"Those who work hard make good" is a profoundly American theme that dates back to Horatio Alger and before - it can hardly be said to originate from a cabal of VCs trying to "put one over" on hapless founders and startup employees in Silicon Valley. No doubt Mr. Arrington adds his peculiarly abrasive touch to the debate (toughen up, don't whine, and let's applaud Zynga for what it did to its employees), but he did something very similar not too long ago in chiding investors who were whining about being in the "middle of a terrible blubble" (http://techcrunch.com/2011/04/24/were-in-the-middle-of-a-ter...). Like it or not, this is his philosophy and outlook about what it takes to play the startup game. It is his expression of ideas and social commentary. One can disagree with it as much as one likes but it is unfair to say that this is nothing more than a con job. It is also unfair to take him to task for quoting from a publicly available source to support his idea of what the experiences of startup employees have been like in Silicon Valley - if the goal is to illustrate such experiences, then what better source to use than a diary whose purpose was precisely to document them. If the author of that diary wants to say, "no, that's not what I meant" in response, that is fine but that doesn't justify an ad hominem attack on the person using it to illustrate ideas he wants to espouse.
My point here is strictly about fair argumentation, not about the merits of the debate. Whether right or wrong on the merits, I think the author takes an unfair shot in the way he makes his points here. We all have ideas and core beliefs, even those who are VCs. We all should be free to express them without being accused of nefarious motives.
Everyone is free to express themselves, being accused is just a side effect of expression. Hell, Arrington took a stab at jwz in his response.
jwz's advice is extremely valid, it doesn't matter if it's about VCs or vending machines. You have to work hard, but you also have to work smart and be wary that there is always someone waiting to profit off of what you built, he never said it's always the VC.
Very well said. I wanted to comment along those lines but couldn't quite put it into words. As much as I dislike Arrington for being the dick that he is, I don't thing he's trying to "sell a con" or even to tell people to work hard. If anything, he's asking the whiners -- who's sole motivation is (supposedly) money -- to either stop whining or get out of the valley. His point is this: doing a startup is brutal; to survive you have to want building something more than anything, or you will not be able to stand the pain. It's a fair point.
> It is also unfair to take him to task for quoting from a publicly available source
Quotes which were already removed from their full context, taken further out of context by Arrington, with a shallow, incomplete understanding of the long-term consequences of the events being recounted.
Arrington has a Bachelor's in economics and a law degree, until 1999 he was a securities lawyer. He was still in law school when jwz was actually doing useful things and wrote those diary entries.
Arrington has never been an engineer of any kind. He has no concept of the kind of stress placed on engineers, little grasp of the work environments he wants people to put up with, and as a VC, has a massive conflict of interest.
Invoking a respected name through excerpts of a document that offered only a narrow, fuzzy window into what jwz went through in order to lure young hackers to an inevitable burnout for a likely reward of zilch is just scummy, and it is in no way unfair to call Arrington on his BS.
This isn't some highschool debate wankery. The arrington/jwz/arrington exchange is exactly as jwz characterized it: Arrington plus vcs in general selling a story to engineers that is pretty damn unlikely (a lottery, in fact) in order to enrich primarily themselves. jwz doesn't stand to benefit from people following his advice, while Arrington certainly does.
Further, the fact that you don't include Arrington giving advice that is quite probably not in the targeted recipients' best interests in order to advance the interests of both himself in particular and vcs in general as a "nefarious motive" is stupid.
I really don't think name calling is necessary. I mostly try to read HN without reading names, but some people, like grellas, earn a reputation by repeatedly making insightful comments. Plus, I don't think any of us here deserve to have our opinions called "stupid." You've been here a bit longer than I have, so I know I don't have to remind you, but in case others are reading, let's try to be slightly more civil.
As an aside, this is the second post I've made in as many days defending the comments of HN regulars. It almost sounds like I'm trying to appeal to the local "cool kids" for some strange reason, but in reality I just don't want to see some of HN's valuable contributors chased off by lowering the level of discourse when things get tense.
This exchange between Arrington and jwz strikes at the heart of the mythos that drives the HN community, so I realize things can get heated. As a startup founder myself it made me think carefully about some of my goals. Let's not allow that to lower our standards.
I welcome calling stupid attitudes just that — stupid.
Your comment reminds me this saying by Asimov:
Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding
its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured
by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance
is just as good as your knowledge.
