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Optimal at this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Can I ask you a personal question? Now it is Sydney. I'm a cybernetic organisms living this show would never impose on me, so. This episode is brought to you by 99designs, 99designs is the global creative platform that makes it easy for designers and clients to work together from logos to apps and packaging to books. 99Designs is the go to design resource for any budget.
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I get asked all the time if you could only use one supplement. What would it be? And my answer is inevitably athletic greens. It is. You're all in one nutritional insurance. I recommended it in the for our body did not get paid for that. And I travel with it to avoid getting sick. I take it in the mornings to ensure optimal performance. It just covers all my bases. If I can't get what I need through whole food meals throughout the rest of the day, if you want to give athletic greens a try, they are offering a free 20 count travel pack for first time users.
I always travel with at least three or four of these. This represents a $100 value. So if you buy athletic greens, you get an extra $100 in free product. So check it out. Athletic greens, dot com forward slash Tim again. That's athletic greens dot com. Ford slashed him for your free travel pack with any purchase. Why? Hello, my beautiful little munchkins, this is Tim Ferriss. And welcome to another episode of the Tim Ferriss Show where it is my job each episode to tease out the habits, routines, favorite books, life lessons and so on of world class performers across every possible discipline.
And my guest today is Patrick Collison, C.O.O. L-l ISBN at Patrick C on Twitter. Patrick dot com striped dot com. Patrick is CEO and co-founder of Stripe, a technology company that builds economic infrastructure for the Internet. We'll explain what that means in this episode after experiencing firsthand how difficult it was to set up an online business. Patrick and his brother John started strife in 2010. Their goal was to make accepting payments on the Internet simpler and more inclusive.
And the story is fascinating because in part, there were many incumbents. People fought. Stripe had no chance. It was not intrinsically interesting to a lot of the people who might have assessed it. And yet today, straight powers millions of online businesses around the world and is worth roughly 20 billion dollars, making the brothers two of the youngest multi-billionaires on the planet. Prior to Stripe, Patrick co-founded Automatic, which was acquired by live current media for $5 million in March 2008.
In 2016, he was named a presidential ambassador for global entrepreneurship by President Obama. Originally from Limerick, Ireland, Patrick now lives in San Francisco, where Stripe is headquartered. And I thought I'd mention just a few of his favorite books because he is one of the best read humans I've ever encountered. And that's saying a lot. He's read I would have to imagine, thousands of books. And I did some filtering and searching and found a number of them that he considers particularly great in his words.
And I'm going to just list a few and then I will put these in the show notes at Teamed Up blog, forward slash podcast. The first is the rise and fall of American growth. And that's my dog whining the background. The second is a novel mind body problem. That's a hyphen Mind-Body problem. Poor Charlie's Almanac, which has come up a lot in this podcast by Charlie Munger and something incredibly wonderful happens. Subtitle Frank Oppenheimer and the World He Made Up.
There are many, many more. I'm going to put those in the show notes for you guys and filter them for only the particularly great. And you can find those at Tim Dobb blog for its site podcast and just search Patrick and it'll pop write-ups. Without further ado, please enjoy this wide-ranging conversation with Patrick Collison.
Patrick, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for having me. I am thrilled to connect to finally have this longform conversation and I thought a good place to start might be by quoting from a text exchange or rather one of the first texts that I got from our mutual friend Chris Sacca, who's also been on the podcast for those who don't know him, extremely adept investor and all around hilarious guy, his mentor.
He's he's a real character. Real character. It's managed to make one or two or however many billions of dollars, which is amazing because I got to see him from the early days when you probably first met him, I guess maybe a year or two later. In any case, Chris's character and he very rarely makes introductions. He very rarely proposes introductions. So I pay attention when he does. And he set me as context of I, of course, us familiar a stripe.
I had heard your name before. We had, I think, even exchanged potentially a couple of Dems on Twitter. Right. But he said and I'm going to edit here for length a little bit. But Patrick is quite literally one of the smartest people I've ever known. Like he puts Larry Page on his heels, smart. I don't know anyone who has one read more books and two has in your photographic memory for what he has read. His thoughts are provocative and challenged the status quo.
His success is no accident. And then then you can fact check this. When we when we get into more of a conversation here. But plus, his origin story is great. As I recall, Colin grew up in rural Ireland, took his first communion money and bought a computer, created his own operating system, all coding over a dial up line. Paul Graham, for those people who don't know the name and basically the Yoda of something called Y Combinator, come back to that.
Paul Graham noticed him and invited him to the U.S. I met him when he was 15 and p.g. That's Paul Graham brought him by the Google offices.
Pretty sure he dropped out of Harvard or M.I.T., etc., etc. He's also a pilot who, when Obama made the trip to Cuba, invited along a few top entrepreneurs like the urban bee founders. Patrick said he would meet them there and rented a small plane to fly himself from Florida. Okay, pause. Now, Chris and I were also exchanging text messages earlier today because I wanted to ask his permission to to read that. And there are two more things I'll add as background color.
And then we can we can get amongst it. So the first he says, quick story, automatic and we can get into that. But this is this is one of your previous companies was a front end on eBay that allowed sellers to upload a bunch of products at once and scale their operations. One night, someone from the Netherlands wrote them an email that automatic didn't support Dutch. Literally, in the middle of the night, they wrote back something like 15 or 30 minutes later saying, quote, It does now, end quote.
And then this is a very succa esque expression, fucking legends, period. And then he said, also, when we sold their first company, I held a little closing celebration at that bar below my house is then Place District. This is in San Francisco. Well, there are both underage, but Patrick's brother John got negs from the bar, literally could not get into his own celebration for selling a company, becoming a millionaire. I would never forget that moment.
It crystallized, quote, What's happening out here is different. There's no hierarchy predicated on seniority. Smart young people who bust their asses don't have to quit, work their way up and quit.
So that is all by means of introduction.
Yeah, I think we should try to end the podcast right now.
I don't think there's any possible way that any human alive today or who's ever existed in human history could possibly live up to that.
Yet is to say no pressure, nothing to live up to. But I think we can we can start with very comfortable ground and that its books.
Let's talk about books. You have many books, I want to say 600 or more in the recommended reading section on your Web site. Maybe I'm getting it wrong. Maybe it's been changed and you've categorized them. You have some in above average. You have others as labeled particularly great. And those range this is from quoting from a wired article in the UK. But they range from imperialism to engineering democracy. On and on and on. What makes a book particularly great?
And which of those do you end up recommending the most or gifting the most to other people?
Hmm. I think well, I've been personally actually that it really matters a lot. Sort of when I read a book and sort of the frame of mind that I'm in at the time as sort of when I stumble across it and often all kind of start a book, you know, at some point and maybe revisit it sort of months or in some cases even years later and find that it has kind of a completely sort of renewed resonance or significance or something.
And so I think there's kind of a you know, Chris and Marc Andreesen other is stuck with this idea. And of course, maybe at this point talk about some sort of product market fit. Founder market fish, I think with books there's really something around sort of reader book fit and the kind of particulars of that moment. And so you just by way of example, I've been thinking a whole lot of late about sort of the importance of kind of cultural capital and how it is that people choose what to do and to aspire to and focus on and try to make happen in the world and the degree to which they're willing to take risks and the importance of visions and the importance of mentors and people to look up to all that anyway.
And specifically the idea that, you know, perhaps in the kind of first half of the trans century or me the first two thirds of the 20th century, there are kind of lots of examples of that. And perhaps I mean, not sure whether this is the case or not, but maybe perhaps through a few of those today. Think about this of late. And of course, I'm not the first to point this out or race this as an issue, but I stumbled upon just a couple of days ago.
A book published by I'm Gonna Get the Name Wrong, but the center it s you. It's like the the Center for Science and Possibility or something like that. I'm pretty sure I'm getting that name wrong. But it but it's along those lines. And they actually published a book of science fiction written by, well, I guess a whole host of others with a forward from from Neil Stephenson about exactly this idea, the importance of optimistic visions and kind of science fiction as sort of flagging points on the horizon that might be interesting directions to sort of try to paddle towards.
So anyway, I think that four books, this kind of matching of kind of your mindset and kind of what's important to you at the particular moment with the kind of content itself sort of really matters. I think the quality of that is that it's actually valuable to sort of to I find it useful to sort of to buy a lot of books that sort of seem interesting and high quality. But before I am necessarily ready to read them at that moment and maybe I'll kind of read the beginning or a couple chapters or something.
But you're not really kind of commit to finishing it. And you know, I but Belka, I'll leave it out around the house like those books on the bookshelves as books on the kitchen table, those books. You know, we had the couch, this books in my bedroom. There's usually books on my bed and so on. And, you know, it's kind of in your mental landscape. And I often find, I guess, that kind of six months later or 18 months later, something happens, something you're reminded of something and you realize, oh, man, I really should get back to whatever book it is.
That was just going to say, if it's it's helpful. I was going to ask about the dream machine. Yes. And maybe that illustrates how you vet books or hold onto books that are particularly valuable, because at any given point in time, even if you have 60 books around your house, there are hundreds of thousands of books published every other.
I'd say there's yes, there's a selection challenge.
Well, so first off, I think you mostly ignore the books that are published every year and take advantage of the fact that, you know, quite a lot of books been published, say, you know, up to 10 years ago, but books published up to 10 years ago, people have had a lot of time to kind of filter through them and sort of try to select the, you know, the real gems there. And of course, there are the false negatives, like a lot of great books that just never, for whatever reason, got the attention they kind of deserved or maybe that that sort of that they don't have the salience they ought to have for you.
But but I really think people should be kind a much more biased towards older books than they are. I think the dream machine is a good example of this. And I think there are kind of two things, I guess, that stand out in the dream machine. The first is Mitchell Waldrop, the author. He really spent the well, I guess I should describe it. It is it is a book about the history, while it is nominally a biography of JCR licklider.
And, you know, many people were responsible for the creation of the Internet. But I think licklider has more claim than any other single person to being the individual kind of causally responsible for its creation. He funded a lot of the early researchers. He sort of tried to bring the community together and he really kind of instigated much of the movement that led to ARPANET and the Internet and so on. And his amazing book about his even the most important inventions in the history of humanity.
And Mitchell Waldrop spent the time to sort of real I mean, years to really understand in depth not just the specific sequence of events that led to this happening, but the kind of mildew and sort of. Intellectual environment and thinking and landscape that it all came from. And so the book starts, we before licklider were doing anything because they were kind of all these different kind of fields and disciplines and sort of strains of thinking that Linkletter built on. I think it's pretty rare that an author either takes the time or has the time and to kind of really go deep in that matter.
And it's striking that if you look at sort of how the ring machine came to be, he was he was funded by a grant, as I recall. It was the Sloan Foundation. I could be wrong on that. But I believe the Sloan Foundation, you know, they thought this was I mean, obviously kind of a super important period in history, but sort of, you know, Waldroup was not on sort of toiling under the clock to get a book out by Christmas.
He you know, he was really trying to sort of to capture an important series of events in the arc of technology. So that's really what stands out about that book.
How did you come across that book? Because what was it in printer out of print at the time that you came across it?
It was it was out of print. There were a couple of copies on Amazon. And I after I finished it, I was so excited about it that I went and bought a whole bunch of them to give away to people that strive to give way to my friends. And, you know, fairly quickly, we exhausted Amazon's pretty limited supply. I think I I first heard about it from, I think, some combination of Brett Victor and Alan Kay.
Alan Kay, you know, many your listeners will know about that for anyone who doesn't. He was a researcher who worked at who's kind of best known for working at Xerox PARC, which with this amazing industrial research lab that was kind of played a sort of formative role in the creation of the Guri, the graphical user interface and ether Nash, the kind of where the main networking technologies, an object oriented programming, which is kind of the main programming part on it used today.
