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Um. Last year, I re-read Gibbon's Decline and Fall, and my favorite chapter (written in such a funny way!) is his detailing how his wife was having sex with everyone under the sun, and everyone in Rome knew it. Except for Marcus Aurelius himself; he lived in such a bubble, he couldn't see the reality in front of his nose. He was so unable to teach his son, Commodus, that when his son became emperor... well, Commodus turned out to be one of the most cruel and evil emperors in the history of Rome.

This made me question the "wisdom" of his Meditations (which, as a kid, I loved reading and whose advice I used to love): knowing this is how he lived and ruled and raised children, and those were the consequences... are we sure it's good advice? I'm not anymore.

Text here: http://sacred-texts.com/cla/gibbon/01/daf01013.htm


Marcus also broke with tradition on the succession. Previously, emperors would look for someone who seemed to fit their idea of a good heir, and then adopt. Marcus broke that tradition and simply passed the throne on to his biological son, with disastrous consequences.


Not really tradition, the previous few generations of emperors simply didn't have any sons so they didn't have a choice.


So here's what "they" don't tell you: building a successful startup -- even by moderate definitions of "successful," such as, "reaching a point that lets you only work 4 hours/week" -- is what economists call a "superstar economy." Kinda like being a musician or a basketball player: 99.99% of the starving artists or guys in the neighborhood playing hoops make $0.00 from it, but one-in-a-million make a killing. There's a small "middle class" in the ecosystem (people who don't strike the goldmind but do just fine) but, for all practical purposes, it's really, really tiny, too.

So, therefore: building your own app and putting it into the app store is helluva lot like trying to make your garage band a big hit. You must remember these three things to start your own band (or your own startup):

1.) Expect your band will never make a dollar. (Similarly, expect the startup to never make a dollar.)

2.) You must love creating music and feel such a deep calling to create that music, that you will obsessively create that music with the band, even remember #1, that your band will never make a dollar. (Yup, you must be so obsessed with your company's mission and vision that you'll do it even expecting it to fail.)

3.) You must be emotionally ready to play the lottery. If you're not emotionally ready for the lottery, stay home.

4.) Similarly, you must instinctively feel like you are blessed by Fortuna, because luck needs to be on your side not just tonight but for the whole journey.

5.) It's a f---load of hardwork to get people to notice what you do, and to get them excited about it. Are you prepared for that overwhelming, intense, nonstop amount of hardwork?

6.) You know what's even harder about the hard work? There's no one to tell you what to do. You don't even know if what you're doing is the right thing or not. There is a way to change what you're doing and create something that will get people peeing in their pants with excitement. But you need to figure it out. No one will tell you, ever. In other words, more painful then 24 hours/day of work is 24 hours/day of work and not even knowing if you're doing the right work....

7.) Unless you happen to have a very strong mentor or model, it makes the incredible amount of hard work still even harder. Jimmy Page was the highest paid studio musician in England before he went to start his own band. He had a series of great mentors to teach him the path. A good mentor will teach you what to listen to and what to ignore. You probably want to ignore this rambling post here.

Okay, 3 minute break over, back to work.... :)



Modern parallel:

My business partner and I have a weekly brainstorm on Tuesday night (not quite by campfire) that's focused on us coming up with wacky and crazy creative ideas. We often do it over wine, we let our imaginations run wild, we try to come up with extreme concoctions that might just be able to work, and we have a space to be creative and no idea is bad during that time. Surprisingly, we've found that this really helps our creativity for the other 99.9% of the work-week: sometimes, our crazy ideas come back to us (in more reasonable forms, less extreme) that we then implement and make happen!

In other words: we realized, too much of our day-to-day work is concerned with tactical issues, so we've created a space around a virtual fire to unleash our creativity, which then helps us in the day-to-day.

Maybe this work due to evolutionary forces on humans since these paleolithic days!


It would be interesting if we answered the question, along with another: why/how? (Is that two other questions?). Knowing why and how, say, Roger L'Estrange's 1715 Aesop's Fables influenced you so would be much more interesting than just knowing that, it did influence you.

Me? Jane Jacobs' Death and Life of Great American Cities. I read it when I was 21 (1998) and it changed how I walk down the street, every single day of my life since. Why this street is full of life, and that street is empty, for example. But not only that: she basically argues that central planning is disastrous for cities, and that cities should think on the street and human levels, from the ground up, and then iterate from there (rather than top-down). These ideas applied to other areas of life -- like software development, for example -- have been very powerful for me. I'd argue that Jacobs' thought is a precursor to the whole XP/agile software movement, for example. Both start with the same premise, the spec is dead (in software language). All this is probably obvious to y'all, but wasn't to me at 21 ;)


Yikes. Somehow, an emoticon like ":(" doesn't capture the pain I feel for you.

I've been through a similar break-up at a low point as well, so I understand the pain.

Someone in this thread suggested going physically far away. There's a great aphorism in Latin America which, translated into English, roughly means, "no one's a prophet in his hometown." Going far away gives you a bizarre super-confidence and super-powers, since what was simple and obvious in your own world that you're comfortable in, suddenly becomes insightful and smart. So I second the suggestion someone in this thread made, of going far away! (Hello from South America;).