1 - you'll note I didn't call grellas stupid, so watch your accusations
2 - some opinions are stupid
3 - This has nothing to do w/ standards or whose side I'm on, except that running around looking after
4 - grellas believes everyone should be free to express his or her core beliefs "without being accused of nefarious motives". Sorry, bs. Some people are looking out for number one, are in a position to exploit others, and should be called on it.
5 - I have a sincerely held belief you all owe me $10k. Each. See? Stupid.
1) Stay long hours sitted, immobile. It ruins your health.
2) To provide a steady high quality output in creative disciplines (writing code qualifies) for more than a 4/5 hours a day (add to this the time to do breaks, install your updates, check news sites, fix the email client, and you'll reach the 7/8 hours per day figure).
It makes sense in a startup to work hard in crucial weeks, you can sustain that for a few days both from the point of view of your body and your productivity, but making this the rule is just plain silly.
Also, remember that a startup has a small percentage of probabilities of making you rich, so better for you to also enjoy life while working at a startup. Try hard in your working hours (but it is more a matter of doing the right things than the wrong things for a lot of hours), but enjoy life when it's 6 pm.
What's silly is that also VCs are likely to don't really get more return from you by overworking you, but there is nothing than humanity has seen more often than a silly boss that feels more comfortable if you are overworking yourself.
It seems to me that Arrington does not realise that managing coders is not the same as managing journos on a blog. Maybe writers can churn and churn while working miserable hours for years on end. It does not work that way in coding. One hour of coding without thinking carefully can have a large negative contribution to your company's ability to meet its goals, by way of causing bad architectural decisions, bugs, and/or downtime.
I highly doubt writers can work the same way. Anyone doing any type of creative work needs these types of breaks. Similarly, one article published without adequate editing/fact-checking can do wonders to destroy the credibility of a blog...
To be fair, newspapers aren't written for experts. That doesn't excuse a lot of crap from newspapers, but they're writing for an audience that isn't necessarily well-versed in all the subjects, for better or worse.
I don't think he's referring to the fact that newspapers aren't written for an expert audience. I think he's referring to their routine inaccuracies and errors. That's what I get from it, being a expert who's cringed at quite a few press articles.
The errors aren't acceptable, but the inaccuracies are almost always because reporters try to dumb down a concept so much, that the concept loses all nuance. It's basically if Simple English Wikipedia were the norm.
From experience creative writing (IE Fiction, journal-columns (life blogging), reviews, even a lot of non-fiction) are hard to force. It takes a lot of breaks and 'spur of the moment' events to the point I use my iPhone for writing so when I get that urge it doesn't matter if I'm on lunch at my day job or waiting at a bus stop, or as often the case, on the toilet.
Newspaper journalism I believe can be forced. IMO it's like high school essay writing, you find your source and you just learn to churn. With some newspapers this can be so bad that you notice the 'filler' attempts where about 2/3 of the way through they go into "summary" mode and simply pad the ending of the article with the exact same info they had in the first 1/3.
By 'from experience' I mean I've worked as a reviewer, I've got my own personal blog (one of my pieces actually hit the front page of HN back in the 1Q of 2011 IIRC, and a few have popped up other places) and I'm now pushing through for a novel - I've had one short story published and a lot of editor comments (which is great, I've never received a form rejection letter, even from places that are notorious for them; my problem is that with a short story I see little point of struggling to edit it on the chance someone might say yes, when I might as well learn my mistake and write something else because there's always the chance a story will grab an editor and they'll say 'hell, I can fix the mistakes' - and having worked as a reviewer I trust editors to fix problems I don't know are problems)
Like the guy who posted the automated sports writer, it's not difficult to take the stats and say "Campbell scored a last minute goal winning the game" when campbell was the last person to score and it happened in the last minute of play. It's merely filtering data and rewriting a standard comment.
It's not far from news of a house fire: did the house burn down? yes/no; if no make 'devastating' comment. was people caught inside? yes/no; if yes did they survive? yes/no; if no make 'tragedy' comment; if yes did they escape? yes/no; if yes make 'valiant escape' comment / if no make 'heroic rescue' comment.
It's quite different when you have to write 200 words from a basic formula with 20 keywords, compared to writing 80,000 words from a basic formula with 20 keywords. Yes Star Wars and Harry Potter might have same basic principles (orphan, living with aunt and uncle, special powers, special connection to main antagonist). However, I'm never failed to be amused when someone says it's unoriginal or a rip off, but those same people will read article after article on their sports teams and not think it's ripped off when the articles a probably written by an intern in a coat closet switching words on a template. But simply Vader being or not being Luke's father would have made a major story diversion (IE Luke wouldn't have gone to Endor to confront his father, Vader wouldn't have turned good and killed the emperor, etc.)