And so there were just like really critical in the history of what we consider modern technology, modern software. Alan K. worked there and was one of the leading researchers there. And then Bret Victor is one of the most interesting kind of researchers, software creatives working today and and ever, Alan, saying that the dream machine is the kind of is semi unique among kind of computer history and technology history books in. And that really kind of gets it right.
And I was you know, we're pretty young fields. And so there hasn't been a whole lot of kind of research and deep scholarly scrutiny. At least the extent that there might be for, I don't know, math or physical or something. But. But this book, I really stood out. And, you know, the technology industry is not an industry that sort of spends a lot of time looking to its past in a way that I think is really both a strength and a weakness in that, you know, people are always trying ideas that a field's kind of tons of times before and they kind of buthis to the fact they've failed tens of times before.
And that really is of a good thing, because sometimes, you know, the fact that it has failed five times before does not mean that it's going to fail a sixth time. But it can, of course, also in some ways your weakness where we don't build on ideas that precede us. Alan Kay's line about this is computer science is a kind of pop culture where it's sort of this kind of Brownian motion rather than kind of really building layer by layer.
And so in that broader culture, I think the dream machine is kind of an outlier.
And you mentioned Alan, I should I should I will just mention a quote that perhaps people have heard, which is often misattributed. But it is, I think, correctly attributed to Alan, which is the best way to predict the future is to invent it. Yes. There may be a quote that that people recognize, but perhaps not in association with the name Alan.
I would say is I mean, kind of quite widely recognized as as a genius. But despite that, I think he is still kind of underrated. I think he I think he'll be even more highly regarded in 50 years or in 100 years than he is today.
You are you're a young guy. What is your age? Currently, I am. Thirty, thirty times. Me what time to order order a walker on Amazon Prime.
If you are a student of history, you mentioned something in relation to assessing books that has popped up in my homework or say research or other for this conversation. And that is that perhaps one shouldn't overweight with a recency bias. The books published in the last year. You should give books a chance to fail or persist in a sense. And feel free to correct me if I'm getting this wrong. But I've also read that you've you've talked about how it is risky for people to emulate the companies de jure those startups.
Companies around them that are contemporaries that are doing well. And that it's it it seems like you have made more of a study of the greats in the earlier days of the valley or by extension, companies like Microsoft, where the outcomes are more known.
Could you talk about that that a bit and may perhaps some of the things that you've gleaned or any lessons that have stuck with you? I'd like to dig into perhaps some of the conclusions you came to, even if temporarily after studying these greats. And one example which which may or may not be a good example, but what came up in doing some reading for this is that you observed that Google, Facebook, Amazon were created with conventional org charts in in in some respects.
So why? So you question to the value, please correct me or elaborate on this. The value of innovating in that particular capacity because there would.
And now I'm laying on my interpretation of that, which is that there are potential unknown risks in doing so, and yet the right sort of questionable upside in throwing more unknown variables into something like that versus other places where you could focus it.
Could you, could you could you maybe expand on that and then share any other conclusions or lessons that you that you came to?
Well, I think the kind of general idea here behind this is I think people often conflate the question of sort of what would be good to see others do versus what you should do yourself. And kind of what I specifically mean is people have tried a lot of different kind of organizational structures and methodologies over time.
Right. And and of course, while in broad strokes, many things have remained the same in terms of maybe some of the characteristics required for leadership or the importance or, you know, that which makes kind of a human satisfied in the work around sort of having kind of the opportunity to have autonomy and to kind of built mastery and and having a kind of mission, they believe, and so on. So there are lots of things remain the same. There has been kind of some evolution in that, you know, organizations.
You know, Google today say does not look especially like maybe IBM of 1950. You know, this parallels, but you a very material differences.
However, I think that, you know, most of the experiments have failed. mosts efforts to do something that's kind of substantially different to the kind of best practice of the day. Most of those efforts fail. And so I think when you're designing a particular organization, doing something that like truly might kill it, it's just like a pretty risky thing to do. And evidently, the way Google, Facebook, Microsoft and others are organized Amazon. But, you know, I'm certain it's not perfect.
I'm certain that not only can you do better, but you do substantially better. I really believe that. But at the same time, it's kind of empirically adequate to be Google, Facebook, you know, Apple or Amazon. And I think doing better is is just really pretty difficult.
And so I actually love the fact that people are experimenting here. The rise of remote organizations that have no physical headquarters or, you know, attempts to have I mean, Buffer has been trying sort of, you know, this kind of radical transparency and kind of compensation. Some organizations like Medium and Zappos tried or are trying Holacracy. And I love the fact all these experiments are happening.
And can you define whole ocracy for a second?
Well, I don't deeply understand it, but I think it is. I think I believe as I understand it, the core idea is having kind of differing kind of decision making bodies like groups of people that are responsible for major areas of the company rather than having a kind of more traditional hierarchy. And so perhaps, again, this this is my superficial understanding, but so perhaps you might have, you know, some sort of people who are responsible for making compensation decisions, some other set of people who are responsible for deciding, you know, what the product strategy is.
For next year and some other type of people who are responsible for figuring out how, you know, how the office should be decorated by the kind of those sets of people do need to kind of map on to some traditional hierarchy being out of they can be partly overlapping or bigger or smaller or whatever. And you know, that that's you know, when one describes that, I don't think that's a apriori a ludicrous idea, you know? Maybe that'll work.
But I think you're kind of the that the sort of the bias should be that for any radical departure from the kind of prevailing status quo, it's probably not going to work. I think, you know, there's a 90 percent chance, maybe maybe higher. They can have any any meaningful deviation is a bad idea. And so, again, to kind of return to sort of getting at the beginning, I think we should celebrate the fact that all these experiments are happening and should really cheer them on.
And you really hope that they succeed. And we ourselves should choose maybe some small number of experiments if we really believe in to engage in. But I think for these kind of, you know, really high, important, high importance, really hard to change sort of trap door decisions like what kind of organizational structure you're going to have. I think you actually want a bias towards being relatively conservative.
You don't you might be supportive of monkeys being shot into space, but you don't necessarily want to be one of the first 10.
That's exactly right. But I really think, like one of the strangest things to me in the world, you know, as I look at is that people capture and celebrate this experimentation enough, sort of like if it doesn't seem to them like the right thing to do. They are kind of offended by it or it's you know, it seems to that there's some kind of emotional response switch, whereas I think at least the response I try to kind of cultivate myself is I think that's a bad idea.
It does not make sense given my model of the world and I'm delighted it's happening like that's so great. And if it fails, well, you know, that's unfortunate. And if it succeeds, you know, we all get to learn something. That's kind of that's what's so great about the transmission of knowledge that if it works at only one particular small instance, everyone gets to benefit from us. That's so cool. And yet when people try kind of, you know, strange things that don't kind of match our kind of, again, pre-existing comprehensions, you know, there's some combination of mockery or or dismissiveness or again, kind of emotional objection, whereas I really think we should be encouraging and celebrating them.
And, you know, the weirder the effort is that the more they deserve our support.
So I want to talk about what maybe some of the things you did differently, but not not only what you did differently. That's sort of a in some respects a causal factor, but in some respects a a downstream effect of thinking differently or seeing things differently. What did you guys know that other people didn't?
Because I've heard multiple people comment on the early conception of striper considering entering a crowded market with tons of existing incumbents, with regulatory and institutional barriers to entry. All of these types of factors.
Why did you decide to pursue that? What did you see that other people did not see in that case?
Well, there's two different kind of knowing, right, this kind of conscious, explicit, knowing where you see that there's kind of a prevailing belief or something and you understand why it's wrong. And you have some kind of proprietary insight that Evernote doesn't have.
I think is another kind of sort of quote unquote, knowing which is just you. You have a belief or a model of the world and you don't even realize that it's different to others that you use it just it's kind of some deeply internalized thing that just for whatever circumstantial reasons you happen to have ended up with. And I think for us, it actually wasn't so much that we had a in the beginning this kind of comprehensive, deep understanding of space and realized how everyone else was mistaken.
We just had like a particular perspective because of how we know where we came from and how we got started. That and we were lucky that we turned out the kind of that model we had and that outlook kind of matched the world at that time. But I really think it's very important that, you know, we don't drink our own Kool-Aid here and overread into our sort of supposed insight. I really think, you know, it was it was really just a lot of circumstance and good fortune.
But I'd say that kind of particular things that differed about stripe and kind of our. Outlook, where we just didn't think that the kind of regulatory and kind of partnerships like banking barriers were actually that bad. You know, they kind of sound intimidating. And obviously you've kind of do a lot of work. There may be some other software companies don't have to do. But, you know, it's it's it's fundamentally feasible. I mean, ultimately, regulators and banks and so on are comprised of good people who want to do the right thing and may speak a different language or whatever.
But, ah, you know, they're they're reasonable. And I guess the other thing is we really had this mindset because, of course, where we were, we came from the kind of developers and makers and software. We're just going to continue to become increasingly important. And it's really amazing work. And when we started out, we kind of our idea was that developers would just be like we'd build a good product and developers would start using us.
And, you know, that that that that would be the story. And we didn't even know that was that you're going to a stupid distribution strategy and go to market mechanism. We didn't even know how much enterprise marketing and enterprise sales motion and all the rest. We were kind of skipping over. We just had this very naive understanding of the world.
However, we're we're lucky where the world really got, I think started to change around 2010, 2011, where companies around the world and especially in the U.S. and Europe really got the memo like big traditional companies that they would have to take advantage of what software was making possible and really transform themselves if they wanted to kind of survive and prosper. And so, you know, fast forward kind of five or six years later, even that kind of more traditional kind of stodgy companies that would have needed this kind of super complex enterprise field team to kind of engage Resh, they were actually now starting to listen to their own developers.
And when the CTO said, hey, I really think we should be using this kind of much more straightforward or sort of much more powerful technology, unlike a decade before they were actually being listened to. And so, again, this isn't sort of a thing we knew. And in the way that we could have, you know, argued for us and in 2010. But it was a thing we kind of was somehow in our bones. And again, we're just lucky where we started right around when the world started to transform in that regard.
And actually we did this and we did this survey earlier this year where we kind of surveyed a whole bunch of, you know, don't say traditional above, but sort of not software companies, recent survey companies, you know, fairly broadly across multiple industries. And we just asked them kind of what what's holding them back. And, you know, that's a very imperfect methodology, of course, because, you know, it's it's hard to know what kind of candidate answers there should be and maybe, you know, this question or do they all interpret it the same way and so on.
But they're a very high level thing that sort of came back was that companies across the board report kind of availability of software engineers and just like ability to do things with software as being as big or even bigger a constraint on their progress as access to capital. And that's just such an amazing fact. Right. And that sort of, you know, economics for for for its history basically has been sort of a science of in some sense, you know, access to and kind of distribution of capital.
And we just had this kind of moment of transformation where, I mean, on some level you can exchange, you know, capital over software, talent and output and so on. But it's actually really hard to do. I think companies globally really struggling with figuring out how to make that happen. And so anyway, we just had the good fortune getting started right when that came to be the case.
So there are definitely Shinsei synchronicities, but it's sort of fortuitous timing aspects to it. And I think that, of course, Lady Lady Fortune, good luck or bad luck is always a factor. But it's it's in a case like this, necessary and not sufficient. There are certain things within your control, assuming we don't get into a really long, confusing discussion about freewill. Let's just assume there are certain things that depend on you making very specific decisions.
Are these these forks in the road?
And I'd love to talk about some of the things that you feel like you did right. Or small things that turned into big things. And I've read I want to read just a very brief paragraph from the Yoda mentioned earlier.
Polygram and a few people are interested in learning more about why. Commoner We can talk about it. But it's this is going to be vastly simplified, but for people who have never heard this before, Y Combinator, often abbreviated to Y C is the SEAL Team 6 Harvard of and let's just called startup incubators of sorts. They accept a class. It is a very small percentage. I wanna say single digits. At this point, I would have to be in terms of the number of applicants.