More abstractly (the following point isn't about you anymore; this just got me thinking), questions like this make me think: I sometimes feel that people don't talk enough about the risks of the startup world. They all sound so theoretical: oh, you could potentially lose money or friends... but no, that won't happen to me! The reality is... it's a "superstar economy," no different than being a soccer player or a rock star. Mark Zuckerberg as John Lennon (maybe Dustin Moskovitz as Paul McCartney? Ha! Maybe Eduardo Saverin as the famous "fifth Beatle" who left before they took of hahahaha!!!!!). We all instinctively understand that, okay, if my friends and I start a band in our garage, there's a 0.000000001% chance we'll end up successful - okay, so eventually you grow up and get a real job, and stop the band once we go to college. But yet, it's so curious to me that, when we want to start our own company in that very same garage, for some reason we think that we are much more likely to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, that the chance is more like 1% than 0.000000001%. We think we're not like the annoying cool kids in high school, but actually, within our own circles, we see the same patterns emerging: everyone, it seems, wants to be a superstar. Oh human nature!!!

My unsolicited -- and probably wrong so ignore away, I don't know the actual stats etc! -- instinct is the following, and I apply this to myself (and this works only for myself so it might not work for you, everyone's different): when I'm evaluating whether to jump into a project, when I'm evaluating whether to completely run with it and see if I can be the next John Lennon or Mark Zuckberg then, I would treat it no different than buying a lottery ticket or casino game that would be partially a game of skill but mostly a game of chance. If I feel like I'm in a position where I think I can afford to lose a lot of time, friends, and money (since I'll likely lose all three!) -- then I would go for it. But if I'm not in a position where I think I can afford to lose a lot of time, money, and friends, then I just wouldn't go for it. Or I do it as a background project on nights and weekends and see what happens :) So it's about your own evaluation of your own situation more than anything else.

Again, just because this sort of analysis works for me, doesn't mean it would work for you: everyone of us has different levels of risk tolerance, financial situations, family situations, etc. Even issues as basic as age: it's easier to be 21 and lose everything than to be 51 and lose everything, etc. They used to say Rome of antiquity, naturam expellas furca tamen usque recurret -- you can push nature away with a pitchfork, but it'll always come back!

Okay now time to listen to Janis Joplin's Me & Bobby McGee. Freedom's just another word, for, 'nothing left to lose'...



As a tech (and literary) nerd type with a little baby, I've been inspired to create two little fun community sites on the side:

http://parentsintech.com - Interviewing other, well, parents in tech! There are a lot of us, but very little online to discuss best practices and tips for getting the best of both worlds, start-up and parenthood.

http://quantifiedbabies.com - The latest news and profiling companies who are building up the "quantified baby" space. Basically quantified self nerds like me who want to do the same to those who can't yet quantify themselves, their young kids.

If you'd like to be interviewed/profiled on either site, drop me a line, morgan at parentsintech followed by a dot then a com hmmm I wonder if the spam filters can figure that one out hehe. Any other parents in tech out there? I'd love to meet you! We need to stick together ;)

Okay time to change someone's diaper!!! -morgan


(You know, Polonius was meant as a figure of mockery, so I'm not sure it makes sense to go around quoting his ironic sayings....!)


Think up, and think down, the tree: you thank your parents for being awesome by, being awesome parents to your own children. (Think of the last line of Shakespeare's Sonnet 13: "You had a father; let your son say so.")

I interviewed my parents, grandparents, and relatives to write a family history for my children. (And my wife's, too.) It was one of the most powerful things I've done, and this process brought our entire family closer together -- and it wasn't easy, there are many tough, painful moments in my parents' and grandparents' lives, including still unresolved fights.

I'd strongly urge any fellow hackers to record their parents' stories for posterity.


Remember, in the third ("developing" they now say!) world, more often than not, factors like who you know, who just likes you, who you bribe, how you get through the bureaucracy -- are much more important than what the law theoretically says. I'm being euphemistic: a difference between developed and undeveloped countries can be seen in how much the letter or the spirit of the law actually matters.

Take Argentina, a case I know far too well. As INC magazine pointed out, the tax rate on businesses goes up to 108% of your profit. (< http://www.inc.com/magazine/201106/doing-business-in-argenti... >). How's that possible? Here's how: the government purposely passes endless contradictory laws thus ensuring you are always breaking the law, just to survive. (A business can't pay 108% of its money in taxes and still survive!). Therefore, you live in a state of somehow doing something illegal. The result? If the government doesn't like you, they find the illegal thing you're doing (that you have to do, just to survive, since the laws are contradictory and unreasonable, like that 108%), and then punish you for "breaking" the law.

Welcome to the jungle, we've got fun and games ;)

Conclusion: If you step into the third/developing world, the key isn't what the law actually says -- but _how sh*t gets done in practice_.


Wow, the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon at work! I just re-read Ecclesiastes 5 minutes before reading your post -- and in the opening lines it says (KJV translation), "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever." In my previous readings, I had never thought about the phrase "the earth abides" but in this morning's reading I did, and now I just saw it used here in the book title! :)

(PS: yeah, I know this isn't a super on-target tech web 2.0 scalable infrastructure comment like most on HN -- I'm just always in awe of baader-meinhof at work!) :)



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