from Coach, 2 & 3 are from Sebastian.


Sebastian seems to describe himself as a 'strategist' and he claims come up with business plans for a living. I think this means people pay him to come up with plans of action for their entrepreneurial projects or established businesses or whatever. He seems to allude to doing this kind of work from time to time in his blog. He also seems to suggest that people don't usually take his advice, so I don't know what to make of that.


He hasn't done anything because he didn't say he'd do anything. He's not a joker, man!


I'd like to know this also. I still like reading his stuff now and then though. :)


Dear Sebastian,

You worked 20 hours straight. Congratulations, want a biscuit? That's about 20 hours less than what most people here have done trying to meet a deadline, or squash a stubborn bug. And that's not counting the guys who do that for kicks on Minecraft (I kid ...).

Hannibal nearly got his troops to Rome. Presumably, he knew where Rome was, and so did his men. If you want people to MARCH, they need a destination. In web apps, this is a wireframe.

So, break out a HTML editor, and get the wireframe up. Then tell the devs to push it live, put the database behind it, and get it to scale. If not, it's because you don't have a product in mind, and simply MARCHING is not going to get you to Rome, or anywhere. When people are lost, or lack a compass, they generally walk around in circles. Does that seem familiar? Of course, good engineers use the time to check out options, so they know what to do when there's actually a clear goal.

Most engineers live to fix problems. A creaky prototype that won't work is a problem that needs to be fixed. A blank page is just a chance to make scribbly notes.


So let me get this straight. This guy is fronting the money on his credit cards, can't do any of the work, and gets people to do things for him by "Being very fucking cool with" them?

Yeah. Keep your money. Fuck your business cards. You sound like sales guys scum trying to leverage the real makers in this project.


[deleted]


Haters will hate! :)


Stop being a joker! Don't make excuses! Everyone has reasons! Fuck reasons!

Also, I can't do it, because I'm otherwise engaged.


If he was sipping margarita on a beach, your words would be right. But he is putting in 17 hr days on another project, so I dont see why he cant ask his partner/employees for greater commitment.


Because his other employees are working other jobs or, as "Sebastian" points out, in classes. That's why. He's not willing to sacrifice his other project, but he's asking them to sacrifice theirs. If you're asking people you're leading to make sacrifices you're not willing to make, you're a bad leader. Period.


Ok, that's the context you picked up on. I did not. What I got was that he set a timeline for project A. But that timeline did not work out. Now Sebastian is busy with project B. To empower the team on project A, he gives them a cc and the decision-making authority to get the project going. He also throws in some hannibal and "joker" stuff to rally the troops and make a point about sticking to commitments, forging thru obstacles. This does not make for a bad leader.


All that stuff specifically does make for a bad leader.


Do they get paid more if the company does better? Yes, this is the only reason to do more than asked from your job description. Otherwise you are putting money and decision making power into the hands of people who did not earn it. Only bad things come from uncompensated work; A bitter employee, angry co-workers, and a misunderstanding of where profit is coming from by the business analysts can ultimately hurt business. If someone is making the company more successful pay them more otherwise tell them to slow down. If you are of the later mindset then YOU are not benefiting the company.


If he wants to overwork, then he may, but he cannot expect it of others. If others are expecting him to overwork, he doesn't have to comply.


I don't "fucking" understand where Sebastian gets off: "I had all the time I’d need for this project if we met our original timetables. Now, I don’t have it any more because I’m working 12 to 17 hours per day on something else."

In a nutshell, the CEO is saying, "Hey guys, listen, I'm really this one kind of person who gets shit done, except for right now I can't be because I have to take care of some other self-interests (no this isn't the same as being a joker), so I need you to meet my crazy standards."

So he's unable to actually live up to the work ethic he espouses and purports to be a paragon of and as a result wants his staff to fill in the blanks while he works on "something else"; to just "get it fucking done" and not be "jokers". This is contrived and manipulative. If I were working for this guy that would be the last professional exchange we ever had. Horrible leadership.


I certainly don't understand the context of the email or the people involved, but that seems extraordinarily douchey. Perhaps I'm the exception, but when your primary focus is on being a multi-millionare, you are missing something from your life.


I don't think that's the main focus of the post - its more about sticking to commitments and making stuff happen in spite of obstacles. Obviously money is a financial reward but that's not what I picked from the post.


So you've never been part of a startup where people were dragged by the promises of easy money alone and not by sharing the same vision.

don't ask...


This post represents subpop-management nonsense. People are complicated but there are, in fact, things we can do to work with each other. "Commitments" can be considered real things and we can hold each other to them. You either fulfill on a commitment or you don't. If you don't, then fuck you and you're RIFed. If you do, then you're part of the team. (An aside: why is fulfilling on commitments part of being excellent?! Shouldn't it be a criterion?!)

If you don't consider "commitments" to be real things, then you run round and round the what-are-we-doing-and-why-didn't-you-do-it circle... And then you write a blog post.

Update: freeloaders/non-fulfillers are a real thing. I'm one of them. Generally, I perform at a very high level, but I'll dial it back if I'm under the gun and a client unintentionally indicates that they're not one to assess slippages accurately. Unlike most freeloaders, I wake up at 3AM and think about how to fulfill against a late commitment.


I can't help feeling that that was written by a cross between a motivational speaker and a mafia don.

The letter had an interesting voice and was well written; however, it immediately set off unconscious alarms in my mind. It was trying to influence the reader too coarsely on too emotional a level; I do not like that sort of thing very much.


My impression was Patton wannabe with an inferiority complex.

Well written indeed, but Hannibal crossing the Alps to manage his AWS setup was a bit too silly a juxtaposition.


Well written? Surely you jest.


I agree, some people are shy, unsure, etc, and will get defensive when presented with an angry person barking orders. It's not the military. They may find these people won't even talk about their work because they don't want to offend the barker.

That said, it really depends on the culture of the employees on which motivational techniques to use.


For me it didn't feel like something from the army as much as a car salesman trying much too hard.

Also, as a college student, I would be really suspicious of somebody telling me not to go to class--I'm perfectly happy to do that of my own violation, but anybody suggesting it immediately comes out as against my best interests.