And there are many, many well-known companies that have come out of Y Combinator. And Paul has many fantastic essays online which people should read.
Why C is one of the most amazing inventions of the past 20 years. And I think Piggy's essays are still a goldmine. That sort of like Alan K., I think are so like, you know, they're great, but I think they're even better than people appreciate for sure.
And a lot and many of them have also read his book.
Many of them are they are not timely in the best possible sense.
They are they're they're based on first principles and an example of that. I always mess up the headline, but I think it's the maker's schedule versus the manager's schedule. Something along those lines. People can find it. I'll put it in the show notes. But this particular essay talks a bit about Stripe and it's a straight quote. Stripe is one of the most successful startups we've funded. And the problem they solved was an urgent one. If anyone would have sat back and waited for users or could have sat back and waited for users, it was stripe.
In fact, they're famous within yrc for aggressive early user acquisition startups. Building things for other startups have a big pool of potential users and in the other companies we've funded and none took better advantage of it than Stripe. And y'see, we use the term quote Collison installation and quote for the technique they invented. More differnet founders ask Will you try our beta? And for people who don't know, that terminology just means effectively a rough draft of a product.
Will you try our beta? And if the answer is yes, they say great, we'll send you a link. But the Collison brothers weren't going to wait. When anyone agreed to try Stripe, they'd say, Right. Then give me your laptop and set them up on the spot. So that seems like a small thing, but it it doesn't strike me that if that's the beginning of certain types of snowballs and user acquisition, that is a really important could be a really important differentiator.
So what are what are some of you offer to take this any direction? But some of the the other thing is that you guys got right. And I do remember even in Silicon Valley, which of course, is a can be an echo chamber of sorts. But there was a lot of talk, even it at the periphery of my circles. And I am non-technical. I'm not a developer about how easy Stripe was to implement.
Right. Seven lines of code or X number of lines of code.
And you're set up and I missed that. I'm sure on some level was a very conscious decision, not only in terms of product, but also in terms of positioning so key. Q Talk about some of the early decisions that yeah, in retrospect were really important.
So I think there are two that really jump out to me were, you know, I think that they were actually kind of somewhat deliberate. Well, what I'll give to and I'll think of more. And so one is, you know, we had sort of grown up reading Slashdot this early kind of tech news Web site, but is kind of crowdsourced and hacker news and Twitter and blogs and all these kinds of services. And I guess we just sort of had a belief that how people find out about things in the world had changed.
And in particular, the kind the market was getting more efficient.
And by efficient, I mean that it was becoming more likely that people would come to discover the kind of quote unquote, correct thing that maybe kind of 30 years ago or something, because they were sort of much slower or fewer kind of distribution channels that who won and what got used be kind of determined more by marketing budgets or by sales tax or whatever. But that was a new kind of sort of transparency and kind of efficacy and information dissemination that the Internet now made possible that shifted the way that a product could really get adopted.
And so just very concretely, our sales and marketing strategy for a very long time was I was writing blog posts that we just thought were know good and interesting or it is we hoped were and building a good product and hoping. People would tell others about it. And I really don't think that that would have worked 10 years previously. The Internet had changed, but we just made a very deliberate bet on it on these kind of superior dissuasion channels.
And I think that actually really helped us in two big ways. One is it's obviously cheaper. And so you look at a lot of other companies, especially companies selling to businesses, and they spend vast, gargantuan amounts of money on their kind of sales and marketing strategies. And so early on, we just we didn't have to do that. And so it was kind of transformative, impactful in that sense. Maybe if we'd had to kind of, you know, spend a lot of unsought of getting started, it perhaps would have been, you know, that that could have been a severe enough barrier that we wouldn't have gotten over it at all.
Maybe the company would never have happened. So first the second.
Can I pause for one second? Yes, sure. Do you recall any of the blog posts that if you were to do kind of an 80/20 analysis and look at those that really move the needle, do you recall any of the topics or just your basic approach?
Well, I remember a guy who worked at Stripe and he still works. It's dry. His name is Evan. He wrote a blog post about how to debug Python, which is a programming language with GDP, which is a debugger. It didn't really have much to do with Stripe. There's actually was a really good blog post. And this is play back in 2012. And it's really that got a whole bunch of traffic. And, you know, as a consequence, people kind of found out about stripes and maybe you kind of realized that we knew something I hope we were talking about from a technical standpoint.
And and it moved the needle for us back at a time where really nobody had heard of us.
It's it's also, if if I may, I'm caffeinated enough now to to feel the need to jump in and commentate. But the it's also a really good example of an editorial honeypot that will attract the types of people who are technically probably in positions, too, given that sort of point in time that you discussed earlier, where CEOs are listening more to see CEOs and CEOs are listening to the actual on the frontline. That's coders.
It was it's a very smart way of talking around the product in a sense that a lot of those technical folks, in my experience, are also semi allergic or very highly allergic to what they perceive as anything sales. So you're able to bring them into the fold without directly, explicitly selling anything. Yes.
Well, this actually brings me to the second thing that I was going to mention. Interesting, the other kind of helpful consequence kind of marketing ourselves this way, which is it actually kind of created better incentives for us, because if you think that sort of more traditional marketing and by it to be clear, I'm not dismissing in any way I'm traditional sales of marketing. I mean, Stripe has salespeople and marketing people. And, you know, they they're immensely important in sort of in their organization when I building today.
And so I'm kind of specifically talking I kind of strategies to kind of get started in the early days and to kind of get some initial traction anyway. That's it. And the super valuable thing about sort of pursuing these kind of nontraditional channels is if you think that a traditional marketing organization and kind of what it's digital marketing in general, kind of what the incentives are, the incentives are to kind of talk up the product or to kind of pre-announce things head off when they're actually ready.
Because if you're sort of talking at people and, you know, showing these fancy presentations or whatever, but then actually using the product directly, you know, if they find out a year later that it sucks. Well, you know, that that's kind of fine, or at least it's fine in the short term because, you know, you've already got the revenue for the sale or something. Whereas if you have to compete on the merits of the product and just can't rely on on people kind of being honest about how well it works or doesn't, that kind of forces you to just build a kind of product development organization that can compete.
And so it may be harder to kind of get that initial traction, but if you can get there, you actually really have kind of an upper hand relative to kind of more traditionally incentivized companies because they've probably gotten a bit lazy and a bit ossified and it just a bit less competitive on this axis. And once you can make the battle about the quality of your product and the quality of your product development, you know, if you if you can get the battle fields to be sort of on that axis, you really have a huge advantage.
And our experience was the incumbents just couldn't react. And, you know, they kind of realized that Stripe was kind of getting some traction and starting to get some mindshare and developers and startups were starting to use us. And what's really amazing to me is kind of how little happened. And I think it's not because I mean of see for a while that is going to dismissed us. But even after they stop dismissing us, it. You can't just kind of click your fingers, be like, okay, now we're gonna start creating good products.
It's such a deep cultural and organizational thing that it's it's very difficult for competitors or potential competitors to shift their. Whereas if you just a better marketing campaign, that's super easy to copy. Anyone else, can you buy a competing billboard or pay more for the Google ads or whatever? And so on. Again, we didn't realize all this in advance, but I think that ended up really helping us.
I want to underscore something you just mentioned briefly, which is Google ads. This is two things. Number one is that if I look back at the however many at this point, 70 plus startups in my own investment experience, the vast majority of over performers focused almost to the exclusion of of PR and marketing on product in the early days.
And number two is if I look at the bottom performing, say, decile of companies, they almost all got very distracted by PR and marketing, particularly in the first year or two generally first year of existence, especially if they were blessed. In other words, Kirst with a lot of high praise from US outlets in one or two pieces. It's very seductive as a siren song. Absolutely.
And the the last thing I wanted to say, just to underscore something you mentioned, which is really important, is if your customer acquisition is predicated on paid acquisition.
Yes. That makes you a just a sitting duck for incumbents. Exactly. Who have larger budgets. Yes.
And they can just decide to bleed chips for a period of time until you run out of chips. Yes.
Is this a. Yeah, it's really, really important. So I'm glad you mentioned it.
There's always a kind of a seductive psychological temptation where if something isn't growing to tell yourself that it's because, well, you know, I haven't invested enough in distribution. It's kind of harder to sort of come to realize or to tell yourself that, well, you know, maybe our babies are a bit too ugly.
And so I think people are just very psychologically biased towards sort of blaming anything but growth on on things that sound like sales and marketing. And then the. Yeah, I mean, related to what you just said. One of the just really strange facts about the world and I don't kind of fully understand why this is the case is how hard it is for organizations to build good software. And you know, I know that sounds strange in that I mean, lots of organizations, both some software, but like it is just really weird, right?
You know, if you if you think about sort of what a what a really good Web site or ISIS application or whatever it kind of is and feels like it's really strange. I mean, it's not easy to build a pretty good Web site or IRS app or whatever. But it's not rocket science. And given that it's not rocket science, why are there so few of them? Like, just think of kind of any big major company and think of their Web site or app like it's probably pretty bad.
It can. Janki, it looks old like the animations really work, right?
It's kind of it's laggy. Oh, is that right? But that's weird. They probably have the pride of a nice building and headquarters. And, you know, if they like, there are many things they can decide to do. And just like do it pretty competently, they can kind of turn their capital advantage into a into a sort of an advantage in some other area. Like if they know if they want to if they want to have a great fleet of cars, you know, they can very reliably turn capital into a great fleet of cars.
But for some reason, they can't seem to turn. And in fact, they can probably even turn capital into like a cool advertising campaign.
You know, there's enough good agencies, but for whatever reason, they can't turn capital into good software. And, you know, it would be immensely valuable for them if they could, but they can't, or at least they don't. And I don't think it's for lack of trying or lack of kind of realizing this. And so I think actually smaller companies don't realize how much of an upper hand they have here, where if they can create a product that is kind of so much better than the status quo that they start to get sort of organic traction once you attach a real.
SALES and marketing engine to that. It's gonna be really frickin hard for a big company to effectively compete because again, this kind of organizational transformation into being good at software is just it just so profoundly hard.
Another place that I've seen a lot of would be entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs spend a lot of time on company name and brand. OK. So it was choking with I was joking with Chris Sacca earlier via text. And I was just saying I'm really impressed with the phenomenal outcomes and very rocky beginnings with difficult names that you guys have had with companies or gods.
So you have OK, diplomatic. Yeah. Which which I'm sure was not always spelled correctly by people not not uniformly know.
And Straight Stripe. What could you just give us a brief description of the original name of what would later become stripe. And just like walk us through some early iterations. What? Share what? What I'm hoping to do here.
And I do want to make this two leading of an introduction to what you're going to say, but is that you're that the future of your company is probably not going to hinge entirely on the first name that you give. It is where I'm trying to go with this and the product, the surface. Maybe you could just tell a bit of the story.
We are definitely a powerful example of that. As you say, it is not. And so Stripe was originally incorporated as Slash Dev Slash Finance Inc.
Spelled as l.a.'s, HGV, SLA, S-H, etc.. Like it was DISLODGES really spelled out. And the reason for that is we wrote it's a long story. I won't bore you with it. It was like a programming joke. But we thought it was funny. I think it was the rest of the world, you know, due to our shock and surprise to not quite find it as funny as we did. And and the fact that the first name of the product was slashed, I've slashed payments because, you know, we sort of wanted a slightly broader company name than product name.
And an extremely confusingly, while the company had all this SL a_s HSF spelled out. The product was just DeeVee painand Starcom. And so kind of the naming scheme that didn't even really match. And so we would have these meetings and we described we do and we're already fighting an uphill battle here. I mean, you know, we were, as John says, sort of, you know, three squirrels in a trenchcoat, sort of trying to masquerade as like a real thing, like evading all these questions about, you know, where exactly is your headquarters and, you know, how do we say how do we not say our bedroom in a way that's not a lie?
