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The next speaker Daniel Gross is a former YC founder and YC partner and he is going to tell you some really important things about staying sane and healthy and whole while you're doing this incredibly hard thing that is being a startup founder.
Thank you Jeff. All right. Hello. Sorry we're running a little behind today. It is my fault if any of you are working on curing traffic. I suggest you get to it a little bit faster. So this was the original title of the talk. In hindsight it's kind of a terrible title. So we're going to remove it. This is actually what I want to talk about today. I think everyone here fundamentally is playing a game and you want to win that game. Whatever project you're working on I'm sure people here are excited to build kind of the next, the next empire become the next Rockefeller.
And one kind of you here that I've noticed over years of working with different startup founders being a startup founder myself is when you're a founder the mentality you get into is kind of like you're an athlete and startups are kind of the Olympics. It's one of the hardest things you can do. And what I'd like to do in this talk today is is go over some of the kind of mistakes some novice athletes make while they're trying to play in the Olympics because I do think they're kind of repeated and over the course of the past few weeks I think you guys have seen great talks on mistakes people make say when marketing or hiring or growing your company.
But there's a lot of mistakes you make with yourself. And I'd like to help you potentially avoid them. A lot of the mistakes stem from this recurring theme which is you're working really hard and not smart. Kind of like this guy with a rickshaw. You don't want to be in this position. You know, examples of things that will be in your head as you start a company especially as you start going out a team are you know I'm gonna be in the office all the time or I will make sure to be the last one out today.
I will work as hard as I can. And while there's a lot of value in it, that stuff can kind of go wrong because ultimately input doesn't equal output. This founders seemed to make this mistake kind of over and over again. And what they forget is nobody wants to work for a tired idiot. It's actually incredibly uninspiring. And so you know ultimately if we were to do a little quick Harvard two by two matrix here you know if you just this is the most common startup founder mistake where you just focus on like I'm gonna pedal the bike as hard as possible and you don't really get anywhere that's kind of bad too.
I would not want the outcome of this talk to be the other extreme which is maybe like you could define academia and get really smart but you're not you're not pedaling as hard. What you really want us to be doing both and so we're gonna be talking a little bit today on how to do that before we dig into any details.
I thought it should be interesting to maybe quickly go over why this even happens as a problem. So out of curiosity if I could. If you've ever worked for someone before that you respected a manager you respected please raise your hand OK so about half the room ultimately when you're a founder you kind of want to win the approval of your pack. Be it your team or other founders and the problem is a lot of first time founders don't really have that experience of what that that thing you want to look up to is.
So they don't have a mental model for what's to emulate. And as a result there's just like a lot of common mistakes people make because they don't know kind of what greatness looks like and so they optimize for the wrong thing. All right. So that should set hopefully the general framing for the talk. What does this actually mean in practice. So we're gonna go over a couple of different areas common mistakes with sleep, food, exercise, your mind and leadership. Kind of a Maslow's hierarchy of sorts to start up success where I think you can only tackle the stuff at the bottom after you tackle the basics.
What's really ironic about the advice I'm about to deliver you is I'm sure for about half the people in this room and I'm sure many more people online you will make all these mistakes. Despite me saying what I'm about to say it's kind of fascinating but I'll go through the exercise anyway just so I could tell you I told you so. All right so sleep guys. The reviews are in. Sleep is the ultimate new Tropic. It just takes a couple of hours to apply. There is no way that cutting that hour of sleep was actually worth it for your company.
Unless there's a real emergency. Some people need five hours of sleep. Some people don't need eight hours of sleep. Some people need nine just sleep as much as you need. When I started my first company I was very focused on as I mentioned earlier just being in the office all the time working as hard as possible. And again it's really stupid. And in fact bad for your shareholders and for your entire company. If you're coming in there was 20 percent cognition because you're not sleeping well. I would spend a bunch of weekend time you want to spend your company time on this optimizing your sleep environment.
I think sleep masks are the most underrated product in the world in terms of the upside that they give you in the car. It's like 20 dollars you'll sleep. I sleep significantly better. There's a Web site for this that details it. I would just go through all their products. I would be incredibly frugal in general and life and I would spend lavishly on this one again. Just think about it as a new topic. I know there is a lot of people that are obsessed with kind of I don't know taking Alpha anything or caffeine.