It's more of an analogy like this: You're a group leader for a group assignment due Tuesday morning. You think it's great, they're the top 1% in the class. They promise to do their sections of the topic by Monday meeting so you can work together to compile it. Monday comes around, they said they tried and didn't finish their sections. Now you're stuck all night fixing their sections and compiling it together.

That's simplified analogy, and the author would angrily call them "jokers".


Except for the bit where you're doing other schoolwork instead, I presume? Besides, I wasn't talking as much about the content of the letter as the tone--that's what I found off-putting.


I can sympathize and understand with what he's writing.

I know it seems douchey and shallow to a lot of you, but when you work remote with a team of friends, things tend to get far too casual and eventually everything falls apart altogether. Suddenly everyone has an opinion on design decisions, or a meeting needs to be held on whether we should use Mongo or MySQL, and we should just think about it on our own time and get back together next week for more discussion.

Complacency is really the biggest enemy of the side project / remote team. And so making excuses becomes easier and easier as time progresses.

Someone has to step up and lead, so maybe a motivational speech is just what the team needs. The points about partying and making money might matter to his team, maybe its why they're working on the project in the first place. (And none of us can say that the excitement of making money doesn't motivate us).

So the man makes it clear where he stands; step up and get shit done, or leave and be a joker. Do you want to sell sugared-water for the rest of your life? Or do you want a chance to change the world?


Someone has to step up and lead, so maybe a motivational speech is just what the team needs. The points about partying and making money might matter to his team, maybe its why they're working on the project in the first place. (And none of us can say that the excitement of making money doesn't motivate us).

Maybe, but if this was intended as a motivational speech (and motivational speeches work a lot better than motivational emails) then it's a terrible one.


Telling someone not to go to their university classes so that they can crunch on your $generic_web_app should be a jailable offense.


To say that is to miss the point completely.

He's not telling someone not to go to their classes, he's illustrating the sort of behaviour change necessary between "I tried" and "I did it".

He doesn't "want a cookie" for working 20 hours on a Sunday night, he's illustrating the attitude shift between "I tried" and "I said I'd do it, so I did it".


This is such Americanized bullshit. There's no difference between the two.


That's like saying there's no difference between manslaughter and murder.

The outcome may appear no different - success or failure - but the mental state is different, and the path to the outcome may be.


You know who's a joker? The guy who "got a top creative designer in there working for a fraction of his normal cost by being very fucking cool with him, and also working out a deal where we refer him business". That's who.


You're missing the point of the email. He's asking his team to stop sweating the small stuff and just get it done. He's pointing out that others are busting their ass (the designer) while the team is trying to figure out something basic like email providers.

Just pick something and go with it.


I got the point of the email, thanks.


But it is a stupid statement. There are good reasons why things can't get done sometimes, and no amount of shouting or motivational posters is going to change that. Eventually when you are running towards a goal and not planning, you realize you can't just continue, you have made a mistake and are heading in the wrong direction. This get it done attitude ignores this face.


This get it done attitude ignores this face.

Except it doesn't. The post clearly and repeatedly says "if you can get a goal done, do so. If you can get a good enough substitute, you don't need to ask me, I trust your judgment. If you could do it but you need money, here are my card details, I trust you to spend money carefully. And if you are doing the above and get stuck tell me and we'll fix it together.


> He's asking his team to stop sweating the small stuff and just get it done. He's pointing out that others are busting their ass (the designer) while the team is trying to figure out something basic like email providers.

If that's all he was asking, he could have written a far less self absorbed paragraph and most of us would have said "duh". Instead, I don't know what the hell I just read, or why I read it for as long as I did.


that guy is full of shit

check out the REAL JOKER:

http://www.sebastianmarshall.com/hey-you-yeah-you-you-can-be...

In the comments section of this post, he mentions that he's going to finish the editing process of his book by 30 september

Now check this post:

http://www.sebastianmarshall.com/why-isnt-my-book-done

He's a fucking joker!


Even in the post he is making excuses why he can't mail out a newsletter. Surely he should just get it done, not come up with excuses. That is classic Joker behavior right there.


I could put my head down and just grind, get it done at 4AM before I go to work, and whatever.

or better:

I was going to edit, but I didn’t really. I was kind of flat. I played a lot of Conquer Club online, surfed around, didn’t really get anything done. Then I was traveling around and I wasn’t really working on the book.

He was paid $65k in advance...


> -Why isn’t Critical Thinking ready to ship?

> -What’s wrong with it?

Well, it's 17,000 words a day of this . . .

> it was kind of something on the back of my periphery of my mind.

EDIT: they asked for 50,000 - 60,000 words, and he's written nearly 180,000.


This incoherent rant should convince Sam, Jon, and Lee to cut their losses, if they haven't already.

Spending 20 hours over a weekend to bang out marketing materials is supposed to be impressive? How about planning ahead and using something like Crowdspring and VistaPrint to get these distractions completed.

Promising to make $10K in the first six months is supposed to motivate? You didn't share how you plan on doing that except, "I will make it happen." Have you demonstrated in any way in the past six months that you can deliver on this promise? Promises, wishing, wanting, pleading are hollow gestures.

A grand vision and clear plan on how to achieve it, a track record accomplishments and successes: these are the things that make a good leader. They are the qualities that inspire others to do great things.


Is 10k/6mo really that impressive, even on a shoestring budget in Japan (where I assume Sebastian is)? I mean, that's a 5th of what you could earn as an engineer at jrandom startup in the bay. Even biz-dev/product types like him (not engineers) are probably getting close to 100k now, if not more.


WTF is all that stuff about S3 doing in the middle there? Setting up S3 takes about 10 seconds. Hardly worth invoking Hannibal.

Sebastian: please seek professional help before you hurt yourself or someone else.


  Sebastian: please seek professional help before you hurt yourself or someone else.
Yep, I agree. Sebastian sounds like he drives himself too hard and has variously 'lost it', 'gone mad', 'gone off the deep end' or is in the early stages of a massive nervous breakdown.

