Lessons from my first decade

Last November marked 10 years since I deferred my studies at UW to work on Mappedin full time.

I have been reflecting on the things I’ve learned and am writing them down here so I can look back in another ten years to see which ones I got right.

  1. Aside from religion, responsibility is a good cure for nihilism.
  2. Parents often give bad career advice. They are blinded by protective instincts to recall the risks they took early in their own careers. [1]
  3. In politics and the current culture-war, it’s hard to discern someone’s principles from tactics. The loudest voices on all sides mostly just want power. If that doesn’t sound fun, compete in arenas still ruled by competence (eg. sports, startups).
  4. Corollary: no politics at work. Support colleagues who participate in our society’s democratic processes outside of work.
  5. High-potential, high-experience people aren’t going to join your early-stage startup. You are not at a scale where they can maximize their impact and earnings. That leaves high-potential, low-experience people and low-potential, high-experience people. Hire the former.
  6. Personal prestige often correlates to ability in the source domain but rarely in others. Someone who is notably great at A isn’t necessarily better at B; their ego may make them worse. [2]
  7. Product and customers. Everything else is a distraction, especially early on. Founders should be generalists. Engineers should sell, salespeople should grok technical concepts. This cements alignment, respect, and empathy as the team later specializes.
  8. Depression is living in the past. Anxiety is living in the future. Peace is living in the present. [3]

[1] I wonder if I will be able to do better, here.
[2] This applies only at the tail-end of high performance. We all know people who are “quick learners” and just generally competent at day-to-day stuff
[3] I’m pretty sure this one will stick. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laozi


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