I respect your opinion Antirez, but I hear so much speculation about work habits that I have to ask you: Is this your opinion / experience, or is it based on some specific research / study you can point to?
As a fellow developer I'd love this to be true, however a meme / fad started during my working career in rich cultures stating that hard work isn't rewarding or is unnecessary. I question this.
My father taught me to work hard, as his father taught him, etc, and this basically states that my father was being scammed. Doesn't every generation at some point rebel against the previous generation's beliefs? Could it be that the whole work less theme (apparently based on science?) is simply rebellion?
All I know is that I plan to teach my kids that working hard for something is itself a reward. That you can't appreciate anything you didn't work for, and the harder you work for it, the more you appreciate it. I also expect this will help them survive in a hyper competitive global workplace.
Maybe if we consider maintaining physical fitness to be part of our daily work, then I'd be on board with these thoughts. I.e. 4-5 hours at a desk being creative, and 3+ hours of some sort of physical exertion.
This is my opinion and is based solely on my experience after 15 years of being in the industry, including one successful startup built by me and a friend of mine with a decent "exit" sold to Telecom Italia, and a successful open source software (Redis). Additionally I used to work in different places in the past with many programmers, so what I say is also based on how the success of programmers I know first hand correlates with the amount of work they do.
I also follow two companies here in Sicily that I built in the past, one has six programmers.
So all the above is my "data source", that is not statistically significant.
I don't really think a programmer working 8 hours is going to be less successful of one working 12 hours per day: it is either good enough to be outstanding with the 8 hours, or will fail even with the 12 hours, since the productivity gained by experience, skills, understanding of the problem is the kind of 10x or 100x gain, while from 8 to 12 hours the difference is little (and, again, not sustainable for long time IMHO).
Startups are built by programmers, so I think the same applies to them as well, mostly.
In other words I could say that the output of a programmer correlates more strongly with the work it did to learn writing code, than the work it does writing actual code.
Another important thing is that having fun is not lost time if you want to build a startup. Recently startups are a lot more about providing an "experience" to the user, and enriching yourself in your free time can be very useful to provide something that people want.
I'm fully aware of who you are, and at least some of your successes (I've used Redis in several projects now, and love it).
For me it's an age thing. I put in some extremely long hours in my youth, and I think it paid off. I'm not putting in as many hours these days, but then again I feel like I'm quite a bit more productive with my time than I used to be.
I think it's the experience itself that's the differentiator, and not the fewer hours. In fact it's the experience that enables me to work fewer hours. When I was younger I really had to bang away trying many more approaches to solve a problem, and that meant longer hours.
Yes I share this experience with you: when I was 18 or 20 I worked a lot of hours, but this was pure fun as I was learning to write code. This is probably a very good investment: it completely does not weight on you since you are having true fun, and of course 20 years old can do things that are impressive :) At least for me that I'm now 35.
However my father is like your father in this regard: he thought me to work long hours, and he still does even if it is 63 now. But I've the feeling that the work it does that has more to do with people, with moving from one place to the other to fix problems, and things like that, is much more "long hours compatible". The solve fact it does not sit all the day is different... In short I think that programming is exceptionally bad: too static, too focused, too stressing, too timelines, ...
I think you're confusing "hard work" with "working with reckless abandon."
I find I am most consistently productive if I work 8 - 10 hours on the weekdays, and 3 - 5 hours on the weekends. I can sustain this for several months without burnout, despite the fact that I work every day. This is more than an average work-week, but it's also not the crazyness of deadline crunch-times. It leaves enough time for workouts and some socializing. Eventually, though I need a few months where I take at least one day off during the weekends.
First, "working hard" and working the sort of insane, body-destroying hours that Arrington & co are advocating are two different things. It's good to work hard, be diligent, and get things done, but balance is essential. Arrington doesn't agree.
Second, Work for our parents and grandparents involved physical labor in some degree - ours does not. Our work takes a huge toll on the body for what seems so sedentary, and requires (I'd suspect) much more demanding mental processes, which are also extremely draining.
So yes, work hard - as did your father and his father - but don't kill yourself, and don't spend it all in what my doctor calls the Chicken position.
IMO "working hard" constitutes working an 8-hour day and not being a slack ass in your duties.