Not too many people would put up with even a fraction of his bile in real life, so Sebastian may be very very lonely or surrounded by other mal-adjusted people.

So yes, Sebastian if you're reading this, please seek counseling ASAP, the world is not how you imagine it and you are in dire risk of going mad.


Coffee is for closers or something.

We like to think that having money fixes things and we can just throw cash wildly into the air while making definitive exhortations and all will be well. We will be Gods or something! But unfortunately, it doesn't, not usually. What's pretty broke without cash doesn't typically get fixed when you shove its gullet full of coinage. Every once in awhile, throwing money into a whirlpool works, and when it does, you should totally record that shit. Put it on YouTube. But not what preceded it, no way.


He never mentions how much money he's will to pay to 'get stuff done.' In fact it sounds like he's not willing to pay anything other than satisfaction. I don't have these mommy and daddy issues anymore.

Sincerely, The guy who's work ethic is directly proportional to how much money you throw at me.


Au contraire, he makes the incentives quite clear: in the short term, parties at beach houses in Asia; in the long term, being rich and "RISE IN THE WORLD FAST".


Good for him for getting shit done and empowering his troops but unless their financial incentives are as strong as his, he's just another psychopathic manager for asking them to sacrifice for him ("skip your classes", etc).


That's the point where I was irrevocably lost. Skip my classes for a possible trip in asia if we happen to do really, really well?

Made me think of the 'Screw you, pay me' guy.


That's not really a good analogy. The 'F you, pay me' guy was talking about being assertive and sticking up for yourself in the face of clients who are trying to get you to do work for free/not pay their bills etc. (that's if we're talking about the same person)

A better analogy would be that the OP is more like the client of the 'f you, pay me' guy.


Write these kinds of rants. Get your anger and frustration on paper. Then, throw it out. Revisit your thoughts later. Repeat until your thoughts are coherent and your course of action is clear.


I agree. I read somewhere years ago (in my early 20s) about how Abe Lincoln wrote a disappointed letter to a General when he failed to continue fighting to win a battle (they had been fighting for days on end and were exhausted).

That may or may not be accurate but the point of it was he was upset, took it out on someone and then did not send the letter, and the advice was to take things like this and put them in your drafts and sleep on it.

This may have been in the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People".

Effective immediately, I started refraining from sending annoyed or angry emails. I'd file them in drafts and sleep on it.

I can't recall ever sending an email of this sort since. In hindsight there was always a better and more effective way to deal with the situation.

I think some people just love the sound of their own voice (and the sight of their own words) that they feel compelled to 'ship' after they've produced something like this. Some things just shouldn't ever be sent.

I think he'll regret doing this this in time. I certainly would.



He's self-admittedly bipolar.

>I’m cyclothymic too. Like Nieztsche and Byron and those guys. Albeit, much less talented; I’m just saying I got the same affliction. [...] What’s a cyclothymic? It appears that we feel emotions more strongly than other people, and cycle through them. I’m fucking awesome when I’m manic, I can rapidly invent, experiment, implement, advance science, build systems, recruit and hire people, and just massively do unhumanly large amounts of stuff. Cyclothymic mania is when the SPIRIT OF GOD is within you.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pressured_speech


http://www.sebastianmarshall.com/about

The guy seems to be a bit of a self styled guru selling his lifestyle brand which is abstractly focused on 'victory'.


"I’ll work to make this an excellent use of your time." Followed by his life story.


The guy who wrote this article sounds like the kind of person who wants to get everyone to do his work for him. His personal problems are leaking into his work life. He probably needs a vacation or to change lines of work. He's not a joker, he's a bitter old bastard (regardless of his age).

Advice for the inexperienced doer: Don't listen to this guy. Pace yourself. Do what you need to and make time for yourself. This guy wants to smoke a cigar in his office while you kill yourself. This is his attempt at being 'the boss man' and it's transparent. You will never be happy making people like this happy. If this kind of verbal abuse makes you feel bad then seek therapy don't work late every night. Stand up for yourself.


he's manic, and one of his friend should take him to a therapist. he's comparing himself to nietzsche, hannibal, byron. he's making crazy plans of self-improvement. he's swearing, cussing, incoherent, ALLCAPS in every blog post. he's not sleeping. he's not focusing on anything of real value. I really hope he has someone that takes care of him.


I've always found manic depression fascinating. I recommend the book "Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania" by Andy Behrman. He talks primarily about his manic phases, how he would rush out and buy things he couldn't afford, get into weird sex situations, fly round the world for no reason, and so forth, and how he eventually wound up involved in art forgery, before getting caught and deciding to submit to electroshock therapy.

This Sebastien Marshall guy really sounds exactly like him.


he says he's actually bipolar in that first blog post.


he needs a serious hug.


Are they really jokers, or were the tasks unreasonable in the first place? The only way to know is to understand the tasks in detail, which I suspect the author doesn't.

The whole "just get it done" thing sounds impressive, but it doesn't hold up in reality. Just cure AIDS. What are you waiting for? People are dying! Get that cure finished by Monday.

Also note that there's a large border zone where things are possible but require sacrifice. They could get it done by sacrificing their leisure, their health, their social status, their unrelated duties, their morals.... It's up to them to decide how much of that is worth it. This is not a decision to take lightly.


The whole "just get it done" thing sounds impressive, but it doesn't hold up in reality.

Yes it does, you're just not reading it properly. Assume you're being attacked by a wild animal, which attitude is more helpful out of the following?

1) I will do anything to overpower it and kill it, or any acceptable substitute such as distracting or trapping it, or escaping in any other fashion.

2) Well, it might be too powerful for me, and maybe I'm too tired, and if it's getting dark I can't see it as well, and I guess I'll try, but it's unreasonable to think I can win, and in this situation having precisely accurate beliefs is my highest priority, so I'll start off by assessing how energetic it looks and estimating how powerful it is before I start doing anything, if it's too big I won't bother.

It's "duh" obvious that in a survival situation, the former might get you out, the latter might not. It's "duh" obvious that you might not win, whatever you do, but that's not relevent because you don't get points for trying, you either survive, or you die.