This is a far better new topic than all that stuff. So just spend on it. I would try to avoid using an alarm clock at least for half the week. Again your ancestors didn't have an alarm clock. They survived. You should be able to as well. Sometimes you know one thing your ancestors obviously were not exposed to as a lot of light in the night. And so occasionally resetting your security and rhythm I think for a lot of folks especially software engineers can be helpful. I think if you're a software engineer you probably have.
Well I found at least most software engineers that I've worked with I have about a twenty five hour cycle. That is to say they increasingly wake up later and later and later take a little bit of mental melatonin couldn't actually reset that quite well. For various fascinating regulation reasons most melatonin sold in the United States is way much more than you need. It's like 3 5 or 10 milligrams. Your body makes point 3 when it wants to put you to bed. So that's what you should take. You literally have to buy this on Amazon the reasons for which are fascinating but outside of the context of the stock.
OK. So we just discussed sleep a little bit that should be real basic. I don't think you should tackle anything else before sleeping well. It's again fascinating I'm sure most of you. Some of you will follow this advice a lot of you will continue doing what you're doing but again I told you so. All right let's talk about food. OK. So again just think of just think of what you're doing and what you want your team to be. Garbage food impairs your judgment. I would I at some point realized I was letting everyone else down on my team if I was not playing at peak performance.
If I was not treating myself like an athlete I would not eat crap food. I really don't want to go down the rabbit hole of like what diets to do. I'm not a dietician and I'm not here to be your Tony Robbins but I would just focus on whatever you think is healthy. I actually think there's probably a lot of psychological benefit to just eating whatever you think is healthy. Frankly if you believe sugar is really healthy if you really believe that maybe that's fine. Whatever fad you're into just go for it.
This is something worth investing in. I. This is a contentious topic but I think it is immoral to have junk food weaponized junk food in your office. I would just get rid of all of it and focus on healthy food. That's it. You can find healthy foods is just just as cheap. I also think everyone is dehydrated all the time. I would try to drink an uncomfortable amount of water. This is probably the only weird hack I'm gonna give you in this talk. Most of it's gonna be frameworks but practically speaking yes you got it.
This man is set up for success. I just I think you'll feel much better if you do. All right so that's a little bit about food. Again I think it's pretty simple. The message here the repeated message here is invest in yourself because startups are one of the most draining things you can do to your body. To your mind let's talk about exercise. Okay. This is probably a good idea. Again just like sleep. The results are pretty conclusive on this one. One thing I always while taking a step back.
If you don't exercise I would at least try to spend a lot of time outdoors. If you've a team you can start having one on ones outdoors if you're managing that team. If you're somewhere terribly cold where you can't spend time outdoors that sucks but well maybe you should move to somewhere that has more sun. I would always picture it in my mind because I'm an overly competitive person that whoever my competitor was they were probably working out like 4 times a week becoming better becoming having better ideas becoming more creative. If that framing is helpful for you I would use it.
I think you know I don't mean to be overly prescriptive on what you do I think anything you do in the spirit of exercise is good. I don't have to cite I can't I don't have time to cite all the studies that correlate with this. I do think running is probably the best in terms of time expenditure to potential reward. If you can do it and I think the more interesting question with exercise is not whether you should do it because I think it's pretty clear to everyone on the planet you should do it.
But how to convince yourself to do it because that's that that's the harder psychological bit the largest mistake I think people make especially if you're a founder of a company is you know you have like I'm going gonna go all in mentality. You tend to go into things if you go onto something like running or first time you're gonna hate it because you're going to sprint sprinting sucks. So I would I would not overdo it and I would start really small and and build positive memories that you can grow on.
So celebrate success what you want to do is pretty much for everything. But in this particular thing The trick is to create a positive memory such that when your brain predicts whether you do that activity the next time it looks back and thinks Yeah that was that was kind of fun. So that may mean running a mile and then getting a Frappuccino just because what you'll remember is getting the frappuccino but try to really trick yourself into doing this. It will definitely pay off. I think the other thing you can do in order to kind of reduce the willpower required to do anything is make it surround yourself by other people that are doing it.