My day job is construction, mainly because I'm good at it. I find it every bit as stressful and mentally draining as when I've been doing sedentary work (I worked as a reviewer). The main difference is that the stress can often be used (when you have to nail in a certain position and it just happens there's a 1/8th inch steel plate on the stud, stress makes it a lot easier, and you're not stressed when the nail is driven).
I've said elsewhere here that we get highschool educated guys who can't read tape measures and who can't do basic trigonometry, and it's sad that we get guys in who've failed highschool, but you give them a pencil, a tape and a pair of tin snips and they can do trig, but they've failed math in highschool.
So given I am college educated, it is offensive (not that you personally offended me, I've received enough derogatory comments from doctors and the likes to realize that many peoples hundred-thousand dollar educations simply served to make them very stupid; that said a retired economics professor was happy as shit - he'd been writing newspaper articles for years about the shortages of 'unskilled' and 'semi-skilled' labour is crippling the economy) when people assume physical labour jobs require little mental ability.
My father taught me to work hard. He was a coder; he's taught me electrical, plumbing, concrete/floor laying, drywall, plastering, brick laying, roofing, welding, etc. He never taught me programming, because he didn't want me working for someone else my whole life (he's owned 4 businesses, all successful and profitable in his lifetime). He was happy as shit when I called to cancel my trip to see him next year, because I told him I'm looking to buy property to rent and start a property management company (I literally have all the skills necessary to turn a $90,000 piece of shit into $180,000 in the local market, meaning turning 1 $900 a month house rental into two $1200-1500 month unit rentals).
Yeah, I wasn't sure of how to approach the mental aspect - I didn't mean to say construction or other physical labor required little mental ability, because I've done enough of it to know that's just not the case.
I think coding is different for two reasons - and please do excuse me, because while I've _done_ physical work, I don't do it for a living, so I'm coming at this slanted:
First, with physical work, you're doing, well, physical work. There's a correlation between physical activity and mental acuity, and, as you mention, you can take out some of your stress out on productive labor (if I do that, I have to buy a new mouse). You also have a balance between the physical and mental side - I'm not sure if there's a corresponding mental equivalent to muscle memory.
Second, you can 'outsource' some of the modeling to the actual physical object - the work you're doing has a tangible component, so you don't have to keep the entire thing in your head. That part, to me, is the most draining aspect of coding - I've gotten much better at structuring my code so I can compartmentalize most of that away, but when I'm working with older code or other people's code, I've basically got to have a very accurate representation of the entire program in mind the whole time. That gets really tiring really fast.
I think one of the other big differences, though, is that I can screw up an awful lot more than you can and get away with it - if I completely arse up a section of code, I can go back in and redo it at basically zero cost. If you arse up a floor, well, now we need to buy the raw materials for a new floor. The corollary between experts and amateurs mostly holds between construction and coding - give an idiot enough time and eventually you can have either a house or a program - the difference is he'll cost you an awful lot more trying to build the house. That breeds a level of patience and caution which, frankly, is probably better for one's outlook on life in general.
Anyway, again, sorry if I seemed to demean physical labor - I really didn't intend to. Like I said, I've seen enough experts in action to know the difference isn't in the hands.
You didn't offend me, and I could tell you weren't meaning to demean physical labour.
> I'm not sure if there's a corresponding mental equivalent to muscle memory.
Have you ever driven to walmart, or work, or your girlfriends (someones) house when you was slightly distracted when driving. You don't drive dangerously, you're not swerving of being stupid like if you was drunk or distracted, you're just not thinking and you end up going the wrong way or doing the wrong thing. There's been a couple of times in the morning when I've accidentally changed the time on the microwave, because I always used to have to hit the timer button before putting in the time. Now I don't, but on autopilot I can somehow manage to find 'time' on a different keypad layout and change the time to 1:30.
I agree with the second, having a tactile object to work with seems to free up a lot of the cognitive ability for the task at hand. Although, when I was doing electrical work you often needed that mental model to know where wires were running, so stepping into someone elses job (especially when it was done wrong or poorly) was a major head-job.
> I can go back in and redo it at basically zero cost
That's why I write fiction, because as a professional career it's only loss of time that matters. Thankfully in my job (vinyl siding) my materials are fairly cheap, so waste isn't a huge concern for us (but a good worker always minimizes it, like unless you're confident you use a piece that's already garbage to make a template rather than wing it on a new sheet) because our company gets paid for our reputation and how presentable our jobs are (there's a big aesthetic difference between done and done properly).