Now, comparing a survival situation to a project, or a company, or any everyday life situation, isn't really a fair comparison. But comparing the attitude you hold can be a fair comparison.

By your reply you are implying the OP is so dense they don't understand that some things can't be done. Do you honestly think that's true? You're giving zero credit to their intelligence at all.

The "just do it" attitude is not supposed to be telling you that "you can do anything rah rah just will it and it will happen, laws of physics and human limits be damned".

It's supposed to be telling you that hurdles are OK, you will meet them, and you can jump them, or go round them, or plough straight through them, or move them, or pay someone else to move them, or rent a car and drive through them, or burn them down, or argue the race to different track with different hurdles, or setup your own athletics federation and recruit athletes and viewers for races without hurdles, they're all fine, but doing nothing won't help, nor will giving up. If you want to solve a problem, getting points for trying won't get the problem solved.

"Just get it done - you can" isn't meant as a literally true fact you have to agree with, it's a helpful attitude to hold and act on even while knowing it's not literally true.


So why haven't you cured AIDS? What in your argument (or the OP's) changes when the difficulty of the problem is raised to absurdity?

Some problems are easy. Some are hard. Some are too hard to be worth solving. Some are essentially unsolvable. When someone argues problems are in category 2 by ignoring categories 3 and 4, they lose credibility.

As for trusting the OP's intelligence, he appears to be a marketer ranting at engineers. Even if he's extremely intelligent, he doesn't have the knowledge to judge if what he wants is possible or not.


Not sure if you're being deliberately obtuse or if you really don't see the point.

Compare:

Problems involved in curing AIDS: Needs a biotechnology background, a medical background, a chemistry background, an understanding of disease processes and treatment processes, FDA approval trials, pharmaceutical manufacturing.

Problems mentioned in the article: two people disagreeing on how Amazon S3 should be setup because they aren't happy which account to use or who should pay. Asking the leader to make "stupid nitpicky decisions" which they could make, but don't. Not deciding which email/newsletter program to buy. Not proceeding with what they agreed and instead generating ideas for other kinds of possible business model.

I haven't cured AIDS because I literally can't. They haven't registered an Amazon S3 account because ... what?.

As for trusting the OP's intelligence, he appears to be a marketer ranting at engineers.

And if he was saying "I asked you to have this facebook killer done by last week. Lee, where's that scalable S3 backed website I ordered you to write? Sam, your friend with the content industry connection, I need a film licensing agreement for streaming, come on, I expected better of you. Jon, I told you to sign up some people, Google Plus had millions of users in its first weeks, how many have you cold-called?

Then I'd be right behind you calling him a clueless PHB and a pox on all right-thinking people.

But he isn't doing that. These people agreed a project on a rushed timescale that they voluntarily comitted to - presumably they were all confident it was a solvable problem.


I had a different take on the article than most of the comments I've read. It's about keeping your word. If You say you're going to do something then DO IT. If you don't want to be seen as a joker then you just have to keep your word.

I see it like this. If you make a timeline yourself and find you won't be able to keep it then you have 2 options. 1) Let the person you promised know right away or 2) "find a way. Or make one" - do what you got to do to get it done.

Sebastian is highlighting the second option because it's already passed deadlines and shit sounds like it's getting serious.

If you want to be respected, loved and an effective leader. Keep your promises. Every single one of them. (Or, in true Machiavellian form, at least make sure it's perceived that way.)


If this guy was my friend I would look for a therapist for him. This is the second time I come across this blog and the tone sounds more and more delusional and manic.


Yeah he's definitely manic and probably co-morbid with other issues. Manic people often develop inflated self-images to compensate for their repressed feelings of inferiority.

Just an all around neurotic. Generally miserable to be around and incapable of enjoying life.

He doesn't need non-jokers he needs a therapist.

What is sad is that guys like this have NO CONCEPT of how other people view the world. They do not realize that we can all sit calmly and enjoy life, that we can enjoy smalltalk, that we can relax with our family and not stress over the fact that we're "not wealthy".

He takes his business so seriously because he is mentally ill and he must excel at business (not just excel, but conquer) to appease his neuroticism.


This is the same dude who ripped into patio11 for not living up to his potential.

Personally, I would feel that HN can do without this tone-deaf self-importance.


There's a world full of people ruined by thinking like this.

Our language, our culture has "self-importance" as a negative attribute. It's ridiculous.

Like yourself. Feel that you are important! What are you living and fighting and dieing for, if you feel unimportant and think everyone else should too? That's no way to be. :(


You're taking the definitions for the word "self" and "importance" and just assuming that "self-importance" is the concatenation of those definitions. It is not. It means an exaggerated sense of one's own importance, or outright arrogance: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/self-importance


For what it's worth, this attitude is valuable in certain positions. Many of the sales reps I work with have this attitude and it works for them. Basically - they will go to hell and back to get something done for a customer. They will dictate engineering schedules, beg and steal equipment, relentlessly war-dial, and make generally unreasonable requests.

What happens with their requests? People find it easier to bend to the will of the determined than convince them otherwise. It gets stuff done. It also wrecks havoc on the 'balance of things' which may or may not have an inflated importance. This is why people hate sales reps.

Conversely - customers generally love this. Customers love making demands, feeling like they're the only customer, and having faith they'll get the best they can get.

The balance is burning those cycles, because there are limits; hell or no hell. If business cards are worth destroying your sleep and weekend to have them by Monday, so be it.


In the long run, the best and the brightest won't work in that kind of environment and the customer will ultimately get a substandard product. Good sales reps set achievable stretch goals and customers reap the long term benefits.


I really really hope he loses his best employees for this rant. We shouldn't encourage this kind of behavior. Receiving this email would be enough to make me immediately start looking for other work.


Reminds me of this quote: "For a rough approximation of your valuation, circa 2004, you can also use Kawasaki's Law of Pre-Money Valuation: for every full-time engineer, add $500,000; for every full-time M.B.A., subtract $250,000. "


I dig the anti-joker sentiment, but this is a bit much. It's good to keep a team motivated, focused, and dedicated to their work but this reads like the author got a sign from god that he and his team were inventing the "next Facebook." The big problem here, though, as others have pointed out: there's a glaring desire for money. Money is the keyword throughout the entire email. "I'll foot the bill," "I want to make us rich," "we can rent a beach house." What happened to "this idea is really cool and even if we don't get rich, I want to make sure it sees the light of day." Joker...