You can tell other people that you're running just great because then you kind of feel like you have to do it because you told everyone about it. You could surround yourself with other people that are running for me especially through the dark phases of my startup. This this was definitely my light. It helps you relax helps you focus and you guys are gonna go through a lot of ups and downs. I suggest setting up these good habits while you're either at a plateau or at an OP because it's really hard to convince yourself to do anything while you're down.
But if you set up the mental habit it's a little bit easier to come back to all right.
So if you got down the basics you're slipping while you're eating well you're exercising. Then you can start to talk about kind of the more interesting things you could you could do and you should be doing to transform yourself as a leader and to really take your company to the next level. There are a bunch of kind of subcategories within to how to think about optimizing your mind the largest mistake people make. I think in terms of just thinking better is they focus a lot on feeding their body and then they don't focus on feeding their brain.
But ultimately your brain I think is just constantly doing pattern recognition and this and the pattern recognition that it's doing is very much powered by the information that's consumed. And so you really want to focus on feeding your mind like you're feeding your body. What does that mean in practice. I would spend at least one day a week not working as hard as you can. And your goal here is. But by as hard as you can you want. I mean you want to you wants to do whatever activity will help you feel the most refreshed when you come back to work and there's all sorts of interesting studies of spending time in nature is really good for this maybe going to the beach whatever.
I don't intend to be prescriptive but you really need to spend a day a week not working. This is really helpful because when you come back to work you will need like you. Your brain will just be different and it will be solving problems in a more novel way. And let me frame it this way. Your competitors are probably doing this and they're coming up with better answers than you are so you should definitely take a Sabbath.
I mean it blows my mind that people don't do this. It's it's I guess a separation of the urgent and the important that people struggle to do. I would focus a lot on reading long form. I think a mistake people make here is everyone talks about reading a lot. And people get very obsessed with like you know reading is a thing to do. The greatest gift someone gave me was was this idea of not really caring about what you read whether even finished the book just trying to read any book anytime all the time like every day because I and I think there's a common amongst founders.
You get obsessed in this mindset of I got to do it. I'm gonna finish the book. You get stuck in a crappy book. You stop writing altogether. Now you're on Instagram sucks so just pick anything continually try to read it. I find that the value that books give you are not they're not just informational. They actually set up your mind in a particular way. Like if you read a biography about a person you'll find yourself thinking a little bit more like that person thought or like you read that person thought and then afterglow.
I think is really what you're trying to get. And I don't think you can get that from short form content. I would sign out of all unless unless your businesses could tie to it in which case good luck. I would sign out of all this crap on your phone and just make it a little bit harder to use Yeah. It's just too good is the main problem. This was way too good. All right. So that's in terms of how you should feed your brain in terms of how you should think like the software that's running in your head.
Probably the largest thing you want to do is you want to move from this mode where you're playing first person to this mode where you're playing third person. And what do I mean by that I mean by that it's a little bit less I'm angry and a little bit more I'm feeling anger the other term people use for this is mindfulness. I'm trying to avoid that and repackage it in terms that seem a little bit more exciting. But it's building the habit of kind of stepping out of the frame and experiencing yourself almost in the third person.
This is really useful because well it's actually not that useful things go really well. In which case all of your emotions are awesome but when things start going south it's going to become really important.
It's going to become also really important when you start doing bad things that are mostly a byproduct of your own insecurities. You know so someone say who reports to you says something disagreeable to you in a meeting. And it's quite helpful to be able to step back and say what's happening now is like I feel insecure as opposed to I'm dumb which is what actually happens.
If if you're playing in kind of first person you'll be able to react better you'll be able to lead people better in terms of how to do it. Meditation is one way to achieve this. There's a lot of studies that show that it just happens as a byproduct of being in your mind for more years. So just growing up. But I actually think the most valuable way to to get better at this is to just think about it. Let's just have the concept in your head but it is probably the largest most important mental shift I think you can do as a founder because you're putting yourself through an emotional rollercoaster.
