🎵 The song for this post is Animal Rights, by Deadmau5. 🎵
Our Animal Crossing island has a north beach, which was hard to see and only
accessible in the second week or so of the game, since you needed a ladder to
climb to it. Karen, in love with secrets and mischief, set a scene there
involving a campfire next to cardboard furniture, as well as a town bulletin
saying "come to Bad Idea Beach for a good time."
There’s the classic ancient African/Chinese/Native American Wisdom “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Basically small company vs. big company. There is a limited amount that hard work and late hours will get you in a large company since you as a single gear are supposed to operate in concert with the other gears. Spinning really fast in place while the other gears are static is just going to grind you up and the people around you. People who make changes in big orgs know the exact balance of compliance and deviance that they need to get what they want. When to turn their gear a bit faster so others catch up, when to change direction so others can do the same. It’s kind of amazing to watch and very hard to imitate. At least for me.
I really liked this, and it echoes my experience too. I think part of why I do better in smaller companies is because my initial reaction, when things aren’t getting done, is “spin the gear faster!” and a lot of growth has been to learn to leverage relationships + be more patient. It’s still not natural.
That said, this was a hard line to phrase, trying to contain a lot of ideas at once:
because I’m not referring to impact, necessarily, which I’d argue is much easier to achieve at large companies, but a certain mix of fame/influence that I think motivates a lot of startup founders. Re: impact, your work will probably have orders of magnitude more impact if you get a job at FB or Google, work your way up diligently to Director, then make strategic decisions there. Nobody will know your name, but your work will touch millions every day, and you can probably get rich doing it (the most sure-fire way to become a millionaire in tech, IMO, is to save money well while working at a FAANG for 15 years).
But I think a lot of people who start startups don’t want invisible impact, or just money by itself: they want their Fast Company cover to be in an office hallway. They want people to feel about interviews with them (or their tweets) they way they feel about Elon’s tweets or Peter Thiel’s interviews. They want to become paragons and archbishops in the church of the 20th century (business).
And the funny thing is, you can do that from a large company, too! I feel like most of us know who Sundar Pichai is (or Tim Cook or Satya Nadella) and they got there by working at large companies. And these are rich and influential dudes. But the “become a paragon” people look at them and say “yeah, but they’re not Steve Jobs or Larry/Sergey or Bill Gates.” My post was mostly based on startup employees who look down at large companies with a fair bit of process and don’t get that it’s necessary, but this energy is a reason a lot of founder types also look down at large company work, and the influence trickles down a bit.
Damn. I know what you mean now with the Fast Company thing. I met someone who wanted to be on the cover of TechCrunch and I had this gut reaction like why-the-fuck. It’s like 30 Under 30 or whatever. I think it is signaling to an entirely different crowd than the one I am interested in - though I’m not sure I am interested in a crowd yet - still at the stage where I have to develop voice, but that’s not relevant here. The thought leadership thing is interesting. Building a startup is what gives you the legitimacy to comment on public affairs now.
I definitely used to have fantasies about being a guest on the Eric Andre show and going off on my Big History rant while Hannibal Buress slowly rubs moisturizer onto the shoulder of my blazer.
This reminds me of Starship Troopers - you have to serve in the military to be a true citizen. Feels like a similar thing - you have to like live in the REAL world man, you know? The catch being, of course it’s true! You probably get tons of real world business experience and cross-section of unfiltered human behavior in the startup world in comparison to being in one company for a long time (like yours truly). That said, there are other things that give lots of life experience too like being a security guard in a plague-ridden New York City.
TL;DR: man THOSE people over there sure are shortsighted and silly huh