This guy kind of seems not necessary to the whole project, aside from small amounts of funding. If he's spending 12-17 hours a day on something else entirely, what is he personally doing to advance the project?

Did he just have an "idea" and hire a bunch of engineers "find a way or make one?"


Makes some good points, but finishes badly. The best part is where he is going to reward his best employee with an all-expenses paid vacation with....Sebastian Marshall!


Second prize is two vacations with Sebastian Marshall.


What, no steak knives?


From the comments.

“A joker is someone who says they’re going to do something, and then doesn’t. A joker always has excuses.”

-------------------

Hannibal you’re back! Did you conquer Rome?

Erm no. Had no siege weapons and my men would… Oh well, I tried…

No, I don’t give a fuck that you tried. Did you do it or not?

Could have.

DID YOU DO WHAT YOU SAID YOU’D DO OR NOT?

Erm no.

Hannibal you’re a fucking joker and we’ve got problems.

-------------------

priceless.


I really, honestly thought that this guy was showing us a parody of a letter from a desperate, clueless manager on a failed project. I guess this demonstrates some startup-kool-aid varient of Poe's Law.


Reminds me of the story of steve jobs, when he dropped the original ipod prototype into a fishtank to force the engineers to make it smaller: 'See? Bubbles? That means there's air in there. Make it smaller.'


"Find a way. Or make one."

V

"I’d do it myself, but I can’t, because I’m doing something else that takes all my time."


I read this guy relatively often. I even could understand his latest post. but, after some closer inspection -> you just nailed a point.

On the other hand: Maybe this posting is his understanding of making a way. Could that be possible?


What did I just read?


I'm with you. No clue.

When it got to him and a designer in a print shop at 2:30am, I was expecting the punchline to involve crystal meth or something.


Yes, he definitely has a Jesse Pinkman vibe going on.


I actually think this is brilliant. I'm just going to pretend this email was written to me and act accordingly.


Make sure you're responsible with his credit card.


Maybe this says more about me than about the author of that blog post, but if I got an email like this from my "friend and boss", I'd be thinking hard about my future with this "company".


The advice he gives about keeping your word is good advice. I try to keep my word, and I enjoy working with others who do. However, committing to do unreasonable things in an unreasonable time and then not being able to finish them is not so much about "keeping your word" as it is about being realistic. No matter how great you and your team are, you have to set realistic goals and doing that is not being "normal" or "average" it's being reasonable and having a work/life balance.


I think the author of this fails to realize that you can teach a lot of things but not attitude. You can't convince someone to be passionate about your pet project, not gonna happen. All the begging and reasoning in the world is not going to change their mind. If your so fired up about whatever it is that your doing, find other people that are fired up about it too. If you can't find those people then be more reasonable with people who are building your dream.

The whole, if you want to be rich is really strange too. How about being successful, I think that is a better goal. Success is not having a ton of money, no life, and being a slave driving prick, its about being good in all areas of your life. Believe it or not there are many people out there that would pass up the chance to be rich if it meant they would be absolutely miserable at work everyday.

And finally, no matter how hard you work, how many hours you put in, you can still fail. Its tough to realize that but it happens every single day in the tech world. Once you realize being overly consumed, frantic, and obsessive doesn't guarantee success, you may discover a different way of working, a better way. Be happy with your life dude, that's something you can bank on no matter how much money you make. Otherwise the joke is really on you.


Not sure what to think of that. He should hire an editor. Most people would not respond positively to that letter so his whole philosophy is meaningless.

Though I can sympathize with trying to avoid distractions and delays with simple problems. Micro-managing horrors.

And I also hate excuses. As someone who is on the verge of failing, I absolutely loved the Hannibal quote. Do anything to succeed mentality is good if applied to being self-critical. I believe that increasing work ethic, knowledge and skills with overall hardcore discipline is the only thing I have to logically and spiritually continue to use to fight the constant failure I've experienced.

In other words, as I was often told growing up "don't be sorry, be correct". Stop making excuses and do it. There's some chance, some method, some concerted effort that will yield an eventual probability of actual success which is only achieved by being self-critical and then improving.

EDIT - I didn't write this very well. Valid excuses are actually very good and effective. Logical reasons why something can't be done lead to ways it can. I've worked with too many people who avoid "negativity" out of some law of attraction thing. So I like when people say, "I'm stupid, your stupid, we're all being stupid but we can and should be smarter by doing X, Y and Z".


I work my arse off for my company/manager when the heat is on.

I know that when I commit to get something important done by a time X, I get it done or have put in all the time I could on it. So do other people on the team. My manager doesn't ask me or other members of the team to stay late unless it's important. We keep the pressure on and keep working away every weekday all day.

My manager never written anything like this to the team while I've been there. And for that, I am pretty glad.


It's very sad to see someone with such clear MH problems and no support in place.

(http://www.sebastianmarshall.com/an-open-letter-to-simon-and...)


wow this guy has really lost it. The worse part is that he has fans that cheer him on.


This type of rant is insane to me, I would never work for a guy like this. But thats just me, for others it might be prefectly fine...

Generally it sounds like he needs a hug or something.


A hug, or possibly medical treatment for his bipolar disorder.


What was that? Does anyone have any sort of context to this? Who are these people?

Why do I feel like I'm missing a punch line?


It's meant as a glimpse into someone else's project. I like it because it lets me compare it to my own with no preconceptions.


I think it has something to do with #winning, but I'm not sure yet.


If I were Lee, I'd be scratching my head wondering exactly what it is he's asking of me.

If I were Sam, I'd wonder why he's decided to dick me about without apology, explanation or reward, then spend the next three paragraphs apologising to Lee and promising to "do something cool" for him.


How does this guy have time to blog about it?


Now that's a great point!