So that's kind of a large software shift that I think is really really important in terms of other cheap packs. That relates to your mind. I think the simplest goal that you should constantly be thinking about is how to spend as much of your day in flow as possible flows this concept of basically becoming unaware of how time passes. There's a book written by a gentleman whose last name I can't pronounce so I'm not even going to bother Mikael something about this topic that I recommend reading. You want to spend as much of your time in flow as possible.
And if you're really good as a manager you really want to spend your entire teams day and flow as much as possible. People should be moving from one thing to the next to the next to the next not even really noticing time fly by. And that is you know it's I don't have any like instant solutions to that. But you may be kind of noticing a theme across the talk here which is the key is to kind of launch and iterate. I would I would be constantly asking yourself like what time of day is the best for you to do meetings.
What time of day is best for the team to do at meetings. What music makes you productive you know is the person you're going to put on a particular project. Are they going to enjoy that. Does that match their personality maybe yes maybe no. So you need to constantly be in this framework of trying different things and iterating. Don't be on autopilot. There's a lot of information data laying on the ground that comes out of an emission from whatever you did by putting a meeting super early in the morning super late in the day bunching meetings together.
Keeping them separate. I don't mean to be prescriptive because I actually don't know that that there is a global answer. But there's definitely an individualized one to you. And the the the really great people are constantly iterating on whatever that is trying to improve themselves. So you should do that because the competition's doing that. The last thing I want to talk about is probably the most important one for you as you build out a team which is how to become a really good really inspiring leader.
There's a lot of different books on leadership is a lot of different studies on it.
Most of them are garbage. There's one particularly good one that I'd like to walk you guys through which is Robert Keegan's theory of Adult Development. Robert Keegan's a psychologist that has done a lot of work on adult development distinct from Child Development which looks like Piaget have covered quite well. It's actually not. There's not that much literature on how adults say circa 18 and beyond evolve in terms of their thinking thought patterns and what he's done is he's kind of split out five different phases that people tend to go through throughout life and not all people make it to the final two phases.
We're really going to focus here on stage two through five since one is basically really children I'm going to walk you through them and then we'll talk a little bit about how you can kind of advance from one phase to the next. So let's talk a little bit about an imperial mind. This is you could kind of think of this as like a very simple A.I.. This is someone who is for the most part these are children. But I think we all know some adults that fit this bill. This is someone who is incredibly selfish.
So they're very focused on their own goals. That's their that's the number one most important thing for them. They're transactional so the relationship with other people is really just a way for them to get a thing done that they want they're unable to the view of the other side is untenable to them. So. You know oh what do you think of a person brings up other I can't even get there. Can't even see how that person would have that view. The challenge with this mode is that it's really hard to get people to cooperate with you over the long term.
As you guys grow teams you may start seeing this flaw in actually some some managers it becomes very easy to see actually when it's not you but through someone else where people over time just aren't interested in working for them or don't find them compelling. So this is kind of the most embryonic phase you can be in as an adult which I think is has off some obvious limitations.
Once you advance beyond stage two you get to stage three the socialized mind or as I call it the NPC an unplayable character in the game.
This is most adults and these are people who are kind of able to see the other side but they almost they almost see it too well and in that sense they're kind of NPCs. They have no internal locus of control. They really care about what other people are thinking about them all the time and the social narrative of you know oh people think I'm dumb becomes their narrative therefore I'm dumb. If that makes sense. So you've kind of pendulum swung a little bit too far where instead of not caring really about what other people think you now are entirely driven by it.
Occasionally we'll see founders that I you know are kind of in this mode. It's just it's really hard to have an independent mindset when when you're when you're in this mode and any any any great company as you guys know the faces a lot of unknowns and you have to be able to kind of stare into the abyss and say there's a light at the end of the tunnel and it's really hard to do that if you're constantly gut checking yourself about what other people think about you. There's some value here like the opinion of other people is actually important.
It's a great way to know if you're doing something right or wrong.
The problem with people in this mindset is they're just unable to have their own framework for how to live life or their own kind of truly independent ideals once you evolve beyond that you reach the kind of master player face or the self authoring phase and this is in Keegan's view some adults you have less motivation by social formation and you have a kind of consistent independent frame of mind.