Or do we say with an open floor plan?
Exactly. Exactly. Yes. Yeah, we we really embrace remote work. So we were already finding a bit of an uphill battle. And, you know, then at the end of the meeting or something, you know, they'd ask us our name or for our business card or something, we'd have to hand over this thing that, you know, it didn't even look like a company name. They'd looked at us like, oh, but, you know, what's the company name called like?
Actually, sorry, sir, it's this thing.
So it was just it was all bad. And not only did people often misspellings, but it was kind of a moment of celebration, if anyone ever correctly spelled it. And so we kind of came to accept the need for for a name change and naming things, as I'm sure you know, is pretty hard. And so I remember I think was the winter of twenty ten, which was a very wet winter out in California, unusually. And I remember all these kind of dark evenings at the office for as soon as you guys kind of got stuck with your code or with some problem or something, you would have some a little discussion of it while Huckabee named this company and we had all these books around the office.
I mean, just all sorts of random stuff. You just page through them and like come up with a word and and, you know, toss it out to the group. You're like, well, should we color our company this? And so no, John was trying to learn how to ride a motorcycle and we had a motorcycle repair manual. And so we lot of motorcycle words should be called the company carburetor, which fortunately did not make the cut.
And so it was not going well. As you're hearing, we ventured aside to write a little script tester, just like kind of random potential names and actually to kind of check whether the relevant domain names were available because, you know, it was important for an online company that we kind of have the dot.com domain. I can't remember how, but Stripe is one of the words that ended up sort of on our list of names to check. I think we're just at some point trying to think up kind of single monosyllabic English words that didn't have some kind of strong pre-existing association.
And stripe, it turns out, was available. Relatively cheaply. It was, you know, was, I think ten or twenty thousand dollars would you know. That's not cheap in some sense, but can be compared to the costs. We were living having a terrible name. It seemed like a good deal.
That's the way. What year was this? This is like twenty ten. So that's astonishing to me.
That's actually I mean for a dictionary word that is a noun that recognizable. That's astonishing. Did you did you negotiate or have someone negotiate on your behalf? Was that the opening offer they made to sell?
I said I'd have to go back to check the details. But but there there wasn't a big lengthy negotiation and there been a back and forth.
Know, we we we really lucked out. I mean, what helped us, of course, is we weren't wedded to entities names. Right. You know, if if the guy had said, you know, it's $200000. Well, no doubt it's been exactly two seconds of thought. We'd have moved on to something else on the carburetor, Skoda. Exactly. Exactly.
As it really helped that, you know, we were we were happy to entertain anything at all. And and the last thing worth mentioning there is, you know, we OK, we bought the domain and started to rename our code and the website and everything. And then one day in early January, we kind of flip the switch and everything became stripe. But we saw somehow on the checklist of all the things to change and do. We'd neglected to add an entry for tell our customers.
And so now people who woke up in the morning to go to debt payments ICOM and check their sales and whatever, and you know, they got redirected to stripe dot com. And so we got a lot of sort of confused customers being like, are you guys hacked? Have you been fished? And what's going on here? Fortunately, back in January 2000 and eleven, we had very few customers. And so when I say we got these e-mails from customers, I mean, probably all five of our customers e-mailed us.
So it was not a huge customer support burden.
What I do want to talk about, perhaps some inflection points for the company, since you certainly have more than five customers now. I mean, you have what is it, a 80 percent of American adults who purchase something from a business powered by stripe? Now, I know that doesn't mean that there are 80 percent of American adults are stripe customers personally, but that's right. But you now have millions of businesses in 130 plus countries. So something happened between those two points in time.
Yes. But it would be easy to talk about a lot of the highlights. A lot of the inflection points. And we will do that.
But lest this appear like it has been homerun after homerun every time you've stepped up to bat. But I'd love to talk about, if you're willing, are some of the harder periods, maybe near-death experiences, moments of doubt and to make it as personal as possible. And so not necessarily in abstract about the company going through a tough time, but periods when you have struggled and to give us one or two examples of that and then how you kind of found your way out of that period would be, I think certainly of interest to me and hopefully would help humanize the otherwise seemingly superhuman Patrick Collison.
This could also be a personal period, could be KYP in high school, college, a difficult family situation could be anything.
I will give the drivers in person version. So it's okay with those caveats on the of the stripe side. Just the thing that I think is kind of important to communicate is despite things having been relatively smooth and that macro sense, it often is just extremely hard. And I remember sort of early on after him after one particular meeting back in 2011, 2012, just after the meeting, the API broke.
And so you said the API application programming interface. Could you? Yeah, it's hard to explain. The core stripe payments engine broke and so our customers just couldn't get paid and couldn't accept payment from their customers. And, you know, we didn't have many customers back then and maybe there are 100 or something. But but there was still one hundred businesses that felt like a huge deal. And, you know, we fixed it. It was only down for me 30 minutes or something.
But I'm never feeling had a really bad about that. And then I just remember kind of it wasn't it was something particularly special at that day. But I remember just kind of reflecting on the sort of enormity of the challenges that we would face in the future and all the work we saw to do and all the stuff that was still broken and all the people we had to hire and all the customers we'd have to convince to use us that we had not yet convinced.
And I was just at this moment of vertigo and. I mean, I just remember being kind of immensely dispirited and kind of talking to John about, well, you know, there really actually any point in doing this. And again, it's kind of important to me about that moment is not the kind of things were actually all that bad, but quite the opposite. Objectively, they were fine. That day, it wasn't really much worse than the previous day.
But I think that kind of this is kind of inevitable thing when you're creating something where on the one hand, you have to be very optimistic, because if you weren't optimistic, you wouldn't bother doing us and especially the face of such hardship and uncertainty. You also have two very pessimistic because you have to I mean, there are tons of problems and you have to be of very kind of tuned to spotting them so you can go fix them.
And so you kind of exist in this kind of superposition. This juxtaposition of kind of pessimism and optimism. And you're kind of an extreme and both axes. And it's just like a weird psychological state. And Trymaine in it, as you must for many years, is is just not normal. And you're kind of you're always sort of necessarily over extrapolating from limited data because, again, you kind of should be in that like, you know, one particular customer decides not to use you or one particular person leaves the company or, you know, just like some small thing happens.
But you kind of have to be really asking yourself, well, is this a trend? Is there has something changed? Is something systemically broken? Whatever. And because you're kind of always extrapolating from from these bad things while maintaining this kind of long term optimism. I think that is just a recipe for for real, you know, psychological hardship. And, you know, I do want to overstate it. And that kind of is all the obvious sort of no acknowledgments about, you know, we're immensely lucky among the lucky few in history to have, you know, food and shelter and health and all these things.
But, you know, a human's hedonic Lee Hedonic treadmill is very powerful and we rapidly adapt to take all those for granted. And so the fact that maybe in the scheme of things, we should feel very grateful and lucky and you can kind of tell yourself this narrative to try to keep things in perspective. The reality is that it is just kind of pretty pummeling on an ongoing basis, even for stri, which perhaps from the outside might look like this kind of really neat little story.
It doesn't have many such moments where it just seems hard.
What did the conversation look like with John that day? Do you recall any of the specifics? I mean, was it was it more commiseration so you could get out of your system where you actually talking to him to determine if I should proceed or not? What was what did that look like?
It was more the former like more of this just sort of general dejection. We didn't seriously think about stopping. I think both of us are. It's less I think we're both really determined and more. I think we're just stubborn and. And so the idea of stopping just it didn't seem like a just I guess it didn't feel like an option for us. And her determination sounds glamorous to me. And I'm not sure we have that, but I think we're just dogged.
But yeah, it's more like, you know, people have different kind of emotional sort of cycles and kind of his sine wave was kind of displaced from mine. And so fortunately and you know, he's a pretty cheery guy. That day when I was super dejected, he was in his chipper way. He was he was funny. That'll be fine. And, you know, you give it another 24 hours or something and, you know, the world looks a bit different.
This is something you mentioned just a few moments ago, I think is worth trying to reiterate to make sure I understand it, which is the importance.
I mean, the existential importance in the case of a lot of startups of being able to remain consistently optimistic enough that you can summon the energy and doggedness to continue while also being very good at envisioning problems and worst case scenarios and bad outcomes that you can avert them. And yes, it's tricky. It's really tricky. It's true also for a good well, and it's it's tricky.
It's not natural. And it's it's not a kind of mindset that I think most normal situations in the world kind of train you to have. Yeah.
And it can be really, really stressful. This is something I've observed not only in founders, but also in a lot of investors, particularly those who can make money by betting on in some fashion apocalyptic or black swan events that cause a lot of. Damage or that are very scary and people who are not just betting on the long side, but betting on the short side and I mean, of course we get into derivatives and stuff like that. But I'd say it's the they're thinking about the edge cases that could really be.
Yes, catastrophic for for them. Right.
Although you say a company, you sort of have to be kind of both the sort of super long optimistic. You know, I'm just gonna buy this stock and hold it for decades. Trader. And you kind of have to be this sort of the. The catastrophic here. Taleb style. You know, the world is going to hell in a handbasket sort of catastrophe trader. And you're you kind of has to be both. And that's just weird. And I guess the thing that I think is maybe important to understand, folks, is it's kind of intuitive that if a company or a new effort of any sort is not going well, the things will feel hard and you often feel dejected.
And life, at least insofar as work goes, is not great. But the weird part is that even if things are going well and the efforts or the company or whatever is succeeding, things will still often not feel great. And no one's ever told me that before I started. I I sort of thought that, well, if the company is succeeding, then clearly it's going to be an unnecessarily fun, but at least sort of it'll feel good day to day.
Whereas the actual reality is that you're always necessarily operating at the kind of outer edge of what you can handle because you know, it's true. If you'd spare capacity, you just take on more. And so you're kind of therefore inevitably always, you know, on the cusp of feeling that you're you're sort of going to fall over. And, you know, even as we record this podcast, I mean, that this kind of moment, I feel sort of right on the edge of what I'm able to handle.
And on the one hand, I sort of I don't wish it were otherwise and that I sort of enjoy testing myself and kind of finding my limits and developing and stretching myself. But on the other hand, you know, when you stretch your muscles, that's painful.
Well, it also makes me think of a conversation I had with Laird Hamilton, who's one of the most legendary big wave surfers of all time and '70s chatting with him.
He's got to be I don't know how old he is. This is one of those guys who sort of defeat defies any type of expectation of age affecting performance. I think he's in his early 50s, but still goes and hunting for some of the biggest waves in the world. And I remember I was chatting with him at one point and he said he'd been tooling around on some easy waves earlier that day. And I asked him roughly how big he thought they were on the news, like, you know, 20, 25 feet.
He's like, once he gets to 20, you can start to have fun. And I'm paraphrasing here, he's like, let's get to thirties. Like, you really like, kind of want to watch yourself. It's like once you get to over 50, you're really not allowed to fall.
And it's when you are. And I've never been in this position. But having spent a lot of time around founders and very fast growing companies, when you do have at least the perception and which I think is reflective of reality, that you are effectively always on the edge of red lining, because as you said, if you have extra capacity, you open the door to fill that capacity.
Who are some of the people you've leaned on or who have been helpful, alive or dead or otherwise? I'm not sure what otherwise would be in that case.
But zombie to help you navigate this or learn how to surf that kind of wave because it is it is fucking unimaginable for most people.
I've I've only seen it as a spectator really what it takes to to kind of have your face pressed up against the windshield right in the in the Formula One car that is a stripe or an Uber or any of these companies. It's it's really hard to fathom what it what it takes and how much it resembles a professional sport.