He just posted an email, with ctrl+f replace of names. So probably not too long :)


Even "simple" posts like that took a lot longer than you'd think. At least if you take the time to make them read well and look good, which he did.


Why does this article get so many comments ( so much attention)? I try to read it but it is so poorly written, even the profanities doesn't work. I've tried to find out more about his achievements, but couldn't find anything impressive. What do I miss here?


Because it was written by this goon: http://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=lionhearted

His biggest accomplishment known to folks at HN is...getting a lot of karma at HN.


i would like to slap the author.


Jumping from topic to topic, bold, and capital letters = too badly written - did not read. What happened to normal prose, where you use words to describe things instead of bold phrases and random fragments? Seeing this has made me a bit ill...


"Interview" with Sebastian Marshall:

http://www.whohub.com/sebastianmarshall


The thing is, you can follow all the advice and platitudes given here and you still may not get rich.

And, sometimes the joker gets lucky.


When I first became a manager, I used to push people like this. The sad truth is that finding just one more person with this kind of intensity is hard. I've only known a few people with this type of intensity.

After moving to SF I now realize maybe its unnecessary. People get burnt out working at such high intensity. If your a really effective manager then you can ensure success by figuring out what is important and asking your engineers to deliver that instead of them slaving away on shit that might not be useful later.


tl;dr but I got a kick out of the bit on his about page that says he aims to get between 4-7 hours of sleep a night and insinuates that 8 is too much. The way he's going he'll be dead at 40. Sleep is important, don't skip it.


The insightful part is this: "What’s a joker? A joker is someone who says they’re going to do something, and then doesn’t. A joker always has excuses. “Oh well, I tried…” -> No, I don’t give a fuck that you tried. Did you do it or not?

DID YOU DO WHAT YOU SAID YOU’D DO OR NOT?

If not, you’re a fucking joker and we’ve got problems."

To summarize: don't talk about it, be about it.


True, though I'm not sure that's the generally accepted definition of "joker." I think this screed could be better summarized by the catchphrase "Git 'r done!"

Ironically, said catchphrase was created by one Larry the Cable Guy — a noted comedian, or professional "joker."


A problem might be that "it" in the mind of the manager is a clear cut, black and white thing, whereas in reality it might turn out to have more facettes and nuances. With a bulldozer manager (get it done or get out) it might be difficult to adapt to reality.

I also dislike that kind of speeches because it sets up a power hierarchy from the start. Not a good basis for cooperation.


He doesn't say "get it done or get out", he says "get it done or tell me".

As distinct from "think about it, then ask me, then try it, then ask me, then get stuck"


The term is slacker, not joker.


I know when I finish a project I call up the 'forces of hell' on my side. It's needed for that last 10%=90%.


Maybe this is what people need. I don't know because I don't know the people involved. I can say that what he's saying resonates and the words have poignancy because I remember times where I wasn't clearly enough focused on the end goal and such a speech might have been the right motivator. On the other hand when I'm really procrastinating it's usually because something is not right on a deeper level, either the goals, or the people, or something else is rubbing me the wrong way. It's not easy. Sometimes deep introspection is necessary. When you're talking about others it's even harder, but that's where the art of management comes in.


outch, this reads like the author is about to breakdown 'bi-winning' style.


Am I the only one here that actually liked the article? Regardless of this guy's resume, or the grammar, or the presentation, he has a point! This...

"You’re all highly highly skilled, top 1% at your craft. You’re all highly highly intelligent, top 1% of the population. You’ve all got excellent social skills, top 1% communication skills. And yet, you’re middle class. Have you reflected on that? You’re the top 1% IN EVERY CATEGORY THAT MATTERS, and yet, you’re relatively poor.

Do you know why? Because you haven’t stopped being a fucking joker like the rest of society."


They're middle-class because they're working for a salary. That's obvious. You can be middle-class and rich - $200k/year will do that to you - but you won't find a lot of upper class people drawing a salary as their primary income. Perhaps some doctors and lawyers might at the upper end of the scale, but in tech? No.


It is worth pondering, but I don't think being a joker is the reason. Also the attitude of "I said I'd do it, so I'll do it" could become a problem if it prevents you from pivoting and failing fast.


Compare this to the blog post written by Kicksend last week: http://blog.kicksend.com/kicksend-is-hiring

There is no comparison.


The caps/profanity to content ratio is way to high for my taste. Weird: usually there is interesting stuff on that blog, and the writing is Okay too.

not to self : never drink and post.


Tell me this guy doesn't wear a gold chain and stink of aramis. Ever hear of a psychic vampire? Feel sorry for the people under this guy and is hard on for jokers.


This reminds me of "Stop doing stupid shit," [1] one of my favorite articles of all time. This was a great read. The intensity and the trust he projects onto his friends is a good role-model for anyone working with their friends on something and making less progress than they'd like.

[1] http://jinfiesto.posterous.com/how-to-seem-good-at-everythin...


I read this as fiction then I realized he was serious. Obviously in need of some counseling. Delusional ? He reads like a carbon copy of "The Secret"


Why the fuck is this on HN? For the comedy?


Because the blogger used to post on HN very frequently. He's good at synthesizing bold yet vacant rhetoric that plays well here, but resonates especially well with coders who secretly think they're better than everyone else.

He usually doesn't sound so bug-nuts, though; maybe this was an early draft he hadn't cleaned up.


Freaking ace, guy's a legend!

Having said that, I'd rather get myself strung up in a Judas cradle than work for or with him :D


Its parody right? The author is actually demonstrating the point by being the "fucking Joker" himself?

I thought this with absolute certainty through the first 3/4 of the post. What a strange feeling as it dawns that this guy is serious.

This made my morning much more surreal. Its like long-form xkcd.


As someone who is partnered with 2 other people in business, I can really appreciate what's being said by Seb: If you make a commitment - hold to it.

We had the same situation come up this week for us. A job went sideways that was worth a month of expenses and then some. The client gave us a deadline to fix it, and if it wasn't they weren't paying.

I told my partners I would do whatever it took to fix this issue because that's too much money to lose. Long story short, our team had it fixed in two days; including contingency plans B, C, and D lined up if our first solution didn't work.