And so you have certain values certain ideals certain things you hold yourself by and you can identify with them and you know what those are. You know I am a person who cares a lot about X and that's that's like a part of the inner monologue in your mind. Importantly you're able to take responsibility for your own emotions. This comes back to that that point of playing in the third person of you know I'm feeling angry at you because you said you kind of assaulted a value I hold dearly to kind of know who you are at this phase.
This is this may actually be the best phase for a founder because you're very clear ideals that you hold on to. You kind of know who you are. You're aware of your emotions and in a slightly different from that second phase we were talking about moments ago. You're able to kind of play an infinite game with people where you're optimizing for the collective group not just for yourself but you do have kind of a sense of where you stand. There is another phase beyond it and kind of Keegan's interesting claim here is that very few adults make this phase.
That kind of self transforming mind and if previously we were talking about you know a really competent game player. This would be almost a game designer. This is someone who is not really held by aback by any sense of who they are as a person and what it values and ideals they have and is able to basically embrace and extend any of the opinions and ideas of people around him. So they're constantly being recreated by the group that they're in if that makes sense you could almost an engineering metaphor would be that this person can kind of run.
Any idea that comes to them in VM You know and they kind of kind of kind of properly evaluate it. They're genuinely curious and interested in other people. They're willing to drop an entire ideology and swap it for another one. You know in moments if it kind of makes sense for them and unlike you know that second phase it's not being driven by what will other people think it's truly being driven by the quality of that idea and ideology. The other very interesting thing about these people that I find fascinating is the tendency to think in systems.
So when someone is bringing up an idea you know being able to very quickly realize oh they're bringing up that idea because of X Y and Z. Because that's their position in the organization or that's their background or that's the environment they grew up in. It's almost like you're seeing the entire map or you're on the hundredth floor of the building and you're seeing the entire city fold underneath unfold underneath you as opposed to being on the first floor. They make the interesting case that this is I mean this is the vision is where we want to get to it's actually not clear to me for founders that you want to be here until you have product market fit.
There's something very interesting about these people which is that they're generally I find they're very good at managing very high quality talent who needs to be properly heard it needs to be properly understood in order to be inspired to come into work every day. But the danger of making metaphors but when you think of Elan or Steve Jobs it's not clear that you end up here. It's a little bit more stage 4. They have an idea and there's going to railroad it through. But I think and I think it's an interesting thing to hold on to long term and I definitely think as you guys grow and as your companies you start building out a strong executive bench.
This is actually what's required to get a players to to be interested in working for you. You have to really be able to set up an environment where they can live their own ideology and they feel challenged by you and they feel like you're willing to adopt it and you can actually put together people with very different ideologies and kind of get them to mesh together. It's like you're designing the game as opposed to being an individual player. So I thought so that so. So the question is like OK given where no one is and there's a case to be made that we can't really ever evaluate where we stand on this kind of thing.
How do you move on to the next phase. How do you become less maybe self centered and more focused intrinsically in kind of motivating others to join your cause. I think knowing the concepts actually can really help because then you can kind of label some thoughts that you have and say well that's you know stage 2 not 5.
And if you guys are interested in this you should just google Bob Keegan and read any of his books time according to him just kind of move a personal along a continuum here there's of course this question of derivative how quickly or moving one very practical thing that I you know I've learned to do over the age of limited amount of time I've had on this planet is when when interacting with people especially people that you hire I would only try to ask questions you're genuinely interested in hearing the answer of it's kind of interesting especially in interviews to hear people ask these rote questions they don't really care about because it's a conventional question to ask and then they don't really listen to the answer and then they're not really having a good interaction with the person.
So I would I would try to try to nerd snipe yourself with this with this idea of what would be the most fascinating question to ask this person now even if it's someone who is saying something that you drastically disagree with. So it's an interesting brainstorm of like what is something they would say that would cause me to change my opinion that will just make I think life more interesting from you and maybe help you kind of work work through that continuum.
So it's a little bit on leadership. A lot of this especially if this is the first time leading a team a lot of this is stuff that you'll just figure out as you go along.