> Like I said, I've seen enough experts in action to know the difference isn't in the hands.
That's in all jobs, I've seen my fair share of talentless doctors, etc. (At 15 I called a doctor out wrong when I self diagnosed psoriasis, the hallmark is scaly skin that pin-prick bleeds when scraped and I had it and I had psoriasis, but that doctor couldn't admit he was wrong to a 15 year old)
It's ridiculous, but I bet most of us associate construction with that summer job we had back in the day, holding the "slow" sign, sweeping dust off the street, making the trip to Tim's / Dunkin Donuts for the guys doing the real work, etc.
I wholeheartedly agree, and I think this is what jwz is getting at as well. Hard work can be rewarding, but only if you let it. Hard work which is pushed on you without your consent is rarely rewarding in any sense of the word.
"My father taught me to work hard, as his father taught him, etc"
This is a very good lesson to learn. Make sure you take it to heart.
The thing to know, is: WHO are you working hard for? If the answer isn't yourself, then you have the wrong answer. Spending your effort and time working hard for the benefit of someone else is being scammed.
Farming today is completely different than it was 60+ years ago (especially before WWII) for 90% of farmers. I'd wager a large sum that most farmer's do not actually enjoy their job these days. Small independent sustainable farmers sure, too bad they represent such a small percentage of farming compared to the industrial food complex.
Anyways, comparing farming today to what it was 60 years ago is apples to oranges. Many farmers at the time didn't have a choice in the matter. Many had limited options and were simply lucky enough to inherit farmland. Maybe they loved it, maybe they didn't. For most, loving it wasn't as pressing a need as supporting their family.
Small family farms represent 91% of all the farms in the US. 59% of food production in the US is in due thanks to large family farms. There are actually very few industrial food complexes in the US, although it is interesting to note that most of the food production is from these complexes.
In 2003 it reports that small farms that have $10,000 - $249,999 in sales to be 34% of all farms (in 2003), which is still quite significant compared to the 4.8% that industrial complexes (1.7%) and very large family farms (3.1%) hold.
It's not about super large farms, it's about the industrial machine that has taken over small and large farms, in order to receive subsidies and remain competitive. "Small farmers are often absorbed into factory farm operations, acting as contract growers for the industrial facilities." (Wikipedia) These are still considered independent farms in the census I believe.
Corn and Soy Beans account for by far the majority of crops. http://www.epa.gov/agriculture/ag101/cropmajor.html (a little outdated). Have you been to a corn / soy bean farm? Visit one and ask the farmer if he enjoys his job, and how much he makes (many are in the red). Small or large, the specific crops and tactics are pretty much identical and probably don't fit our picture of the ideal farm.
Livestock farming is even worse. Most of the farms are only briefly involved at the beginning of the animal's life then shipped off to a feedlot. "In 1967, there were one million pig farms in America; as of 2002, there were 114,000, with 80 million pigs (out of 95 million) killed each year on factory farms as of 2002" (Wikipedia). It's the same story with beef and poultry.
I finally got around to reading Omnivore's Dilemma, and it's extremely depressing to say the least. Especially when it comes to factory farming. Sustainable / local farming is a small glimmer of hope though.
We're way off topic now and I have no idea what I was trying to say that relates in any way to the original discussion...
"Have you been to a corn / soy bean farm? Visit one and ask the farmer if he enjoys his job, and how much he makes (many are in the red)."
Have you done this yourself, or are you just trying to score rhetorical points?
I have: my parents are corn/soy/livestock farmers on a small farm they own in the Midwest. Their friends and neighbors are all small operations as well. It's not a job you make much money at, it's true--imagine if all of your income depended on good weather and timing the commodities markets right! They stick with it because it's a job with independence and pride in producing something the world needs. Heritage and tradition, too: many have ancestors who have been farming in the area for a century or more.
It's easy to vilify something if you don't understand it.
Rhetorical points? I have been, and very recently in fact (I've become sort of fascinated with the topic). I'm not even remotely vilifying the farmers. That would be like vilifying anyone who bought a house in 2006 only to lose their shirt. It's the system I take issue with. I'm starting to see most corn / soy farmers more as slave labourers if anything. I realize this may come across as offensive, but I honestly don't mean to offend, as I have absolutely no issue with corn farmers themselves. Rather I take issue with the corn subsidies, the CAFOs, the large meat processing firms, the genetically modified crops, and the fertilizer pushers.
