Here’s an interesting post. Interesting to me anyway…but hopefully it can be interesting to you too.
Being a sort of misplaced artist who did okay in business, and having worked for more startups than most people can name has been a pretty educational. It’s been a bumpy ride. With no map. And the compass is broke. And the mule keeps wandering off. So, for years, I’ve been keeping this little black book of lessons I don’t want to forget/relearn. It’s sort of a bible I go back to when I face a dilemma, or when I need some hindsight notes from a situation that is similar to my current predicament. Why do I always find myself in predicaments?
Anyway, being that I am a misplaced artist, it’s not exactly a textbook. It is super disorganized and it is FOREVER expanding. So think of this as a running journal that you can bookmark and reference to learn from some of my (and my associates’) previous mistakes, hot takes, head fakes, bad breaks, blown stakes…
It’s the lotus with 100 petals y’all! And more to come.
The Startup Tao
I don’t believe in fate so much as I believe in confidence: the certainty that one “CAN”. Making something happen in your head is far more difficult than making something happen in the world.
Our problems inspire us. That doesn’t mean we have to make more of them.
I like sports. Organized sports are the only human activities in which the most ruthless participant doesn’t ALWAYS win.
Never forget, unless you have a legitimate higher purpose, when all is said and done, your life’s work will have been entirely in the pursuit of virtual credits.
It’s hard for humans to experiment in brutality without at least dabbling in ruthlessness.
Attempts to (among other things) quantify time and evaluate matter have made the human mind very easy to enslave. Trade your time for money, but don’t tie your identity to that exchange.
Even if you’ve landed on a goldmine, you still have to figure out how to finance a shovel without trading against all the gold.
Control people’s bodies and you imprison them for life. Control people’s minds and you imprison them for generations. This is the dark side not only of the system, but also of the market.
It’s easier to catch someone who has fallen from a height of 3 feet than someone who has fallen from a height of 12 feet. And you’re less likely to die catching them. So, as a leader, try to intervene early.
We are the only mammals that stop playing as adults. Maybe that’s why so many of us are so miserable.
You can lose without failing. And you can fail without losing. You should learn the difference between the two and try not to execute both in unison.
Maybe it’s neither better to be feared or to be loved, but a dictator is loved and later feared, where a prophet is feared and later loved.
The only products that will matter long term are the ones that become compulsory.
If you want to create something new, think of a new way to do something and then create the tool that is necessary to do it.
If you have to ask whether or not people will do a thing, the answer is no. “Will people buy this?” “No.”
There is no such thing as too much information. It may be that the ability to decipher, process and use limitless, diverse, (and seemingly contradictory or meaningless) information is the next awkward step in human evolution.
Every time you are generous with your resources, you make a deposit on a priceless reputation.
In decision making, consider that we (or some near future generation) may be the first to face the prospect of living forever. We’re definitely going to be working until we die. You’re gonna need a long lens.
The rich are sick of feeding the poor. The poor are sick of feeding the rich.
There are two types of ambition: the type that wants to move up and the type that wants to move forward.
You can’t look up and see forward, but you can look forward and see up. This is nature’s way of saying, aim high, but not so high that you trip.
A curse is nothing more than a thought pattern, behavior pattern or belief that perpetuates indefinitely…sometimes for generations. A curse is a difficult thing to break, but it is possible.
You won’t always be right, but you can always be reasonable.
A moving field makes any game more interesting. A moving field requires a lot more surveying. Assume the field is always moving.
During the renaissance, the mind was limited only by the hand. Now the hand is limited only by the mind.
Most people only live once, some not at all. Your time is short and incredibly valuable.
Imagine how much granite you can buy for the price of one diamond.
Changing minds is one thing. But changing brains…that’s far more impressive. Try to change how people think rather than what people think.
People who have lost their luster inevitably feel the need to buy it back. Try not to lose your shine along the way, you’ll miss it.
Impress people with your hard work and loyalty, then shock them with your intelligence once they like you. Intelligence can be very threatening if people don’t like you.
You can’t lay a foundation while you excavate. You can’t frame without a foundation. And you can’t tell people there’s already a roof if they look up and get rained on. Try to do things in order.
An alchemist has no need to strike gold.
A small boat is always rocking, but if everyone leans together, everyone lives.
You know you have to spend money to make money. What you don’t know is that you’re probably going to have to spend way more than you assume. Be wise.
There are people in your life who will never become strangers, and there are people who always should have been. Don’t fall for the okey doke.
Don’t get so busy faking it that you never learn to make it.
Aim high, but plan for a long trajectory. Everything is going to change between now and your destination.
Never force a screw, always force a nail.
A nail can stab you or build for you. A thorn can only stab you. Employ the nail.
People won’t listen to you if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Also, people won’t listen to you if they don’t know what you’re talking about.
You can sell people anything and call it art. You can sell people anything and call it justice. The only way to change this would be to stop selling things like art and justice.
History lies in the hands of unborn historians. Don’t worry too much about contemporary opinions.
One of the big problems we have in America is the fact that the poor have been priced out of common comforts, particularly comforts that are culturally their own. So you can play ball, but you can’t attend a ball game. You can work on a boat but you can’t go boating. You can prepare your favorite food, but you can’t eat it. One reason we’re all so angry about things like gentrification and appropriation is because there is no wine for the workers. There’s an opportunity for overhaul in there somewhere.
