What You'll Wish You'd Known

Link: https://www.paulgraham.com/hs.html

On talent: There is such a thing as natural talent; some people are better in specific areas compared to most other people. However, society tends to overvalue this talent because it's an excuse for being lazy:

If they were just like us, then they had to work very hard to do what they did. And that's one reason we like to believe in genius. It gives us an excuse for being lazy. If these guys were able to do what they did only because of some magic Shakespeareness or Einsteinness, then it's not our fault if we can't do something as good.

[...] if you're trying to choose between two theories and one gives you an excuse for being lazy, the other one is probably right.

So you can get good in most things by putting in hard work.

On what to work on: Things that interest you and open opportunities. Try not to waste your time.

It's not so important what you work on, so long as you're not wasting your time. Work on things that interest you and increase your options, and worry later about which you'll take.

The best protection is always to be working on hard problems. [...] Hard means worry: if you're not worrying that something you're making will come out badly, or that you won't be able to understand something you're studying, then it isn't hard enough.

Curiosity seems to change from children to adults, from broad to narrow and specific:

But in ambitious adults, instead of drying up, curiosity becomes narrow and deep. The mud flat morphs into a well.

On discipline

One of the most dangerous illusions you get from school is the idea that doing great things requires a lot of discipline.

Now I know a number of people who do great work, and it's the same with all of them. They have little discipline. They're all terrible procrastinators and find it almost impossible to make themselves do anything they're not interested in.

Thats actually relieving to hear. I'm not very disciplined but get my work done. Always felt wrong to me.

It's the same with people who do great things. They know they'll feel bad if they don't work, and they have enough discipline to get themselves to their desks to start working. But once they get started, interest takes over, and discipline is no longer necessary.

Noticed this in the last few years. I don't have to motivate myself to work, I need to do it or I feel bad.

You need to frame the world in a way it's interesting to you.

[...] find a question that makes the world interesting. People who do great things look at the same world everyone else does, but notice some odd detail that's compellingly mysterious.

The way to get a big idea to appear in your head is not to hunt for big ideas, but to put in a lot of time on work that interests you, and in the process keep your mind open enough that a big idea can take roost.

The important thing is to get out there and do stuff. Instead of waiting to be taught, go out and learn.

Somewhat random quote. but matching my situation:

If you think it's restrictive being a kid, imagine having kids.

It's both restrictive and a tool for focus. Read the article and wrote this up with one hand with my newborn in my arm. She's sleeping now but could wake up soon, so I better focus.

26th Dec, 2023
© 2024 Chris Jarling