I know some corn/soy bean farmers but not very well. All the farmers I know really well (and have to a point grown up with) are livestock farmers, and they live on a farm and do farm work because they love it. It is not their primary job, most of them do contracting, some are mechanics, some are auctioneers, and others are nurses.
Despite farming not being their primary job, they still make a few thousand dollars a year from sales, which I believe should classify them as a small scale farm.
Farmers don't make a lot of money at all, and they tend to get screwed a lot, this is why you always hear of the angry hillbillies taking over the city. It's kind of like musicians making a living. (Farmers are more important because they provide food, but that's not the point).
As far as industrial machines taking over the business, this is just the nature of needing a lot of food in the world. The morals of these industrial machines are questionable at times, but in the end we need food and most people aren't willing to vegetarian so I guess we are going to have to suck it up until we have better methods. Small scale farms also fill a niche market with local meat/produce and often end up trading/selling their products to other farms.
Back to the point of the main topic; your father wasn't scammed out of his life because he worked hard on a farm. I'm sure at some point he realized that he could sell the farm, move to the city, get a desk job and work less hours much like many other people did in rural areas.
I don't know your father, but I would go as far to say that he probably made a conscious decision to stay on the farm for probably a multitude of reasons. Maybe he liked the life, maybe he liked rural areas, maybe he felt a kid would be better raised on a farm doing lots of hard work, it could be anything really.
Farm work isn't smart work because it requires lot of hard hours with little benefit. Doesn't mean someone is wrong in choosing to do it because it is not only necessary for society, but some people really do like it.
We're just not on the same page. I'm not sure how to emphasize the massive difference between the types of farming you're outlining here. They're so completely different we need new words other than farming to describe them.
When I spoke of my grandfather, I'm referring to grass farming. Corn / soy / industrial livestock farming has almost nothing in common with grass farming so let's completely throw them out for the sake of this topic and reword my statement to this; "My grass farming ancestors believed in working hard and passed this belief onto their children. Their work ethic probably had more to do with what was necessary to survive than their religious beliefs (protestant or otherwise)".
I don't know where you live but I've never heard of angry hillbillies taking over a city. Where I live the farmers are all millionaires, work five months out of the year and spend the rest of the year in Tampa or Tucson.
Agreed. It's not simply a question of standing over sitting; it's about moving.
I have a motorised desk (essentially the GeekDesk v2) and shift two or three times a day from sitting to standing to standing while leaning on a sitting stool (which you can do even if you don't have a robo-desk). Plus I move around frequently (kitchen, bathroom, fetch water, etc) and - don't knock it till you've tried it - have a dartboard for when I'm taking screen breaks.
I've found that by standing at my desk I walk around MUCH more when I stop to think about a problem. Instead of leaning back in my chair and staring into space, I'll pace around the room and return. It doesn't seem like much, but it adds up very quickly.
I hope this signals the end of folks walking on egg shells around Arrington. He's no longer a "newsman". He's no longer going to make or break every startup that ends up on AOLCrunch. He's just an investor hoping for deal flow. An investor who's proven he's probably not the guy you'd want to work with, probably not the guy you'd want to partner with, probably not the guy who will ever be on anyone's side but his own. Kudos to Zawinski for calling him out.
people walk on eggshells around arrington? i thought he was pretty much universally reviled, people are constantly calling him out for various crap. maybe not startup people who want his money/coverage, but bloggers and other hangers-on.
I've not seen eye to eye with PG on everything he has written. But this particular essay is one of my favourites of his. PG laid out an upper bound, which he later clarifies:
"If $3 million a year seems high, remember that we're talking about the limit case: the case where you not only have zero leisure time but indeed work so hard that you endanger your health."
And his upper limit for hours worked was 2x that of a corporate employee. Taken literally, this could be 80 hours per week, or 16 hour days. PG is not advocating this lifestyle in his essay. He's saying that it's theoretically possible but at the cost of your good health. Arrington says to hell with your health: quit the whining and work through the pain. This is not an upper bound but in fact an average that he's trying to push.
That's why I despise the Arrington article but don't take issue with PG's.
Its only 11.43 hours a day if you work on weekends.
I am not advocating this!
I think if you are passionate about your work and work 8 hours a day (5 days a week) at full capacity you are productive enough. I can work more for one or two weeks if necessary (with the adrenalin boost stemming from a near by deadline) but not for much longer.