They’ll burn you for being an outsider. And then they’ll burn you for being an insider.
Why, in America, do we automatically assume that most of our countrymen automatically hate us? I would propose it’s the product of some combination of bigotry and late-capitalism, and it will certainly be our end.
You’re going to be terrible at what you do. But if you keep doing it, one of the following will happen:
- You’ll remain terrible, but over time will convince everyone that you’re not.
- You’ll convince one person of your potential and they’ll help you get good.
- You’ll get really, really good through repetition.
- You will fail so many times for so long that you will come to understand everything and can teach others to be successful.
The thing you fear has infinite faces in the dark. Shine some data on it and find out what you’re really dealing with.
If the world took away all of the high tech tools we’ve built to help people make art, there would be very few artists left. Which is to say, you have to be better than the sum of your tools…just in case the world takes them away.
There is a difference between being intelligent and being opinionated. As adults, we often lose the ability to differentiate between the two.
It’s rarely about finding a perfect course of action. It’s usually about choosing one of the several advisable courses and seeing it through to its outcome.
Don’t waste your life chasing the ghosts of people you invented.
Nobody wants regrets, but sometimes we aggressively pursue them. We’re a self destructive species.
Making magic is hard. But keeping magic is damn near impossible. And once you get so good at making magic that it becomes routine…well…it’s just a magic routine. This might be nature’s cruelest joke.
One reason the rich in America rarely collaborate (or marry or socialize)out of class is because they don’t want to dilute their shares of the world by bringing in a new grantee. Of course, the problem with this is that it creates a culture of intellectual inbreeding. We need fresh blood to combat stale ideas.
Most people see things as they currently are and then form opinions based on what they are told about those things. Convincing them that your pile of odd puzzle pieces is a masterpiece will require you to assemble the puzzle, show it to them and then explain why it’s good. Don’t expect people to see your vision.
You build happiness by finding uses for the materials life dumps on you. You maintain happiness with equanimity, flexibility and further ingenuity.
The best companions are like magnifying glasses that intensify and focus your brighter aspects.
Being born with a distinct talent and/or understood purpose is even more rare than being born super wealthy…and entails many of the same responsibilities.
They won’t all be hits, but they can all be good.
If you have to say: “I miss you” every time you speak with someone you love, you’re doing the whole thing wrong. Make time for your people.
A new partnership is like a new suit. You should try to get yourself in shape before you have it tailored.
Most of our social issues stem from the fact that Americans view each other not as comrades or countrymen but as opportunities and competitors. We have few common goals and no common history…at least none that we’ll ever agree upon. And although most Americans came here to take advantage of certain opportunities, each generation of immigrants will, invariably, hate the next generation of immigrants…for being immigrants. Maybe the greatest American innovation of our generation will be the establishment of commonality. Not likely. But maybe.
If we all become humble enough to question ourselves, then science and religion will be able to converge. Until then, we will never agree on the definition of progress.
Every day we are witness to our own evolution. So what may not have been possible yesterday may be possible today.
Consider that we may have been together since before the big bang. We may have emerged together, formed the same star, survived the same supernova and travelled across the universe to be people here on Earth at the same time. Something binds us all. Even the assholes.
You can learn a lot from the actions you regret, but the regret of inaction is hollow.
Conscious evolution isn’t necessarily about being the strongest or the fastest, it’s about finding new ways to do things in opportune environments.
Selling isn’t about talking. Selling is about listening.
Good people do the work when it is hard, uncomfortable and inconvenient. Testing people under ideal conditions is pointless, because you never know who they are until you know who they are in the shit.
You can’t force other people to accept help, but you should always force yourself to do so.
Just a pinch of pride will do.
Leave room to add features so you never have to subtract a necessity.
There is no water crisis. No financial crisis. No housing crisis. No energy crisis. No resource crisis at all. There is only a hoarding crisis.
Ideas are not plans. Plans are not strategy. And strategy is not execution.
Art is art and commerce is commerce. If the market dictates your art, it is commerce.
They say too many chefs spoil the broth, but if you have too many executive chefs, there will be no broth to spoil.
77. Soft Skills
Work on your soft skills, but realize that all soft skill workers are inherently dispensable.
A rule as simple as “don’t get high off your own supply”…Be generous with your knowledge, but never show all your cards.
Learn the difference between opinions and best practices. Opinions are like assholes.
When you choose a role, ask yourself: “Can I do this consistently for 20,000 hours?” You will need 10,000 hours to get good and 10,000 more to profit from getting good.
In order for an oligarchy to function, these things need to be maintained: the population must be kept poor, sick, ignorant and, most of all, aspirational. The edge to this sword is that a country with 30,000 rich people and 370,000,000 poor, sick, ignorant, aspirational people does not have the necessary volume of talent to compete with other countries. Don’t run your business like an oligarchy.
Prove, then scale, then prove, then scale, then prove, then scale.
“If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense.” But also, if it don’t make sense, it don’t make dollars. Make sure you regularly step away from the fire, re-assess, and solicit fresh views to make sure your obsessive projects still make sense.