Complete trust has to exist in a partnership, otherwise it doesn't work. And this means sticking to our commitments.


I'm sorry but this guy sounds like such a douche to work for.


Where does the "forces of hell" reference come from?


The middle of the letter..

  The Romans thought Hannibal had the FORCES OF HELL ON HIS SIDE. Why?
  Because of that quote: “We will find a way. Or make one.”


Those who can, do. Those who can't, blog about it.


Since most commentators seem to have missed it: Please read the very first paragraph!

> Get a coffee and some popcorn ready before you read this one. Love it or hate it, either way you’ll be wildly entertained. Names and details changed, for obvious reasons.

In other words, the whole article is not meant seriously.


I'm not sure why someone down-voted you, although I disagree that this was some sort of satire. I hope it was, as it reads like a harsh, chest-thumping, insulting diatribe, like some over enthusiastic high school football coach -- and one that won't accept responsibility and just blame others when they loose.


This guy expresses a lot of confidence in his developers and is just trying to motivate them. This is a good thing. It is so so easy to be a joker. Everything in nature needs energy to move forward, including startups and software developers.


i predict the credit card maxes out in 2 weeks.


I predict the other guys bail and ignore the credit card.


This guy sounds like an utter penis.

http://www.sebastianmarshall.com/about


Are we sure this isn't a spoof?


Yo, Hannibal, use the ring.


What a douchebag.


Haven't we all been there though?


At first I thought this was posted by one of the email's recipients as a form of revenge on its douchebag author. Then, I realized it was posted by the author on his own blog... how embarrassing.

The whole letter/blog simultaneously reeks of desperation, egotism, conceit and condescension. He clearly craves validation and doesn't hesitate to dole it out to himself. "I picked you guys because you're the best! Now quit sucking and start being awesome like me! Money money money!"

Sad.


Surely this guy is joking.

"A joker is someone who does not complete something, and has excuses. Don't be a fucking joker."

and later

...Hannibal is his greatest hero, the guy who ALMOST conquered rome, but had a great excuse for not doing so.

and

"Now, here’s the score. I had a very fast, but totally possible timetable. At first, we were on it, and killing it. Then, one of us slipped. I don’t know who slipped first, it’s irrelevant. Now, we’re all slipping. "

Right, so the timetable doesn't include any latitude for delays.

and

"I can do marketing campaigns, but I need product and tech set up first. I mean, it’s not optional, it’s a core dependency. All of this shit was supposed to be done weeks ago."

Sounds like an excuse, sounds like he should stop being a joker and just GET IT DONE. No excuses.

This guy is deluded, lives in a separate version of reality where he has excuses but no one else can. Excuses can also be reasons why something is not going to work.


He's definitely not joking. Deluded? Maybe. See his latest work of art (posted today):

http://www.sebastianmarshall.com/an-open-letter-to-simon-and...

I'm at a complete loss for words.


He's joking for sure. Just have a look at the very first paragraph! (see also: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3246869)


Hard to believe it's a joke. In that case the whole blog must be a joke. Just read the about page on his blog. Same degree of douchebaggery


Why would he "change names and details" if it wasn't for real?


>Right, so the timetable doesn't include any latitude for delays.

Sounds like something a joker would say!


he's a complete egotist

"Whenever I compared myself to people similar to me, it wasn’t even close. I worked more, accomplished more, produced more, did more meaningful things, was traveling the world. I read more books, did more writing, was generally healthier and more disciplined, spent my time well. I was the top 1% for my age, and even better than that if you measured me against people from similar backgrounds."

http://www.sebastianmarshall.com/the-weakest-of-the-great-me...


Oh wait, isn't this the patio11 stalker/back-handed compliment guy???? I couldn't find the link so maybe not...

Wow, he's really on a roll with his Nov 17th post too: http://www.sebastianmarshall.com/an-open-letter-to-simon-and...


This is very far fetched armchair psychology but people driven _THAT_ incredibly much are usually not fueled by positive energy (alone). Together with the almost compulsive comparing to other people, sounds a lot like coping mechanisms for an inferiority complex or worse. OP should consider some therapy to learn about why he is so focused on comparing to others and why he is so hell-bent on work.


Interesting. Do you think it is possible to be extremely driven/ambitious/perseverant without having the motivation of external comparison?


The key thing is that his ambition is not to achieve something, it's to "be the top 1%".

His ambition is all about being better than others.

Healthy ambition is an ambition to create something beautiful, to help people, to deliver the total solution, to live up to your own standards and values.

Unhealthy ambition is to dominate other, to be superior, to make the most money, to look the best, to constantly compare yourself to others.

People who constantly compare themselves to others usually do have inferiority complexes.


This is an interesting question... I would say yes it is possible, there can surely be other motivators why you might work very hard.

In this case, I just got the feeling from reading his posts that OP has a very VERY strong bias towards comparing and measuring up to other people; and he is extremely focused on success and achievements in what feels to me like an unnaturally extreme way. Quite a few of his posts focus on nothing but that and all together just feels unhealthy and un-natural to me. That's the distinction I see to "just" being VERY motivated vs. being "driven". Being a work-a-holic by definition is an unhealthy behavior and there could be a whole bunch of reasons why people slip into that.

Like I said, it is nothing but armchair psychology - but the possibility that certain psychological issues could actually end up benefitting your career or success (or even success with women) is pretty much undisputed. Not all flight mechanisms or addictions have to be to very obvious substances. Work and success and being praised can be very powerful and toxic.


Even more sad is that this post only exhibits a mild level of douchebaggery relative to some of his others that have made it onto the front page of HN.


Anyone who uses he word philosophy like psychology gets a downvote from me.


He's the joker.


I find it hard to take someone seriously about not being a joker when they keep reverting to capitals to emphasise things. If someone was telling me that my social skills were the top 1% while frequently using 'capital emphasis', I would not hold that evaluation in high regard.


They say most successful CEOs score highly on tests for being a sociopath.

I think this guy could be on his way to the Fortune 400!


Not sociopaths, psychopaths. Sociopaths tend to be introvert / loner types.