This is a great point that is often overlooked in the startup work environment. In 8 years of working at Startups I have only ever been in one place where anyone actually worked a solid 8 hours (everyone happened to pair-program there, which was one of the biggest contributors to this IMO). In most places people spend somewhere between 25-50% of their time surfing the web, reading personal email, hanging out in IRC rooms, socializing, etc. At this particular startup we really did none of that during the day. We all just felt really strongly about what we were working on, as a team we worked with the business guys to set a strong direction for the near-short term, and for four hours in the morning and four in the afternoon we worked. That was it. At 6 pm we left basically feeling punch-drunk for the mental exhaustion, and we went and followed our respective personal pursuits. The result?
The first place I'd worked where we launched on schedule with no overtime worked, with all of the features that business wanted for the big 1.0 (well, web-app 1.0... Really just a euphemism here).
My point is that while Arrington goes on about working insane hours, everyone always seems to overlook how much time in the office isn't actually productive for the product. I've been at places where people "worked" 16 hour days, at least 6 of which were spent playing Starcraft LAN games.
I see it as an experiment in thinking about leverage. If you minimized all the corporate office bullshit, leveraged your work to the max, AND worked hard on top of that, how much could you earn? The baseline becomes your work earnings WITH corp-bullshit, poor leverage, and lackluster effort, and then he extrapolates from that.
Leverage analogy: think schwerpunkt in blitzkrieg. If you amass all your tanks on one sector of the front and crush the opposing line there, then you will have more of an impact than if you spread the same force out over a wider area.
Or perhaps PG thinks his personal success is based purely off his own brilliance with no helpful outside factors needed
He doesn't think that. Though he claims to have made good decisions and benefited from competitor blunders, he frequently refers to incidents that nearly sank the company, and acknowledges the good fortune that saved them and helped them to their very happy exit.
It's hard to come up with a good conditional probability, but just looking at the population ratios, the odds are close to the same: somewhere around 1 in 300 American households have net worth >$10m, and somewhere around 1 in 300 of those (close to 1 in 100,000 households) have net worth >$1b.
Just going by the fact that the wealth distribution is fat-tailed, the (stochastic) rate at which you obtain wealth must be roughly proportional to your current wealth. Otherwise, you'd expect an exponential decay in the wealth distribution.
His mother served on the same board of directors as the IBM CEO. Which is probably why the original licensing deal was even considered and why the they where not heavy handed in their contract negotiation.
Edit: In 1980, she discussed with John Opel, a fellow committee member who was the chairman of the International Business Machines Corporation," her son's company. "Mr. Opel, by some accounts, mentioned Mrs. Gates to other I.B.M. executives. A few weeks later, I.B.M. took a chance by hiring Microsoft, then a small software firm, to develop an operating system for its first personal computer."http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Maxwell_Gates
> His mother served on the same board of directors as the IBM CEO. Which is probably why the original licensing deal was even considered and why the they where not heavy handed in their contract negotiation
The first is probably true, I agree atleast. Your second point about them not being heavy handed because they knew Bill's mother I just can't see having any shred of truth.
IBM also made a sweetheart deal with Intel with no mother's involved.
The reason they made those deals has been stated many times over.
IBM was in a huge rush to ship and they needed an OS and CPU in a very bad way. They made those deals because that's what allowed them to ship.
Thanks for posting that. These little things are often not mentioned in the success stories we hear. Was Mrs. Gates' chat with Mr. Opel the sole cause of Microsoft's success? Of course not! But opening a few doors so early on is definitely a huge stroke of good fortune.
There is a big difference between PG and Arrington: PG states that you should be working for yourself. YC is set up to allow entrepreneurs to make money if they work hard and a big part of that is allowing a company to grow before being required to take VC money - allowing for a better valuation.
Sleeping under your desk with .05% equity? Probably a bad investment.
Sleeping under your desk for 45% equity? Well, roll the dice. At least you will get paid if it works.
Yes, 5 basis points is complete and utter crap. If you're going to work crazy hours, you might as well benefit from it proportionally. Gone are the days in tech when early employees would be rewarded for taking pay cuts in exchange for a higher amount of equity only to be completely diluted by each round of funding and the greediness of the MBA holding business founders.
Thiel's also discussed elsewhere his frustration with the liberal politics of academia, which he sees as an impediment to libertarian policies gaining wider buy-in, so I think he might have motivations for attempting to undermine it besides pure concern for students' debt. (Though it's quite possible he earnestly dislikes academia for multiple, independent reasons.)
>He repeatedly talked about the concern of young people leaving college with 200k+ in debt -- which I think is very fair.