I do think it's helpful a little bit to have these concepts in your mind in terms of what's good and what's bad and where you want to be. Okay so I want to give you guys some closing thoughts. I think it's really important that you that the metaphor of the Olympics wasn't me kidding around. I remember when I did Y Combinator in winter 2010 James Linden mount the CEO and founder of Roku came by and gave a talk and he said a related flavor of this which is he said that you should bill yourself at five hundred dollars an hour.
Which at the time seemed insane to me. And until I found out of course that my lawyer was billing me at 750 an hour. But the point is your time is really precious and especially as your team grows you will be increasingly the choke point for getting things done. And so you really have to treat yourself as an athlete if you want to survive this game because it's all of the responsibility is on your shoulders and you cannot cave. You cannot cave and go for the urgent instead of the important. It's just not acceptable.
If it's helpful I would just assume that the others have figured this out and they're ahead of you. And you just need to catch up to them so you just assume that they're well rested they're eating properly the thinking properly and so when you know when you find out. I've certainly had nights when I was running the company or I find myself at the office 3:00 o'clock in the morning eating Skittles. This is not a good scene. This idea of switching to kind of third party camera mode and experiencing yourself in the third person is really important.
You guys are going to have days months weeks where you get punched in the face a lot like someone wants to quit and you lose a customer and things aren't growing. The only way the only way to survive that and when you're in that mode still play all the right chess moves is to experience your emotions in the third person otherwise you get caught up in it. And this is lame honestly. So I spent a lot of time thinking about that. The particulars of any hack don't really matter. I don't care if you don't actually drink water.
The key thing here is to launch and iterate yourself. Kinda you have a lot of data going on about what's good what's bad and what days make you feel good. What does make you feel bad and just collect that information and retrain your model over and over and over. I would very much try to just be genuinely curious of other people.
I think if you are you'll find out other people are just the most interesting thing on the planet far more so than the V.I. or whatever engineering problem you're solving. It's far more dynamic than a computer. And if you get really interested in what drives other people what motivates them. You'll get really good at recruiting other people you get really good at motivating other people but you have to really treat it as a system that you're genuinely interested in. Always try to ask compelling questions if other people don't pour them down for yourself.
The last thing is a concept that it's a little bit hard to convey but was one of the most helpful shifts I went through. Which is you want to move from playing very finite games in life to infinite games. And what I mean by that is ten thousand different things.
But I guess at a high level of you have I think when you you get started you tend to get very worried in various interactions that you have with people that it's a zero sum that it's a win lose situation. You know maybe there's an idea you have but you're not sure if you should share it with someone because maybe if you give it to them then they'll go out and run with it and then they'll steal all the credit and you'll be the Winklevoss and they'll be Mark Zuckerberg or something. And it's really important to let those thoughts go you very much want to make believe you're playing an infinite game that doesn't really have an end.
The score board is really unclear. And you're just trying to engender as much goodwill as you want. There's a great book on this topic called finite and infinite games that helps set this kind of mental frames because it's very hard to explain in words but well someone's playing Mario.
But you you want to I guess move a little bit from from from kind of being focused on winning one particular interaction to winning the overall set of interactions. Said differently you're running a marathon not you know you're not sprinting so that's it.
So that's a little bit of a rant on hopefully some productive rant on what you need to be doing in order to uh you know kind of improve yourself in order to advance to the next level. And at the very least could be a good overview of some incredibly common startup mistakes people make to the 50 percent of you that actually follow this advice and avoid those mistakes. Awesome. And to the 50 percent that don't are probably 90 percent that don't. I told you so. Thank you so much. You.
Sorry CUNY. Yes.
Yeah sure. Do you have any experience with people like that with the vocalization maybe corporation and then having to deal with the art of inspector Yeah.
Yeah. So the question was for people that leave kind of comfortable corporate positions how they handle the rollercoaster of a startup.
I think yeah so occasionally you see founders who there's basically two reactions to this. You know if you leave your great job at Google and you go join a startup rollercoaster one reaction is a version effectively like oh I don't want to deal with that. Just not focus on it.
Or I got very used to having you know taking an extra day off on the weekend. And so I'm just not gonna give that up to those companies sadly don't do well. And I think those people are an unhappy kind of in the process while they're doing it. You know startups are ultimately it's like you're playing on Expert mode and it only makes sense if you're going to commit a lot of other people. I think most founders that we've worked with you know humans are resilient. And so you kind of figure it out.