So who, who or what has been helpful in learning to navigate that well made just before answering that to kind of add something to it? We're just talking about the way it relates to what you just asked. There's a period in in my life where I did feel a bit naively lost, but it certainly wasn't clear exactly what direction I was going in. And so we sold our first company and I lived in Vancouver for a while. I worked for that company company exploring some other stuff as well.
This is the life. Good idea. Exactly. Yep. And then I moved to live with my then. A friend in Zurich and inside lived in Switzerland for a while and then and then actually went back to college because I dropped out of college pretty early and when I went to school, I sort of thought, well, maybe I want to become like a desists or a mathematician or things like that. And, you know, who knows how successful, if at all I would have been.
Maybe, maybe I wouldn't even have made the cut. But I kind of had that ambition and aspiration. And I sort of felt that we'd start the company so early and it happened so quickly that I hadn't kind of really fully tested whether that was kind of a good idea or not. And so I went back to college for a second time to kind of do mostly math and physics and so did that. And then while there, John was also in college at same time.
That's kind of when we went to start Stripe. But if you'd look to that kind of two year period, do is drop out of college, start this company. You moved to Vancouver, moved to another country, go back to college, then this other company and I can we started stripe. It did not seem very promising. I mean, seemed like this, you know, silly little developer payments thing. And again, it was another two years before it even launched.
And so maybe that whole kind of four year period, I think too many people who knew me or just kind were around like it. I'm sure it looks kind of pretty scattered, kind of weirdly planned, me misdirected. And and they wouldn't be entirely wrong. I mean, I certainly was not kind of pursuing some some grand master plan. And I think I was actually really lucky where, you know, from sort of an early age, my parents were very okay with myself and John sort of charting our own course.
And, you know, you get these kind of real sort of hothouse environments where there's a lot of pressure to, you know, go to the school or go to this college, you know, pursue this Krueger path, whatever. You really kind of feel like you're on these kind, narrow train tracks. I know that our upbringing was kind of the opposite, where really our parents, even when we wanted to be sort of very ostensibly kind of strange and surprising decisions are our parents kind of supported us.
So when I was a 15 year old and wanted to take a year off school, just kind of just like program full time. My parents were supportive of that. Or when I wanted to sort of drop out of school to go take this totally different exam system. My parents were okay with that. And so I you know, I had this upbringing where our parents supported us in that way. And trend in my kind of teens, early 20s was kind of trying to figure out what their kind of right direction was that I wanted.
That was kind of a lost period, but it was definitely a highly exploratory one. And then so just come to your question of, you know, periods of real hardship. I think a lot of people either don't get the opportunity to sort of explore multiple directions like that or they're kind of either others don't given the opportunity or they sort of they don't kind of give themselves the permission to just kind of have a few, you know, slightly lost years where the narrative isn't super clear.
And those words can be hard because by definition, you're not exactly sure where they're going. And it's very kind of disorienting to not know where you're sailing and you can and do feel a bit adrift. And so looking back on that, I actually feel like it was kind of really important in kind of giving me confidence and perspective. But at the time, it definitely felt a bit unmoored.
Well, I think that you I think this is really important for a number of reasons. The first is that this is going to sound like a fortune cookie. But there is a quote I can't I can't recall who it's attributed to. I want to say Emmerson. But ever since kind of like Abraham Lincoln on the Internet, everything gets attributed. But you know him or Oscar Wilde. That's right. Right.
So not not all. Not all who wander are lost rights. There's a difference between being lost, which is you have a destination and you have gone off track or you are preoccupied with where you are currently located and don't know where you're located versus exploring and wandering it.
The second, which is, is I suppose more a follow up question than a point is, is this I'm very curious how your parents will be. Maybe you can also just tell us a little bit about what your parents did professionally or how they spent their time, but how your parent, what your parents did to cultivate excellence or clear end or clear thinking without necessarily pigeonholing the direction of, I guess, those. Right. So if you if if a biographer at some point is writing the story of your life, you give them unfettered access.
How might they they answer that, you know, what are the what what are examples? They might give things your parents said, annual routines that you guys had or whatever? Anything that comes to mind.
Well, we were kind of. We grew up in very rural Ireland, right in the middle of the countryside, surrounded by a kind of farms and fields. And so, you know, we were kind of really we had a kind of figure out ourselves what was going to be entered painting and interesting and fun.
It wasn't just provided to us by the environment. And so we kind of grew up as these sort of free-range children. And we're lucky where there were lots of books in the house and we read those pretty voraciously. Our parents. I guess I'd say that the thing that our parents did is that there's a million things, but that the two that really the three that stand out are they kind of showed us the world. They took us to the library every day.
They sort of took us, you know, traveling in the summers. They if there were interesting guests coming over for dinner, we weren't kind of, you know, dispatched, you know, upstairs or toast to get an early dinner before the adults came. We were sort of thrust right into the middle. So they can't really took us seriously and show us the world. The second thing is they they really give us kind of agency on autonomy and kind of treated us as adults.
And, you know, those kind of went two ways. And that on the one hand, they got a lot of freedom. On the other hand, they kind expected quite a lot of us. And so our youngest brother had to get some pretty major surgery in the U.S. back when John and I were maybe ten or twelve or thereabouts. And so they were gone to the US for several weeks, maybe more than a month. And we were left mostly alone for for that month.
We did a neighbor who checked in and us every day and made sure things were fine. But we spent most of the time alone when we were at school. And, you know, they come from myself and John standpoint. That was fantastic. You know, we really we we loved the freedom. But of course, they reciprocally expected us, you know, not to to kind of not to give them cause to to regret it. And the third thing is, you know, whenever we kind of expressed interest in something, they they really sort of tried to find opportunities to kind of, you know, when there's a small chute of interest, they look for opportunities to water it, but they never sort of thrust those opportunities on us or I never felt that kind of or other that thrust the interest on us.
I never felt that I was sort of following a track laid down by somebody else. And so I'm kind of randomly mentioning when I was 12 or 13 that learning any or why I thought this. But the learning ancient Greek seemed interesting. I think I just like read some homer or something. I mean, a translation and the language seemed interesting. And I was just saying that as some kind of random throwaway remark, I guess, the way a kid does.
And sure enough, my mom went and found somebody like literally a local monastery who's willing to teach ancient Greek. And then she told me about this. And so like for two years, I went to that monastery once a week after school and like, learned ancient Greek. And that interest never went super far. I haven't read much ancient Greek in the last 10 years.
Media, you know. Yeah. But but it was the kind of thing they did. And, you know, obviously some other interests like programming, you know, they kind of really took hold in a deeper way. And so, you know, I don't have kids today, but I do kind of reflect a lot on the kind of childhood we had because it was pretty different in mostly regards to the childhoods of the people around us. And like especially.
And I got to college in the US, who's sort of so far in for me the idea that like people were so laden with extra curriculars and sort of burnishing their college resonances, you know, from age 12 or earlier and the kind of the period of of sort of teenager hood and adolescence was kind of so intense. Whereas for myself and John, it really felt kind of exploratory and that we were given that our parents were kind of life coaches or facilitators as while we were.
Yeah, exactly. While we were roaming. But that kind of all the. Yeah, exactly. I think that they were playing a supporting role rather than having us be kind of, you know, with these friends in college, I felt like they were kind of at the front of a locomotive and the locomotive is speeding along down the tracks and there was kind of hanging on for dear life being, you know, pushed along by the by the live cattle protector.
When when you had these dinners, this is something that is. Popped up a few times in conversations with a number of folks on the podcast that parents had them included in specifically dinner discussions when interesting house guests would come over.
That's interesting either. Yeah, generally that that's coming out.
It's come up a few times, not dozens of times, but enough where it it piques my curiosity to dig into it a bit. Would your parents encourage you to ask questions with jury?
It was actually just so people can paint a picture in their own minds. What did both of your parents work? What of them? What did they do professionally or how did they spend their time? Just so we have a little contest.
So both of them worked. Our dad. Most of our childhood ran a small lakeside hotel and 24 bedrooms. And so he was kind of a few miles from our house and he spent a lot of time there. And of course, for us as kids, I mean, it is super exciting. I mean, this hotel was like this was this giant playground as far as we're concerned. You know, the staff did not appreciate that. But we loved roaming around us and going and sliding around the polished function room floor and all the rest.
And our moms started a corporate training company back right around the time I was born. I think she she she had left her previous job and then I was born. And, you know, I think after a couple of weeks, she decided, well, I don't know this kid isn't that interesting. And so from the house, she decided start this company that I would provide, um, corporate quality management training. And so if I heard these acronyms, like ISO 9000, these guys certification programs, they.
Yeah. And so after all these American multinationals setting up shop in Ireland, there's been a lot of appetite for sort of making sure that we're kind of doing things properly and well and so on. And so she's start this business again, providing that training and so is he all through my childhood. She was running this business well for much of it out of her house. And then they kind of got a separate office. But but sort of it was it was always part of that picture.
And so kind of from our standpoint, starting a company was really not some kind of strange foreign thing, is it was it was pretty normal. I think whatever your parents do is kind of almost, you know, from the Charles perspective is just kind of is normal. And I'm sure of our parents about astronauts. You know, being an astronaut would just seem like a totally normal career. And so so that's why they did it.
You mentioned travel, if you could. Was it? Is there a particular trip that comes to mind? And I'd be there are many different ways to travel there, just as there are many different ways to live and choose places to live and so on. So we we we probably won't have time to get into how your parents ended up where you grew up, if they started there or ended up there, which is a whole separate side of things. But yes, you.
Could you describe perhaps a particularly memorable trip? Sure. And how you traveled with your parents? Like what that looked like?
Yes. So. So we went almost every summer camping in Europe. And so we'd take the ferry to Europe, which, you know, from Ireland obviously isn't that far. And we'd bring, you know, some tents or a little caravan and we'd just go kind of driving around the continent, staying in all these different campgrounds. And Europe turns out to kind of have all these really great, nice campgrounds. Almost every town has one. And so we stay a few days here, maybe a week there and so on.
And to be France and Germany and Austria and Hungary and Italy and whatever. And I have these incredibly fond memories of of those trips. And I mean, they'd be like a month long. And and they were great, I guess, because they're kind of long enough. That didn't feel kind of pressed for time or like, okay, today we got to go see, you know, this, that and the other. You kind of shifted into just kind of camping mode.
And is there enough changes of scenery, the environment? Did you sort of just got to take a whole lot of different things in? I mean, honestly, the other thing that's great about them is even though, you know, being in Ireland, there wasn't kind of a whole lot of distraction real to just kind of read a lot or kind of focus on our own things on these trips. You could focus and read even more. And so, honestly, they make the most kind of vivid memories I have mostly of these trips.
It's not sort of going to see the such and such or so. And so it's like particular books that I read. And I mean, I remember, you know, you can load up the car and the caravan, which is like heaps and heaps of books.
And, you know, you'd have these long drives like, you know, eight hours, 10 hours and just kind of reading in the car the whole way as I'm listening to your stories and more about your childhood and and so on, a lot of which is brand new to me. I'm simultaneously looking at a page on your website. Petrich calls in dot com forward slash advice. And this this may not apply to everybody in my listenership. I think a lot of them do apply to many different age ranges.
It starts with if you're if you're 10 to 20. This is frightening you here. So a lot of folks will fall outside of that.
But I wanted to touch on a few of these. Sure. And one is.
All right. So these to kind of go together. But one is make things and then there's a line following it. But then following up on that, as is more broadly, nobody is going to teach you to think for yourself. A large fraction of what people around you believe is mistaken. Internalize this and practice coming up with your own worldview. Yet the correlation between it and those around you shouldn't be too strong unless you think you are especially lucky in your initial conditions.
Or This is my language. Now you choose your environment like a place like San Francisco or whatever it might be.
But at the the and I suppose even then, if the correlation is too high, you should be careful.