Contrary to popular belief, (certain) psychological deficiencies can be absolutely beneficial or enabling for being successful in business and other area.


If this was some of "motivational" speech, he might be ok.

But as an email it just looks insane.


I think, this is in part a consequence of the deification of Steve Jobs, who might have adopted a similar stance towards his partners/employees. Such behavior is now automatically assumed to be acceptable by some subset of people. The No Asshole principle is passé. The author may have written such an email irrespective of Steve Jobs influence. But the audacity to post it on his own blog for everyone to "admire" certainly has to do with the publicity around the Jobs' supposed douchiness.


I think that's probably ascribing Jobs too much credit. He certainly wasn't the first businessperson with a superinflated sense of self-importance and a serious disregard for the well-being of those "in his way", even when those people are his employees.


But he was the first one to use that self-importance to build the richest company in the world. Most of the stories about people like that end "and then all the good engineers quit so they didn't have to put up with him, the products started sucking and the business went down in flames". Steve Jobs avoided that somehow (probable by having really, really good judgment), but imitators don't see that part, they just see "self-importance works".


Go check out Steve Jobs's Janitor speech he (allegedly) gave to new VP's. It was his outlook exactly.


I can identify with what sebastian is experiencing here. Its easy to work with friends, or be friendly with your employees. Its easy for things to get casual. Its easy for people to start running everything by you.

Its VERY easy for the sense of urgency to just go away. Its very hard to get people highly motivated about time. It's easy to kill an entire day with BS, and let things just stretch out. Especially when you're an employee, and you're working for options. Options are so intangible. You're theoretically motivated, but on a day to day basis, do stock options get you doing 6 things in an hour instead of 3 or 4? Especially if your boss isn't there? (And if your boss is there then you're likely to be inhibited.) It's really easy to kill time by running everything thru your boss too... it lets you cover your butt, and you can read HN while you wait for him to make a decision.

I don't know how you teach initiative... but this is a good attempt.

Find a way or make one. Good advice.

Its a shame most of the comments on this seem to be reddit quality. Almost as if the people making them have never been in this situation. (and this was the situation I found myself in at my very first startup-- when we all felt we had no clue what we were doing, and tended to wait for direction, rather than take initiative.)


Its a shame most of the comments on this seem to be reddit quality. Almost as if the people making them have never been in this situation.

I think the problem is, anyone that's worked in the startup world for a while has been in this situation. But most of them have seen it from the other side.

Where you've got maybe 2% equity in a company if you're lucky, and a salary that's about half what you'd be making flipping Java-burgers at a bank. Where you, the sysadmin-at-large (amongst other hats that you wear) see first-hand that traffic levels are a couple orders of magnitude less than you were supposed to set up the system to scale to. Where you're asked to put in 55 hours this week instead of the usual "lazy" 50 because the killer hail-mary-feature that's going to save the company (and is suspiciously similar re: customer visibility to the killer hail-mary-feature of last week) has to be pushed out by Monday or else, ...what, all 20 of the people that bothered to sign up to the mailing list will be disappointed at the missed deadline...? Blech.

Sure, sometimes the situation is different, sometimes it really is a matter of a few people with equal stakes in the outcome not equally pulling weight, and that can be a real problem worth worrying about. But I'm always skeptical when I see CEOs complaining about lazy drones, quite often these complaints are more indicative of top-down scope-creep, bad time estimates, or a failing business model than any actual problem with the workers.


I agree that managers should stop pretend to themselves and others that they are perfect.


I was a huge fan of the thesis, but as I kept reading the situation seemed very familiar. Very familiar to the multiple times I have worked for a non technical guy that really just doesn't have a clue.

I was really not a fan of the part where he told his guys not to make excuses, but then made a very large excuse for himself.

If I would have read only the first few paragraphs I would have been a huge fan of this article.


2 things:

* If you are always running your business with a sense of urgency, you are going to burn out. You are going to burn out your employees. You've might have bitten more than you can chew. Some things are not possible and you need to have realistic expectations. It is fine to have stretches of busy time, but that can't last forever.

* > Its very hard to get people highly motivated about time. -- Ok so it is crunch time. Try communication & openness. Put up a whiteboard, show how many days left, how much money is left, the list of unfixed bugs, and whose name is next to it. Update frequently. Detect problems and slips early and try to fix. Don't yell at them or talk about fucking Hannibal, because you know what? You look like a Joker then.


"If you are always running your business with a sense of urgency, you are going to burn out. You are going to burn out your employees."

That's not really true. If you're always running your life with a sense of urgency, you're going to burn out. But your life doesn't have to be your business.

I'm a big fan of the "give me six good hours a day" school of thought. You're not at work your whole life (or maybe you are, but you're not doing urgent stuff your whole day). You don't expect your employees to be at work their whole lives. But when you are at work, you focus on the tasks that need to get done, and you finish them. If problems come up, you figure out a way around them, redo your plans, and adjust your schedule accordingly.


The difference with Hannibal is that if he and his forces didn't keep advancing, they would literally starve to death. On the other hand, the author here is trying to create senses of urgency with very nebulous justification.


Why does there have to be a sense of urgency? I don't think we are meant to have stressful lives.


The sooner I can buy a Ferrari the better. I want it now!

EDIT: The answer to your question is sentiment of my above sentence. I don't really want a Ferrari personally. I'd prefer a Nissan GTR R35.


According to Car and Driver, the Corvette ZR1 can beat the Ferrari for a 3rd of the price. As for the GTR, too boxy. I want to drive a fast car and impress the ladies, not look like some chinzy wannabe extra from Tokyo Drift.


Did Car and Driver also measure the impact on ladies?


If they did, then they'd stop being Car and Driver and start being Motorcycle World.


I'm more of an older Vette fan. If I were to get a new sports car today I'd go for a Porsche 911 (991). I just really like the design and look, and always have.


If you read Sebastian's blog, he wants to have the power to change the world, essentially, when the world needs changing. He believes his path is the most pragmatic way to do so. I think I agree.


totally agree with you..some of us(maybe just me!) should really take a look at ourselves for being the jokers that we are!....I will come back and read this post whenever I am slacking!

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