But is that a real problem? The statistics I've seen show that the proportion of students with more than $100,000 in debt is tiny. Most students graduate with ~$25,000 in debt. At that debt level, a college education is still a no-brainer.
I'd be willing to argue that if you've managed to rack up $200,000 in debt financing a college education, you've either 1) had extraordinarily bad luck or 2) made extraordinarily poor choices. Neither case is an indictment of the system at large.
At that debt level, a college education is still a no-brainer.
I would argue that depends heavily on which degree you're coming out with. I know a lot of communications and psychology majors who are working in food service 3-4 years after graduating, still living at home, and getting assistance from their regretful parents who cosigned on their student loans.
In the recent Thiel debate he said in fact that he supported undergrad education inclusive of non-technical degrees and was personally glad he did what he did. The larger question related to increasing price tag vs. decreasing value.
Whether or not someone is convincing is moot if they're correct. That's what should be considered, not whether or not they're convincing. And every self-thinking analytical individual should be free to draw their own conclusions, after gathering as much data as possible.
I did find it ironic that one of Thiel's major complaints about education was the exclusivity of universities like Harvard given that his solution was a program that admitted a mere 20 would-be entrepreneurs.
jwz is right: be alert to the agendas of those who would influence you.
jwz is saying "follow the money". Thiel's drop-out scholarships are offered by his non-profit foundation.
There is no relation between the discord between the self interest of a VC and a startup employee on the one hand, and the possibility that Thiel is giving bad advice to people who he has no financial interest in.
I helped vet applications for 20 Under 20 and I'm serving as a mentor for the program, and based on my observations there's nothing cynical about it. As currently structured, the program isn't scalable, but they're just getting started. Let's see what they can do given a few years to get the ball rolling.
Sorry, I don't understand the link to 20 under 20. My understanding is that it is purely philanthropic. And I'm not sure I've ever heard of Thiel advocating what Arrington is advocating.
And honestly, is a university education not being worth it such an evil idea? Many of the best and brightest are autodidacts. From Ben Franklin to Thomas Edison to Bill Gates. Is it so horrible for Thiel to subsidize self-teachers?
In fact, my guess is that some people actually learn better on their own or outside of a university environment. Thiel is providing an innovative alternative to elite universities. He's very experimental in his philanthropy, so let's just see where this goes before giving him "flack."
I haven't heard his whole pitch, but the summary version I've heard doesn't seem crazy to me.
There are some fields where what really matters is talent and practical experience, not book learning. A lot of the best techies I know either have no degree or have it in something unrelated. The same is true of entrepreneurs and musicians, and probably other fields.
Consider also the absurdly rising cost of education:
"Median household income has grown by a factor of 6.5 in the past 40 years, but the cost of attending a state college has increased by a factor of 15 for in-state students and 24 for out-of-state students. The cost of attending a private college has increased by a factor of more than 13." -- http://www.economist.com/node/16960438
It's simple economics that if the cost of a good keeps increasing, it eventually won't be worth it for some purposes. It's not crazy to ask whether for certain people it's really worth it now. If your aim is entrepreneurship, you might be better off spending $150k and 4 years on starting businesses and learning on your own rather than giving that to Harvard.
Except those numbers simply are not true. Sticker price is nowhere close to actual price for college. No one leaves Harvard (or any Ivy League college) with $150K in debt. Either their families can easily afford to pay the price, or Harvard picks up almost all of the tab.
Also, um, not everyone is due to be an entrepreneur. Outside of the Twitter Bootstrap startup world, the entrepreneurs need well-educated professionals to do the work, and will pay for talent.
Mike (disclaimer: I know him) has done more startups than PG, and he did pretty much sleep under his desk for the first couple of years of Techcrunch (well, his desk was in his bedroom, and the Techcrunch "office" was the rest of his house) and has worked equally hard in the other startups he's done while I've known him. Including as a regular employee (that's how I met him - he worked at a startup I co-founded years ago).
So he's not a programmer. There are non-programmers that also work hard, you know.
One of us what? Hes just some dude that manged to strike it big and is now a VC.
The most common linking factor I can see between the HN poster and PG is entrepreneurial- and tech-focus. Whats so "one of us" about that? Nothing. Or is it the "hacker" group, that weird banner created when pg massaged a term with a loose meaning and appealing connotation into the something divorced from its original meaning that people now want to identify as?
We're on this website playing in his playground, one built to serve the needs of YC with advertizing, finding talent, and indoctrination. That's it; everything else is ancillary.