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The Choices Are Fake and the Truth Is All Made Up (danshipper.com)
66 points by dshipper 1757 days ago | hide | past | web | 31 comments | favorite

Hey Dan, at risk of being targeted in your next post, I'm going to give you some advice about private sector success:

Make things that people want to buy.

Really, that's about it. In the private sector you will either be doing this or working for someone that does it. And when it comes to innovation, it's wierd when you think about it: humans have lived thousands of years without [whatever it is you invented]. So why would they want it? The thing is humans are curious creatures, always interested in new things, so it's always possible to get them to try new things. (It's not always about innovation though, sometimes it's about being more efficient and winning on price.)

(Also contained within this directive is the (sad) fact that you can spend quite a lot of time focused on the 'want' side, manipulating people into wanting to buy something.)

The innovation route is a daunting task. There is already so much good stuff out there, created by people no less intelligent or diligent than yourself. But that innate human restless, curious quality will always favor the underdog, so why not make new things that people want?

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it! Good luck, Dan!

Thanks for your comment. Not 100% sure how it related to the post but I agree. It reminds of a Dalio quote from Principles"

"Self-interest and society’s interests are generally symbiotic: more than anything else, it is pursuit of selfinterest that motivates people to push themselves to do the difficult things that benefit them and that contribute to society. In return, society rewards those who give it what it wants. That is why how much money people have earned is a rough measure of how much they gave society what it wanted—NOT how much they desired to make money"

Innovation for its own sake is dumb. Don't build a house with 8 doors instead of 8 windows just because you can.

>Not 100% sure how it related to the post

It's related only in the sense that your post implied that you're filtering out the advice you've been given. And I wanted to add this in because I think its the most important thing, and easy to lose sight of.

One more thing, before I forget: another useful thing to do is to contrast "make things that people want to buy" with some common alternatives: "make cool things" or "make something the way it should be made" or even "think about how to make things". These are all easy traps to fall into.

In many ways, I feel like "make things people want to buy" is the economic equivalent of the Buddhist prescription to end suffering, "Eradicate craving and aversion." Simple enough sounding, but it has far-reaching repercussions and quite a lot of fruit for thought.

I'll look up Dalio - although strictly speaking he is wrong. There are plenty of ways to make money without making what people want. For example, any kind of passive income. You would have to stretch the definition of "thing" beyond breaking to let it describe "capital". Passive income is at best a kind of 'second-order' "making things" fraught with every kind of moral hazard.

I always like to keep in mind that while Zuck may have been in college when he came up with Facebook, Bardeen and Brattain were 39 and 45 when they invented the transistor (respectively), Tim Breners-Lee was 35 when he invented the World Wide Web, Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce were both around 40 when they founded Intel, etc, etc.

Did not know that about Tim Berners-Lee. Thanks for commenting!

That's the fallacy of the startups at work: just because advances in technology allowed 20-somethings to invent/build something with world-changing effects, it doesn't mean that the older people stopped inventing.

One thing you should avoid is advice from people who have an interest in exploiting your ability. I wasted time listening to them. Especially avoid advice from your elders. Now that I am joining their ranks, I have to say that I am profoundly unimpressed, and I certainly would not allow myself to be influenced by the overwhelming majority of them. If you are going to act on advice from someone, wait until after they are dead. There is plenty of advice from the disinterested dead to choose from.

This is amazing advice, but you clearly aren't dead yet.

You should wait until after I am dead to follow it, of course. If I were to write a commencement speech, it would begin that way.

I initially read that as "If I were to give a commencement speech..", which would probably make said speech quite a newsworthy event, despite being a very short speech.

How do you tell the difference between people who want to exploit your ability and the people who generally want to help you? There are definitely points where their incentives are aligned and their advice would overlap.

Their incentives cannot be completely aligned by definition. One views you instrumentally, the other doesn't. But it can be difficult to tell because, as you point out, there can be some alignment and even some truth in the advice of persons who want to exploit your ability. This is why I suggest erring toward taking advice from the dead. This has the virtue of being the most disinterested advice. It takes experience to follow advice from the living. Most of this is noise. Look for alignment with the advice of the dead, especially if this has withstood the test of time. You should note that my attempt to defend my advice from criticism is already validating my thesis, which is that you should not take my advice until after I am dead, and that goes double for my contemporaries.

But by definition when the dead gave their advice they were alive. Just because they're dead doesn't mean that their advice doesn't serve a purpose for them or for people like them. Wouldn't you run into the same issue? You never have a total vacuum.

See the above on the test of time.

Isn't it possible though that things that stand the test of time only do so because they're convenient for living people who use them to advance their own ends?

See The Bible, or frankly any other religious/political text.

P.S Not to take away the fact that those texts are legitimately interesting and valuable in their own rights. But they are by dead people propagated as instruments by the living.