For sure. For sure. But the sabeg my question here is going to be a little meandering, so bear with me.
There are people who seem to not not care what other people think and develop their own world views because they have a predisposition in that direction in the sense that you can have a very good basketball player. There are certain skills you can work on to become a better basketball player. But if they say you should try as hard as possible to be tall, it's going to be difficult to change that attribute. There are a lot of people in Silicon Valley who are somewhere on the spectrum, let's say, and have may actually have diagnosable, say, Asperger's, which in some previous times could have been a very maladaptive trait.
Yes, that would have been a selection criteria for removal from the gene pool that is now in this new context. In fact, in some instances, a competitive advantage because their sort of lack of absorbing world views from others or feeling that pressure enables them to come up with their own perspective and orientation. Since this suit, if we filter those people out because they may be similarly difficult to imitate in a sense as a basketball player is to imitate in their height how how are there any books, any documentaries, any approaches or just any quick mental.
Models are made anything at all that people can use to internalize thinking for themselves. Tuke to practice coming up with their own worldview. What is it? What are your thoughts? Well, this kind of thing. This is the big question, right? And you either have to have. What is your ristic? You should have an use for ggonna who and what to listen to. And then secondly, separately, how do you how do you think for yourself?
And I think, okay, I'll start enumerating some particular heuristics or tricks. I'm not sure this is a complete answer, but the first is when you see a smart person holding a point of view and especially strongly holding a point of view this kind of difference to your own, rather than try to figure out how they're wrong trying to. I mean, that's valuable, but you'll inevitably do that. You're kind of your ear, your emotional brain will ensure you do.
Trying to figure out. Heather. Right. Like what is a sensible worldview in which what they believe or what they're saying actually kind of does make sense and lets them in the right, but sort of trying to figure out like if they're not stupid, why would they believe this? And so, you know, I I'm personally very in favor of kind of openness to immigration. I've obviously benefited from it myself. I think I should be more of it in the world.
But I think we can't just kind of dismiss people who oppose immigration as kind of nativist bigots. I think we're gonna have to ask the questions and just try to understand, well, what could or would cause somebody to harbor concerns there. Right. So that that's one sort of trying to figure out what Roe's view helps have a view make sense. A second one is and we kind of touched on this at the beginning of the conversation, just exposing yourself to more world views, because I think a lot of people well, everyone finds it more comfortable to be around kind of views that accord with your own and models that accord with your own.
And so there's a kind of deliberate seeking out of discomfort. And, you know, I do some of this myself in kind of who I follow on Twitter and what I read and and even who I spent time with were sort of trying to make sure that, like, I expose myself to people who have kind of smart, thoughtful and really like pretty different perspectives on important matters.
Can you. I have to pause because the sense just seems too fertile to let go quickly. Are there any people on Twitter you can give as examples?
You just said there's Martin thoughtful. So you're. It's not you know, you're already complimented. Yeah. Yeah, right.
You know, we can also back and come back to it if it's hard to come up with.
Yeah. I mean I've think of a few. Let me think that I can come back. But but it's a good question.
And maybe the other one is the kind of general heuristic or habit here or something is just to not get mad and to not get offended in that, you know, outrage and offense and anger are sometimes useful, of course. But I think they're sort of useful. They're less useful than, well, they're over utilized. They're not useful as often as they are invoked. And I think for whatever reason, they're kind of the ability to not take offense and to kind of distortive inspect and to try to understand and to even try to kind of really extrapolate from an idea or a set of ideas or worldview without taking offense at us.
That's not something that, for whatever reason, is really valued in our culture. But I think is actually super important. Can you as as you know, as has been said, can you run an idea in emulation in your head, like in in in computers, people talk about, you know, running running VM is right. I mean, eatable. You s you upload your software, your code, they run it and their servers, but they run it in emulation and then they kind of in a little sandbox to make sure that it can kind of break out and affect other users and applications.
Similarly, can you run an idea and scrutinises and inspector. Kind of follow its consequences. You know, without it kind of bleeding out into of the rest of your brain and sort of infecting your whole worldview. I think the ability to to do that without kind of getting angry or taking offense is really super powerful, because if you can do that, you can then afford to kind of in a way you can be less careful about what ideas you you inspect and scrutinize.
And so you can just kind of, you know, be much more sort of far reaching and kind of broadly ranging.
And then are there any people in your life for who you're aware of, you particularly respect for being good at doing this, doing this, meaning being non emotionally reactive to abusing opposing viewpoints? And and I should say also, I'm looking at your followers on Twitter, which people can find it. Patrick, see, that's your account. And I want to give an example of two contrasts. See if one harsh CEQA as I make it, a bio applying biological constraints to building intelligent, robust and generalisable systems at Harvard, at Georgia Tech, at UC San Diego, right next to at relo.
Almighty Almighty Fellow bio is almighty reload the hustler's say hello to the bad guy. Say, Sam, a bad guy. Dot, dot, dot. So there's a lot of a lot of professors, a lot of researchers.
Also, here's a friend of mine you follow KREM Duncan. Really interesting guy. Yes.
Yeah, he he's he's awesome. I made a list of some people I follow at Patrick Collison dot com slash people. And I wanted that all of them are excellent at this sort of sort of not taking offense and sort of trying to find the best in some particular idea. We're trying to find whatever truth is in it. But I would say as a general matter, they are.
And why is it. When I look at. Some of your posts I also a Twitter list called Reading, which is basically the same list, but I have an easy, easy to follow format and so, you know, anyone can go follow that list. And I think actually a reasonable of people now do.
And you see to whether it's reading or people have an intense interest in looking at your Patricof dot com for such people right now. Yeah, you do have some grapes. John Arnold is definitely worth checking out for a lot of folks who will not recognize that name. Of course, Stewart Brand, lot-, lots of lots of good people on this list. So encourage people to check this out. But coming back to one name that popped up and was looking on your Twitter account, I think you also recently shared pseudo Erasmus Erasmus.
So economic history and development economics. This feat contains no current events, no political news, no culture and no capital letters. History of economic thought. Up. Why?
Why do you seem so interested in economics? Economic progress?
In some cases, economic history certainly can seem very niche, but I suspect there's a lot more to add to that. Labor repression in the Indo Japanese divergence is the PIN tweet by Suheir Rasmus. Why read so much of this type of stuff up?
Because it's so important in that the arguably the single most important thing kind of about our lives compared to other lives that lived in human history is that we have the immense good fortune to have been born in wealthy societies. And that has had so many consequences that our lives. Right.
I mean, it means that our you know, our parents are way more likely to be alive. Our siblings are far more likely to be alive. We get to work on things we find sort of way more interesting than, you know, tilling in the fields or foraging for bushes. It means birds sort of exposed to kind of a full or a more complete picture of the kind of variety and complexity and fascination. Fascinating material of the world. I don't need to enumerate all of this, but just like it's it's astounding compared to that of all humans who ever lived, just how amazingly lucky we are.
And again, that luck is as we we're born into a wealthy society. And so I think kind of one of the most urgent and important moral questions is why doesn't everyone get to do that and how can we change the world such that more people do? Last week, I was in Africa. I was in countries including Senegal and Ethiopia in Rwanda. And those countries are obviously far less wealthy than the US. And the people there have far less opportunity and their lives are far less comfortable.
And so I think there's a real moral question, what can we do to put them on an equal footing with us? And indeed, how can we raise the waterline for all of us such that, you know, while our lives are amazing compared to the people who lived before us, there's still tons of terrible things that happen. You know, people die of cancer and people die of, you know, death caused by pollution. And, you know, while some people in society today get, you know, fantastic educations and have the good fortune to have, you know, great colleagues and meaningful work, you know, a lot of people don't know, etc.
. And so I see kind of economics and economic history as being really a kind of moral anthropology and sort of cultural analysis and structural analysis of, well, how do we solve this centrally, foundationally, this question that that really takes primacy.
And if you if I want to thin slices a little bit and dig dig on on this, because it's it's something that I've thought a lot about without any concrete conclusions that have bounced around quite a bit. And I'll explain what I mean by that.
So the question that I'll want to ask, but I'll give some some background on my personal experience is if if we are using a term like economic progress or or economic prosperity, what the component pieces are of that that have the the greatest benefits and the fewest side effects.
And the reason I phrase it that way is I've I've also spent some time in Africa. Certainly I would I would doubt in as many countries as you have, but if the time in Kenya and spent time in Ethiopia and in Ethiopia was mostly in the Teagan Eye region in some very, very poor areas, and I was chatting with a lot of the folks we interacted with, those who those who spoke English or those with whom I could communicate through translator and something that's one thing that struck me in Ethiopia was how much people smiled.
Now, that doesn't mean they don't need clean drinking water, does not mean they wouldn't benefit from footwear. In some instances. There are all sorts of. There are all sorts of not just comforts, but necessities and infrastructure that would almost certainly have tremendous upside and benefits with very few downside possibilities. And I was talking to some people who lived in tiguan I about how happy Ethiopians seemed to be. And I heard on several occasions it wasn't just one. These are in different locations.
People say, oh yeah, people are really happy until they get TV. And I asked him why that was. And they said, well, once we get TV, we they didn't use these words. Exactly. But in effect, what's we can see the Cardassians and all of the amazing things and toys and cars and and fashion options that all these other people have, we become dissatisfied with where we are and what we have. So that kind of stuck with me.
And I didn't have a resolution to that necessarily.
But how do you how do you think about which components you're trying to solve for or the right of us for?
So I think happiness is certainly a tricky measure. Right. And as you say, there's kind of this sort of sociological and kind of comparative version of it. And you the phenomenon is seen. We're kind of to some degree, I guess is another version or another way of saying which you just alluded to, which is that kind of the happiness you have with your level of wealth is kind of a function of the wealth of those around you. And so if you find out about more, you know, people who are above you in some income table, that that might actually kind of depress your your happiness slightly.
However, it's also pretty robustly the case that, you know, there are some things that are just kind of absolute inputs into happiness and that, you know, you kind of your health or chronic pain or whether your kids die or not or whatever. You know, these these really do matter. Right. And and I think in the example of Ethiopia, I mean, while kind of on the one hand, I think, you know, as I guess you saw, you know, it's not like this is a country where sort of everyone is sort of in the perpetual depths of despair.
It does rank in the in the bottom half of sort of, you know, global happiness surveys. And actually, Max Roser has this. You know, he does a lot of kind of data visualization around kind of development, economics. And he has this wonderful visualization is kind of scatterplot of happiness against kind of per capita income. And sure enough, what you see is it's certainly not a perfect correlation. There are all these other factors and be kind of cultural effects or these, again, comparative question and so on.
But broadly speaking, the correlation really is very, very strong. And so I guess another version of me, the kind of complexity you're getting at is when you look at this kind of Didi's inter temporal comparisons, when you sort of look back at how people how happy they reported themselves as being, you know, 60 years ago. You know, obviously they had kind of, you know, inferior health outcomes or they didn't have many leisure options or they couldn't travel as much or whatever.
So, you know, their kind of lives and some objective level were worse. But, you know, their happiness scores aren't that bad because I guess, you know, on some level, they kind of didn't know what was missing. But I see that as more being a more being something that's tricky about happiness surveys than something about kind of fundamental human well-being in that if I like the fact that our baseline shifts as we realize that better is possible does not mean that the the gains are illusory.
And if you know, if if half of my kids died, but I still scored myself as being pretty happy because I didn't even realize that some you know, that not having that happen, it was even an option. You know, I. Such that when the problem was solved, my kind of self-reported level didn't change that much as a, you know, adjusted to the new normal. I don't think that means that that gain, that improvement is not very, very real.
Oh, sure, totally.
And and I was not another that's you're saying.
I know. I think the point you're making about the kind of complexity to happen, happiness surveys, I think is 100 percent right.