I think I think the the real take on it is not whether the person got too comfortable. It's really like are they innately interested in working on the problem they're working on. That's what I think is going on with a lot of those people is they leave the Google to start a company because they feel like they should start a company as opposed to like really being interested in and making something if that makes sense. So that's the thing I would focus on because if you're really interested in something of course you'll spend all day thinking about it.
Sure you're trying to minimize the amount of time you spend online for your business you to go on Facebook Instagram Twitter or whatever reason. How do you recommend Mitigating that problem or mental health.
Okay so the question is if business kind of demands of you to be online how do you handle that kind of kind of falling into the simple maximize trap. One very funny thing we see in my company is we all had our monitors facing each other. If that makes sense. And so there was kind of a circle and there's weird accountability that gets enforced when you do that. Of course no one is actually watching your monitor. They're busy doing their own work but in the back you have a little voice in your head that saying maybe they are.
So that's a fun hack that I think works quite well. Kind of team enforceability. The I think the other solution to this is is not really tackling that problem but really focusing on something else which is growing as quickly as possible. And if you do like this we'll just be have to be a demon you slay in the process of growing as quickly as possible because you cannot grow if you're watching YouTube unless you're watching your own videos.
Yeah I was wondering what's your personal mantra about startup life like Elon Musk says they launching a company as yet friends and eating chewing glass and staring into the abyss.
Yes. And my personal one is it's involuntary vow of poverty that requires a satellite state of mind. What's yours.
OK so the question is what's my motto regarding startups. I don't know that I'm smart enough to have a mantra about it. I have but if probably if I were to have one it would be something akin to it's kind of what I mentioned earlier it's like playing a video game on kind of expert mode where the videogame is really managing your own psychology and trying to build a product that works. I do. I do think we shouldn't like frame this as something that is painful. I think like I think there are a phenomenal amount of apps that go at the downs and forever.
Elon Musk quote where he's chewing glass and staring into the abyss. He also gets to see his roadster in space. That's pretty good. So yeah. So I think it's just you I mean you have to really enjoy building stuff. Ultimately yes.
Thank you very much. I really like how this stuff and identifies a lot but it also says mentorship and community support. So is there something you would talk to about how you got to work here is something for you as you've gone through and what's working as well.
OK so the question is you know strategies around building community and peers in order to kind of help yourself become better. This is actually I think one of the main benefits of Startup School. Assuredly one of the main benefits of I see is that you get put in a peer group with other people and what happens is you very quickly figure out humans are fascinating.
They like subconsciously almost figure out where am I in the peer group who's next to me who is kind of ahead of me in the leader board who's beneath me. Where do I stand and how can I advance myself. I think this is also one of the reasons why Ivy League campuses are so good. It's not really the curriculum of the Ivy League. It's the fact that you're suddenly surrounded by peers who are motivating you to be better. So Startup School is I think one very interesting way of scalable trying to give that to many people as possible on the internet because we know that with your when you're kind of with relative peers you're always trying to figure out how to improve yourself.
I guess so doing Startup School is one answer to your question. To me the large value of what I see is I was suddenly challenged by the fact that I thought other people in my batch were really darn good and I and I kind of realized I could compete on the same playing field so I'd encourage you guys to apply too I see and also figure out other figure out other I don't know if there are other like online communities where you can kind of have that same sense of of competing on a leaderboard.
K all the way back where everyone sees so the question is how do I counter the proposed reality where people are doing the opposite of this presentation and achieving greatness.
And I guess I would question the premise. I'm not sure I agree with you I'm pretty sure that any successful unicorn founder that you meet today. Would kind of agree with what I said here which is even if they were doing all this crap that I defined as a mistake they wish they hadn't. So there's one interesting really interesting view which is this is a necessary pain you have to go through. You wish you hadn't but it was worthwhile. I'm not sure I buy that. Like life doesn't have to suck and you don't have to make mistakes to be successful please.
I'm not saying you're not worrying because it's good to know that.