How do you know there is any conflict if they are advancing their own ends within their own group? I'm not religious--I don't believe in general ethical principles either. I'm a particularist. If I were a consistent particularist, I wouldn't advance the general principle not to listen to advice from anyone who has an interest in giving it. I would suggest asking if they were disinterested or not, and to what extent. It's my observation that most of the advice one receives isn't disinterested--but I could be mistaken. For that reason, I have a preference for the advice of the dead, but certainly not all advice they have to give, and mostly for the moral lessons of art and literature--not necessarily explicit guides to conduct.

As a particularist, I would avoid following general principles of conduct in every case, since these do not work in the generality they claim. While I might prefer to use art, literature and religion as a guide to some aspects of conduct in particular cases, I would avoid following to the letter any express or implied general principles of conduct they might contain. With respect to your article, as far as religious texts go, there is Ecclesiastes 9:11.

I like the thrown in caveat, "withstood the test of time." Could not interested constituencies be party to the filter that shores up one historical voice or opinion over another?

Yes, they could. It's not a general principle, but a preference. The empirical failure of universally applicable general principles of conduct is the reason I became a moral particularist.

Couldn't get this alternate title out of my head as I read the article:

"Welcome to Startups, where the truth is made up and the choices don't matter"

Probably better :)

[T]he total agony of loving two things can help you be better at both. The choice between one or the other is fake.

This is brilliant, and I think that combining strengths in this way is going to be the key to success in the new economy. There can't be very many people in the world who are the best at doing X when there are only O(N) possible X's, but when you go for being one of the best at combining X and Y, now you have O(N^2) choices.

An interesting take on things Dan, however I think the tendency for writers and VCs to focus on youngsters is their desire to find enormously outsized returns; specifically, those in the league of Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Google and Amazon.

Take, for example, this list of companies worth more than 1 Billion dollars:


You will immediately notice that most of the companies valued over $1Bn are valued at or around the $1Bn dollar mark. Contrast this with companies like Facebook and Google which are tens or hundreds of times larger than this.

The key is - the companies that have such a huge risk involved that they can only be tackled by young founders are the ones most likely to produce an outsized return. While most investors won't complain about a $1Bn exit, they would froth at the mouth at the thought of a $100Bn one.

That said, most entrepreneurs would be satisfied with a $10M exit, let alone a $1Bn one. With this in mind, no age can truly be considered 'over the hill'.

Well if you are in your 20s and don't have a lot of experience, you might want to hire some consultants with experience to guide you. If you have venture capitalists you want to listen to their advice as well. Don't make an excuse that you are young and don't have experience and the opportunity cost is it eats up your younger days. You can't be a Lone Ranger, you need to be developing a team, a diverse team of people with different backgrounds and different skill sets. Don't limit yourself to just people in their 20s by the way.

I spent my 20s and 30s writing software for companies, inventing new things, and having managers taking credit for everything I did. I expected pay raises and promotions, but those went to the people in the managers' social kliqs who had people skills (bullsh*tting, backstabbing, drinking at happy hour with the rest, gossiping, schmozing around the office instead of working, watering office plants, making coffee, etc.) instead of technical skills (developing code, coming up with new ideas for inventions and software, writing documentation, debugging, knowing how a computer works, knowing how to do research analysis and design, quality control, keeping up with trends via Hacker News and other sites) and my problem was that I was too good at the technical skills and I had to go. So I was 'used' to get to 'goals' and once those goals were reached I'd be fired and then find work at another company where it started all over again. Until the stress of it all made me too sick to work and I ended up on disability. (Programmers are a dime a dozen these days, we get 500 resumes a week for your position and we can hire a programmer for a fraction of your salary that won't get sick on the job!)

I guess I should have developed some 'people skills'?

Anyway now that I am in my 40's even if I was well enough to work, nobody would hire me, I'm too old. I have dual degrees in computer science and business management, but it just don't matter anymore.

The second myth, yes you need to focus on more than the business. My mistake was not focusing on my emotional, physical, and mental health and I got really sick doing my "balls to the wall" software development and focusing 100% of my energy into my job. Always keep a backup career as well in case software development or whatever doesn't work out. Find something you love to do and turn it into a hobby, that you might be able to turn into a business. Or else if you don't love it you might hate it and it makes you sick anyway.

Glad to see you haven't bought into the hype and bullshit from the media over young whiz kids eating sleeping and breathing code around the clock in order to become successful. Kudos.

Thanks! Although to be honest I have been guilty of that. It's just a matter of finding balance as cliche as that sounds.

As a college junior myself, I am tired of the perpetuation of the unrealistic (and false) idea that if you don't start a company right out of school, you're doomed to failure. Thank you, Dan, for being the voice of reason.

Choose something, immerse yourself in it, and course correct as you go. The dichotomies are false, but you do have to choose something.

> But the problem with being in your early twenties is that in general you have very little idea of what the fuck is going on. Trust me, I’m 21.

funny, but it really made me stop reading any further... in these information overdose ADHD-ed times you shouldn't joke with things that can make readers subconsciously mark what you're writing as "not informative enough" and instantly switch to another thread :)

Success is mostly luck.

I like this post even if for no other reason it doesn't imply that I'm living life wrong if I don't want a family and kids.

I love when people apply what I have to say to situations to things I've never thought about. Good luck out there :)

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