Yeah. It's very, very slippery. And yes, that's actually.
Scott. Scott. Scott Alexander Slate's Our Codex has a really good blog post about just like the trickiness of these kind of happiness surveys. I think the core message and data from them is kind of correct. But but kind of a lot of specific, I think, interpretations and kind of comparisons about to make are a little bit fraught.
Absolutely. I mean, not to I don't to cast aspersions on all social sciences or anything like that. A lot of it gets very squishy. And it's so highly multivariate when you're trying to assess something like this in the field that even the definitions by which the absolutely a service are being conducted get very, very subjective. And Porsha. I was looking at a recent National Geographic. I suppose I would call it a poll. It was reasonably well constructed for what I could tell to try to assess the happiest places on earth.
And what I found striking about it was was was not necessarily of the some of. The frontrunners, although I did find how different they were. Interesting in the sense that you have, let's say, Denmark, Singapore, which is particularly interesting because it's so brand new in a lot of respects and was kind of a grand experiment. Costa Rica. Very different places. What? But what I found striking was that Bhutan, which is talked about all the time as among for lack of a better term kind of hippie new age circles as being very forward thinking because they focus on what was it like.
GROSS national happiness instead of GDP is, in fact one of the most unhappy places. And that something like gross national happiness can be used as kind of a don't look at this thing in front of you. Look over here because we're folks again, it can be looked it can be used as a distracting factor from this, from the things that are actually quantifiably bad. Yes. So there's that. What have you found? I mean, did in so we've talked about the I suppose the certain aspects of the wide divergence of economic prosperity across the world.
So my question would then be now what what are what are the levers to to pull what actually matters? I mean, there are a lot of people squandering a lot of attention and energy, trying to fix this in a thousand ways, 900 of which probably aren't going to amount to much. What are the what are the Archimedes levers in a situation like this?
Well, I guess the first thing I'd say is I think that questions you just asked is the big question. I think we should all be obsessed with like I think you know, I think you should ask every guest that question. I think people should be people in positions of influence or or where they can have a great impact, like they should be obsessed with it. It is the it's it is an issue of true moral importance. I don't think there's gonna be any silver bullets and kind of panaceas.
And I mean, obviously, Stripe is kind of, you know, one iron in that fire where with stripes, you know, we we hope to contribute and we frame our mission is to grow the GDP of the international I mean, kind of very directly around economic growth. And like on some level, you know, that's sounds pretty arcane. But I think there are many other companies that sort of are, you know, framing their mission relative to GDP.
But I mean, it really does get back to this this idea we've been discussing where I think that's actually like a very urgent cause. I think I think roughly speaking, you can sort of break it down in two ways. That's kind of actually maybe three ways where there's kind of how do you raise the level of countries that are kind of behind the frontier. So emerging markets, developing countries. How do you raise them to kind of where we are today?
And there are these kind of tantalizing examples that like that it's actually possible. And so you look at you mentioned Singapore, you look at Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, to some degree, Vietnam, of course, China, the chancellor's quite a ways to go. But but I mean, there are these amazing examples. Countries that have really transformed themselves in remarkably short periods of time. You know, South Korea is perhaps the best example just in terms of the magnitude of the change and like just a couple of decades.
And so now we might think like perhaps if you if you look at Africa and no other countries existed, you might say, well, just inevitably, it takes centuries for this catch up to happen. And, you know, maybe we can kind of accelerate a little bit. But like, you know, there's there's no way this can happen overnight. That's empirically not true. We have these examples of countries in which it happened, you know, in a kind of grand arc of history sense.
It happened essentially overnight. And so what is it about South Korea that kind of made that possible? And can we enact the same transformation in in Egypt or in Ethiopia? So I think that's kind of one dimension. The question I think the other dimension is how do we how do we advance at the frontier? And so everything about in Western Europe or North America or Singapore or Japan, whatever. How do we how do we make progress here? And I think so much of that is how do we.
How do we enable new things to happen? How do we have new technology get deployed? How do we have entrepreneurs start more companies? How do we unleash the potential of more people who want to do more weird things? How do we make sure that when somebody spots an opportunity for improvement, that doesn't get kind of squished by the kind of, you know, stultifying sort of deceleration of the status quo? How do you make sure that it gets kind of encouraged and amplified?
And again, as you kind of striped, as, you know, an effort in this space as indeed to is is pioneer. And the third one is, well, how do we how do we just generate new knowledge and how do we, you know, understand the world more deeply? And just what is it, you know, intrinsically possible so that, you know, we have more buttons to push on the on the sort of on the switchboard.
And so I kind of break it down in those sort of three ways. And I think they're all kind of quite different questions and all really incredibly important.
I agree that they are very important. And I love to revisit her. Second, if you have any thoughts. South Korea, let's come up with the times. What what are some of the observations you've made or things that you think are interesting about South Korea?
Like anything? And any specifics of what they've done?
Well, ironically, it's actually the. It's the richest country in the world by GDP that I've not been to. So. So, you know, I caveat my answer with sort of that. Having said that, there's actually a really good book on this topic called How Asia Works by Joe Studwell, I believe. And basically jutras answer exactly this question of why I you know, why did South Korea and Taiwan and China and Vietnam and so forth. Why did they diverge from Philippines and from Indonesia?
And, you know, to a significant degree from India and so forth. And and basically the answer he gives and he has a Marshall is kind of fairly compelling evidence for it is is the following land reform protected? But competitive industrial and kind of export industries. And then third, take control of the consumer credit sector. And that seems like a very kind of, you know, arbitrary basket of things. But he he makes a pretty strong case for it.
And, you know, just to add a little bit of color on that idea is the kind of first one to make sure the people own their own land so they can kind of farm it more effectively. They can kind of reap the rewards, the fruits of their own labor. And so that kind of gives you this immediate bump in kind of national income when people, you know, can can sort of invest in something they really own themselves on.
The second thing is, while most these countries have no kind of meaningful export industries or these kind of, you know, value added export industries. And so, you know, why don't you encourage the creation of like a national car company or something, which, of course, South Korea successfully did, or maybe do some electronics manufacturing or whatever you want to subsidize that. But you do have to force them to compete internationally because they just kind of if you just protect them and they just serve the domestic market, you'll just end up with worse and less efficient version of stuff that exists in the rest of the world.
See, you've got to force them to compete. And the third one is you want to restrain the consumer. Credit industry says that sort of rather than giving credit to consumers to go and, you know, spend it on leisure or whatever it is, I guess the consumers might choose to do that. You kind of direct all of that towards industrialization, economic progress and sort of catch up growth with the rest of the world. And then once you catch up, you know, then maybe.
Give it to consumers because you know who else you're going to give it to. You've reached the frontier. But the thesis of the book is that kind of reining us in in the development phases has really served this country well. So that is basically the prescription, as Joe again said. Well, lays it out. And I'm no expert here, but I've really spent quite a bit of time that are trying to better understand this question. And it's certainly the best cut that I've seen.
Another one that's worth mentioning is James Fallows wrote a piece for The Atlantic back in the 90s called It's called How the World Works. But at some title like that, research kind of James Fallows trade. And if you include a list, this German economist as a search term, then you'll find us. And it's again, come about. It's basically about the South Korea question. Great.
And I'll put all of these links, submit a few things that have come up with reference checks required. So for people listening, I will have my team check on all that stuff and we'll put links into the show. So you'll be able to find those teamed up blog for touch podcast on South Korea. Just to add the a maybe ridiculous sidebar. Another head scratcher about South Korea is that for many years in the last decade, they have produced the best break dancers in the world.
And people who are curious to see what that looks like can check out B-boy pocket for some ridiculous footage. And how that came to be is also a gigantic mystery to me. But I'm hoping that perhaps I can find online. There is a I want to say the history of Japan in nine minutes, something like that on YouTube, which accomplishes that feat by omitting most proper nouns, particularly names of people. But it gives you a really nice synopsis.
I'm going to try to find something similar for South Korea and put it in the show notes. So we have just a little bit of time left.
What I would love to talk about, because this is something that I I feel like I'm pretty good at and this is decision making, but I still know there is a ton of room for improvement.
And I. In the process of preparing for this conversation came across as a transcript of a conversation in which you talked about increasing the speed of decision making.
And it made me think a little bit of that, I think is the Eisenhower matrix of sort of prioritizing. Yeah, these are important, but not timely quadrants and so on.
But could you talk about making your your framework for making decisions or how you have cultivated making faster decisions? This is, I think, so important. And it's along with the the involvement of now successful entrepreneurs as kids at the dinner table.
The focus on making fast decisions, even if there's like a 10 percent or more error rate, pops up a lot like Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn fame.
Another good example of that.
I would love to hear you talk. You talk us through that because on a day to day basis, I know that's important. And yet I just I need a kind of methodical way to practice it more, if that makes sense. Yes.
Let me think for a second. I think that I actually think that decision making is probably a little bit overrated as as kind of a question in that or an area of study in that investors obviously this is their job. Right. And that's kind of all they can do in some sense, invest or not. And, you know, fine. If they're, you know, certain kinds, investors get actually help the companies they invest in. And so they have kind of other levers at the disposal, but kind of some simplified model.
It's like, you know, you click the button or not, you pull a lever or not. And I actually think that kind of in our lives, things rarely have that character. Sometimes you have a true binary decision, right. Like, do I go to this college or back college? Do I take this job offer or not? And so it's sort of an investing or investment like decision, but it's not usually that. And I think that the kind of the question I would sort of encourage people to kind of think more about is how do I get to make better decisions as in how to like how to make sure the decisions I'm confronted with end up being better.
Like, you know, it's not like how should I choosing an option? And B, how do I make sure that both options A and B are as good as possible? And it's also CDC. And if those options are great to. And that's about sort of how do you how do you explore the space to make sure that you sort of ship? Well, just to kind of return to maybe what we just mentioned, it's like, you know, do I go to this college or that college?
It's I mean, there's also a sea there, which is. Well, should I go to college? Or it's you know, should I should I become a doctor or a dentist? But, you know, maybe the answer is that, you know, you should you should become a biochemist. And so the way I I find myself in competition is people are really trying to push them. It's less than sort of how do you make a decision and more about how do you jolt yourself out of that kind of particular kind of furrows that you're in and realize the possibility space and the world just so much bigger than perhaps people are thinking about.
And so, I mean, it's all that happens to me, the kind of your horizons narrow. You get stuck in your existing models, you kind of get used to conceiving of the world and the options in front of you in a particular way. And it's more about how do you repeatedly pull yourself out of that? How do you do that?
Are there questions you ask? Are there any things? I think certain certain people are great at this. Like I have a friend, Michael Nielsen. And what was last name? Nielsen. And i.e. lcn. And he's just exceptionally good at sort of you know, you're sort of, you know, thinking, well, should I go up or down? And he's just great at sort of pointing out all the different ways in which you grow sideways or, you know, you're you're you're sort of living in flat-lined on this kind of two dimensional plane.
And he points out maybe you could go up and. And so I guess the best yeah, the best ways that I found are sort of particular people, people who just sort of seemed to think laterally and kind of extent in my head. They're kind of thinking sideways. And I think the second best way is exposing yourself to that kind of more perspective and ideas, you know, and all the ways we've kind of already discussed. But I think finding the people who just think a bit divergent early returns are really high and I think have had heading that sort of little board of directors around you.
That's kind of an imperfect analogy because it's not like there's a specific set for me. I kind of tend to go to different kinds of people for different kinds of issues. And I not they actually of any form of power, obviously, but just kind of that notion of there being these sources of perspective that are quite different to you. I think that's I think it's really very powerful. I think valuing those people and building those relationships really pays off.
Mm-Hmm. There's there's a this you mentioning that the peer group or virtual or real board of directors with divergent thought processes made me think of a book that really helped me a long time ago.
