Before Tom Wolfe wrote his masterworks, he was an ordinary writer who got plagued with writer’s block now and then. On an Esquire magazine assignment on California’s custom cars, he was convinced—and later admitted to his editor—that he wouldn’t be able to get the story done by himself. Byron Dobell, his editor, who desperately needed something, asked him to just write up his notes in a letter to him. Wolfe just did that.
A few days back, Bitcoin crossed the $15,000 mark. In just two months it has more than tripled its price, proving that sceptics were naive all the way long. There has also been a decided shift in the perception of Bitcoin: from a revolutionising currency to a store of value. People might still be optimistic about its practical utility, but it’s difficult to treat a currency with such wild movements as…well…a currency.
Microsoft’s meteoric rise can be traced back to a meeting where Bill Gates sold a vapourware operating system to IBM. If that hadn’t happened, Microsoft could’ve likely been a small company selling programming languages. Bill Gates admits that he was lucky and insists that dropping out of college education isn’t a smart idea. In another universe, Bill Gates could’ve been a CEO of a medium-size company—talented, smart but not a hugely successful one.
Each year, I manage to finish around 17-20 books; not a lot by any measure, but it’s enough to stumble upon a few fascinating gems that give a refreshing perspective about something. This year, the book that did it was “The Grid” by Gretchen Bakke and that “something” happened to be the Electric Grid. It is a subject that can mistakenly assumed to be awfully mundane, but as you learn more, you begin the appreciate the complexity of making sure that the AC works when you switch it on.
A week ago, when I was commuting back to home, I had a brilliant idea for an essay. I thought of an introductory narration and as I can recall, it sounded good. I didn’t write anything that day but attempted to in the next. Unsurprisingly, the clarity had vanished. I couldn’t even finish a few lines—and even they weren’t delightful to read.
Why was something that was effortless a day before became a laborious struggle?
It wasn’t obvious why that happened. I attributed it to the unaccounted difficulty in ideating vs. trying to do it. But, a few days back I found the actual reason. I was blocked because I was overanalyzing everything. Here’s how I wrote:
I would write a sentence, rethink it, and write it in another way. Then, I would read it aloud to make sure it sounds good; if unsatisfied, I would repeat the whole process. I would, then, reiterate it for the paragraph. When the rewording, rethinking, and reading got exhausting, I would give up because a simple paragraph took ten minutes to construct.
Young people, indirectly or otherwise, are sold on the idea of “following your passion”; that you can’t go wrong pursuing your interests. A person should become a musician if he likes practising music; a writer, if he likes writing.
It might be an India-specific thing but high school graduates are prone to think that modern society wrecked their only chance of pursuing their dream when they weren’t allowed to take a college course in that direction, in their “field of interest”. Safe careers are believed to be the antithesis of a purposeful life that their “passion” could’ve given them. I believe the popularity of the sentiment was heightened when “3 Idiots”, a Bollywood movie, portrayed in a fairy-tale way, that everyone should do what they’re made to do. It’s easy to see the movie and shout: “Yep! That’s me.”
Most software ventures fail and they fail because they never solved a problem, to begin with. The Internet has made it easier than ever to start a software business but, at the same time, made it too enticing to create a product that no one needs. For that reason, it’s only rational to first test the waters with a Minimal Viable Product—a reduced subset of a full-blown software. As the well-reasoned logic goes, if people are ready to pay for your rough-and-ready product, there’s decent chance you’re heading in the right direction.
I have always delayed buying furniture. The act of buying sizeable things induces a feeling of acquiring a burden that will affect my relocation freedom. For a considerable time, I didn’t have a table in my room. I worked on the bed with my Macbook during this time. It wasn’t awful but mentally, I made it be.
Source: Mac Desks
Browsing stunning photos of professional desks, I was often awed by neatly kept books, stationary, and a high-resolution monitor. I fancied the delight of having the same environment, believing it’d bring a kind of a productivity boost. To an extent, I held my working conditions culpable for my procrastination problem. The reason I didn’t feel like working on my side-project, I thought, is because my environment needs to be fixed.
There isn’t any established science that categorically nails the process of creating a startup (I have used “startup” to refer an Internet business of any scale). However, there are pointers from founders who did it successfully and cautious lessons from those who failed. Be it marketing, sales, hiring, or making business decisions, every area pertaining to startups has been meticulously covered in books, podcasts, courses, and articles.
One would think that the vastly accessible material has helped the likelihood of startup success. Maybe it has but there is hardly any evidence to corroborate that claim. Most Internet ventures still fail; most before getting any significant traction. What do we make of that? Why following the footsteps of successful founders remains failure-prone?
Maybe because building a startup is not as straightforward. It’s an antithesis of Anna Karenina Principle which suggests that the reasons behind unhappy families are numerous, whereas happy families have predictable things working for them. Obversely, successful startups succeed in their own way, while failed ventures are almost alike. It would be a glaring oversimplification but we can reduce startup failures to two reasons —
Last week, I created a small script to aid my workflow which left me wondering why I didn’t make it earlier. It adds an option in Finder’s context menu to start a static web server in any folder which makes it easier to preview static websites. Technically, it’s equivalent to firing up the terminal,
cding to the directory, and using one of the many options to create a static server. The convenience of doing in one step which took three is minor, but automating the process is also advantageous in secondary ways. The crucial benefit is removing the tedious chunk—even if a small one—of my work. I can take pride in how my real work won’t include time to get a static server running.
Everyone’s daily work is filled with similar tedious chunks insomuch that it’s hard to distinguish the real work. Time spent in checking reports buried down a web of links; in collating data from several sources; in syncing files via email. In programming? In creating a build with five manual steps; in setting up workflow that requires several applications to be up and running. Time spent in these trivial tasks eats into the real work; worse, creates an impression that real work is getting done.