I was a father that was working 120 one hour 40 hours a week for a social network. And then I realized the solution doesn't work. I still have the vision. What would you recommend doing. What you're trying to think of the next solution next product. What would you recommend to do with. You still kind of like the and kind of like girls may model.
So the question is what's kind of a good way of coming up with the next product idea or pivot.
You also mentioned in your question that you were working on what. One thing I want to be clear to everyone here is I'm not proposing you don't work hard in order to win you have to work hard. I'm proposing you don't moronic Lee work hard and not sleep because because then you're just there while you're gonna have to work much harder even to catch up. But your question was how to come up with startup ideas. Okay I think. OK so there's a lot of great content on this topic P.G. program is probably the best of it.
I'm not gonna be able to one up him but I think the common mistake that comes to mind right now in terms of mistakes people make when they try to come up with startup ideas is they're very focused on trying to come up with an idea and a very limited amount of time and it's not clear to me that this stuff works in a pressure cooker. I think to me I've had my best ideas when I haven't had any any kind of you know immediate goal have to come up with an idea.
And they just start kind of coming to you. I'm gonna have a Google Doc of maybe a thousand different ideas of which I'll build. Probably none but I think the point is it's much easier to think of this when you're not necessarily in a pressure cooker. And I'd really question the fact of like maybe you don't need a startup idea. I think the most common one of one of a very common mistake I see in a lot of I see applicants is they're obsessed with starting a startup which is actually not what you want to do.
My greatest hope when I have an idea today is that someone else will build it. I have no interest in going through the whole startup thing. So if you don't have any great ideas just that's not a problem. That's not a bug or a flaw.
Yes. How do you get out. How do you manage risk.
I guess the question is how do I get out of the pressure cooker and how do I manage risk. Two different questions I think if I understand the second one properly. Um I think the best way to get out of the pressure cooker is. I would just take a day a week Saturday and just like I mentioned not work. It's physically like go north of if you live in San Francisco go north of it and walk in the woods for a while. That's great. And I don't think you need that much more than that.
How do I think about managing risk. That's like a very big question. Boy I think a lot of it depends on. Well I think of a very common mistake. Maybe this will be somewhat novel or interesting a common mistake people make when managing risk is you know they pattern match type 1 and Type 2 decisions and properly that is to say this is the Jeff Bezos framework of you know you've got your type 1 decisions where the cost of downside is catastrophic type 2 decisions where you know ultimately if you make the mistake nothing bad happens and I think a very common flaw is you think things are type 1 when they're in fact hype to you and more often than not the right calls just go for it whatever the risky path is because the downside scenario you're imagining is a little bit too creative probably.
So I've definitely found when I've taken the riskier approach I definitely have have been rewarded by life and I'll probably continue saying that until suddenly I'll just die because I decided to jump out of an airplane. That's a bad idea. But so that maybe there's a survivorship bias problem but more often than not the riskier path is the right one. One more question. Sure. Sorry.
Let's say you're on board with all this but the problem is that you're not really sure.
Yes so the question is how to get your co-founders onboard for doing this stuff. And again should we embellish doing this stuff. It doesn't mean chilling. It means like not dying while you're building your company. So I think a lot of it is the framing. And I think if you if if you're not careful with the framing it comes across as let's let's bring the perks of Google into our startup life which is a recipe for disaster. It's hard. This is a weird piece of advice because like I mentioned three or four times a lot of people refuse to or just unable to accept it and they need to like fail and fall on their face before they return the model.
In general though I think this is a very interesting question what to do in situations where you disagree with your co-founders especially if there's no tiebreaker. Super common problem Love another founder product decisions what do you do when you disagree. One useful hack I did for a while with my co-founder because we were great friends best friends in fact. But we do have these bitter product disagreements is you can just cycle through different months where people have responsibility on a particular area and so you could say look for the next six months you're running product.
I may not agree with you. You get to run product and then six months afterwards we'll check in. Maybe we'll swap over but just really defining time constrained areas where a person gets ultimate ownership is one I think underrated solution to the co-founder disagreement problem. Hopefully that's somewhat useful.
All right. Thank you all for listening. I'm sorry we started late and I'll be around here if you guys have any questions I can help answer applause.