I've been meaning to revisit it, but it's actually a combination of two books and I don't know how well these would age if I were to pick them up now for where I am.
But up out on say fifteen or twenty years ago found them very, very helpful. Edward de Bono is the author.
There's one book I want to say it's lateral thinking. The other was something along the lines of the six thinking hats. And the the the conceit or the premise behind the latter is that you create a virtual table of advisors who represent different a different extreme perspective that you might have.
You're a pessimist, you might have the innovator, you might have the fill in the blank. And there are a set of questions and priorities in each of those have. So you run your situation through the lens of each of those thinking hats. And I found that tremendously valuable for you, as you put it, getting out of Flatland.
Well, and the amazing thing is, well, I I read about this study. I've not confirmed whether or not it has replicated, but the idea that people can improve their own decision making by simply choosing other people. I mean, BCR exactly along the lines. But you just said and imagining what they would say, like specific other people, imagining what they would say and then averaging over the responses. That's like a really amazing fact because of course, this all occurring in your own head.
And so the idea that by kind of just simulating other people. And then again, kind of strange that this kind of averaging computation over the responses. So that's actually better. Really like a pretty trippy thought. And yet, I mean, it kind of makes sense to you, right? These you you can actually, for certain people predict. I think with relatively good accuracy what they're likely to say. That's kind of a way of getting out of your own biases totally.
And in fact, I haven't done the averaging of responses, but I do have a number of friends who have very well-developed characteristics. I would like to develop more myself. And one of them who comes to mind is Matt Mullenweg, the Great Sea's amazing guy CEO of a company called Automatic M.A.D. He t automatic if people can put the two together now as a Matt Mullenweg automatic and anycase brilliant guy, not to be confused with automatic upbut.
So Matt Moland automatic is way, way, way more successful than particularize.
So Matt, Matt Mullenweg is one of the calmest people on average I've ever met.
And this is particularly noticeable when he is going through circumstances or encountering business situations or personal situations that would elicit a really strong emotional response from most people I know. Even high people. So I very often when I am feel myself on the verge of getting spun up about a given situation will ask myself, what would Matt say? Yes. Yeah, because I've had him talk me off the ledge so many times away from making it rash. Ultimately, we would have been really bad decisions, often some type of quick emotional response to yes, who knows what it could have been anything.
And since I have found that really useful and I've done that also with people like Richard Feynman, for instance. Surely you think it's. But surely you're joking. Mr. Finds I'm about favorite books of all time.
So does not it does not have to be someone, you know, in a direct, rational sense. But it helps honestly, if it is someone who you have, you feel you know well.
Yes. Yes. And so I'm glad you mentioned that. I've personally used that, Matt, for whatever reason, I suppose for many reasons tends to be when I go to a lot. Because I wouldn't say that call and this is always my defining strong suit. Yeah.
No, I think having those that that pantheon of people, both kind of people you actually know and then sort of, you know, people you know from afar and maybe they're living, maybe their dad is just super powerful. And I guess there's something about kind of us as humans where we're sort of uniquely well adapted to being influenced by and understanding other humans. And so sort of, Robin, I think thinking about of decision making purely that's kind of abstract science, but actually embracing the fact that it has this kind of deeply human character to it.
And, you know, you can really gonna use that to your advantage. And you know, it. I'm sure many I know many guests in the show have talked about the importance of kind of being deliberation intentional and kind of selecting your peer group and the people who influence you as an you know, one thing you can do is you can sort of try to make sure that people around you don't influence you too much and that you kind of our, you know, truly original and coming up with their own thoughts and so on.
Or you can embrace the fact that they do and they inevitably will. I'm just be careful about who they are and try to make sure that those shape you in sort of ways and directions you want to be shaped. And I think that's both more effective, but also wanting a more fulfilling way to go about it.
And I I want to confess also that I thought when you were talking about binary decisions first, whether it be investing or say, college, where I thought you might go, which which I'm glad you didn't, because now now we have more to discuss is that there are many decisions where you cannot possibly make an informed right decision based on complete information.
And yeah. And and that's part of the reason why I find Eisenhauer very interesting to study is that he had a lot of military experience, in which case you cannot you do not have the luxury of taking forever to gather information to make a decision. And in many cases, you you the only way you can have more complete information is to make what might be. Yes, the wrong decision.
And this and then course, correct?
Yeah, exactly. Is it back to this point to think of your. Right, to kind of flank this and I think it's back to this idea that you just try to get better and try to get yourself into a position in which you can make a better decision. And one way you can do that is by kind of exploring for more options right now. Another way you can do that is just make the decision and remake it if you have to.
Because that can the remaking of us can often be a better decision because you'll have much better information once it's augmented with or once you have that kind of additional information that, hey, this branch really does not look promising. And I know that I tried it for two months. And I again, I think another way in which the kind of framework of sort of optimizing decision making can be kind of a little bit harmful is and it sort of characterizes or it focuses on the locus of the decision itself was who cares?
You don't necessarily need to be sort of that good of decision making if you sort of get really good at remaking the decisions when and as necessary. You know, you you mentioned that, you know, I fly, you know, both John alive and flying for more than 10 years. And, you know, when you're when you're flying a landing, you're always off track. Always off track. And, you know, if you if you if sort of there's a big discussion of like, how do you make sure that you get established like precisely the right glide slope when you start?
You know, I don't think that really be that productive meetings that are pretty frustrating. Instead, it's all about like the constant feedback and course and error correction. And I think that's kind of, as a general matter, a better model for life and that even a lot of decisions that look pretty trapped or may not necessarily be. There's a really good book that I very highly recommend called The Inner Game of Tennis.
Kind of. Timothy, Timothy, go. Yeah, exactly. And, you know, I was one of the kind of general messages of that book is that so much of doing things well is about being really good at seeing just what is happening and kind of then sort of training your conscious and subconscious to kind of make the requisite corrections. And that intuition really resonates with me.
I'm so glad you mentioned that. And it it's reinforced, I think, a directional change for me or that. Not really. It's it's not a directional change.
It's a story like reformatting of the thinking about the problem because you could have the best solutions imaginable for the wrong problems and you're not going to get where you want to go.
In my case, exactly. I think I focused excessively on getting better at decision making without really refining that. To say that, you know, perhaps the better question to ask is how can I get better?
At or better could mean faster develop more confidence in experimenting very quickly and then, yes, undoing or redoing the deception, because that is that is different since I've seen it in the last year, focused on getting very good at renegotiating commitments, which I think for a long time, philosophically or morally, I've still objected to it until I realized that all of the people I know, Shinsei, all but most who are a kind of paragons of execution, will occasionally just say, Fuck, I bit off more than I can chew.
I need to go back and renegotiate some of these. I need to go back and have uncomfortable conversations and wipe my calendar of the handful of things that I committed to six months ago, because it just does. I have more information now. Does not make sense.
Yep. Yep, yep. And that kind of hyperbolic discounting that we engage in with regard to our future selves and over commitments to then see you and all the rest. And I think all too well that there's another, I think, fabulous book that kind of touches on some of this and the art of doing science. And during my Richard having the art of human art of throwing science and engineering.
Yes, that's right. And the last chapter, especially, I mean, the whole book to some degree, but especially the last chapter is I think really applicable to and relevant to really almost anyone at the last chapter is called to you and your research to actually have a talk. That I'm sure a lot of people listen to the show have have privacy kind of read or heard.
But having worked at Bell Labs and he in the book kind of often quotes insights, John Tuki, this amazing guy who's also worked at Bell Labs and is the sort of father of of data visualization and like a lot of kind of data visualizations and analogies that kind of we're familiar with that kind of we think of as being standard there. John tukey actually invented. But there's this kind of tukey line that it's far better to have an approximate answer to the right question, you know, which is often vague than an exact answer to the wrong question, which can automate precise.
And again, I think this kind of gets back to the same idea that is kind of somehow more important to be kind of making the right decisions, to have the right options than to be perfect at choosing between a specific set of options. Right.
You know, this is yeah, that's that's really all I would like to sit and digest that myself and say it's probably just for like recency bias for people listening. A good place to start picking up an idea where we could go for hours, more hours and we will do another round sometime. But that'd be great.
Are there any parting recommendations, requests, suggestions, words of wisdom, anything at all? Questions you'd like to pose to the audience in a place where they can respond or a way in which they can respond? Anything at all that you'd like to say before we before we wrap up?
I mean, I guess to whatever extent. Well, I wrote in that list of advice that if people around you don't think what you're doing is sort of a bit strange, that maybe it's not strange enough. And I don't you should always be heeding that. But I do often wish that people did more did more strange things in service of or in pursuit of real sort of long term economic and technological progress. And so, you know, that that's kind of figure out how to help people to do more weird, strange and original things in service of that is kind of that's that's my particular goal, trying to kind of arm those upstarts and those misfits.
And, you know, it's but it's it's a very big space. And I would, you know, very profoundly welcome more participants pushing for that cause here, here.
And people can give away of hello on Twitter at Patrick C. Yes, they can.
And by the way, I think your podcast is a fabulous effort in this direction. Thanks so much.
That that really means a lot.
And let's certainly hope might mean that that is a hope of mine. I so enjoy having these conversations. And it's it's opened so many doors for me in terms of my own thinking and questioning so many of my own assumptions that, you know, I hope cumulatively that it does help nudge things into a more positive direction along the lines you mentioned. So I appreciate you saying that.
Well, you know, I won't bore you or flatter you with with, you know, with praise here. But but I think I mean, my perspective certainly and I listen to a lot of podcasts that that there's kind of a a lineage of of podcasts that can kind of be traced back to this show and that there's kind of a model that you prototyped. And then of the continue to implement that.
Now, there's a lot of other podcasts are kind of somehow, you know, a different version of which you do it, which I'm excited about, because hopefully they'll they'll do even better job. And I've I've been so excited to see, certainly Jocko Willink run off and create his entire empire. Then you have Carl Forsman and Peter T-A and others. It's it's it's really fun.
And Hamilton Morris, I'm waiting I'm waiting for your podcast, Hamilton to as our thousands of people write.
And, you know, these aren't competitive in the sense that, you know, I'm no Robinson Crusoe was kind of one of the first novels. And, you know, it turns out that that was a big space.
And it was. Not a bad thing. One more novelist came along and so kind of similarly, I actually think that's sort of I'm not even sure the podcast base is the podcast space per say. It's more the sort of the serious in-depth longform exploration. But it's even though that obviously is going to weigh bigger now than it was five years ago. It still seems to me that it's actually still quite early.
Oh, it's so early. I agree. It's it's really, really early. I had people tell me when I was contemplating starting a podcast that the ship, it already sailed. I mean, it's a pretty smart people with a lot of experience. And I were telling me then that the ship itself and I'm telling anyone who's considering starting a podcast now, that it's not even close. The ship hasn't even been built.
This is one of the really interesting and surprising things for people keep feeling and added spaces are too late when in fact, they're, you know, not only not too late, but like still in the first 10 percent.
Mark Andreesen talks about getting to Silicon Valley in the early 90s and thinking, man, I'm too late. And that the end is kind of similar examples you can point to. And I mean, we word about it with Stripe, obviously, and you know, yet yet we kind of came to realize that actually, you know, the Internet as a whole is still in its earliest innings.
Oh, definitely. You know, there's there's always there's always a mid stripe is a great example of this, or maybe there's always a market for great in and that is not dependent on creating or shipping something today or this afternoon. There's always there's always room for that.
Well, Patrick, I meant that. Patrick, I appreciate you taking the time and thank you so much. This has been a lot of fun. And for everybody, everybody listening. I will put links to everything we discussed the papers, the books, the sites, some of the folks on Twitter, all of these things in the show, notes which you can find at teamed up blog for such a podcast. Just search Patrick or Collison and this episode will come right up.
You can scroll down to find it. And until next time. Thank you for listening.
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